A funny thing happened after the election … all those emails I once relished throughout the campaign … from David Plouffe, David Axelrod, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama himself … enlivening support, announcing rallies, offering t-shirts if I donated $25 by midnight (which I did) …
They irritated me on November 5th.
I’m stunned by my sudden change of heart, especially since I remain wildly excited about Barack Obama and his unfolding presidency. His image still brings me to tears. I bought my parents commemorative champagne glasses (shush, don’t tell!) And I may even go to DC for the inauguration.
Why, then, am I deleting all those emails?
I understand my financial gut reaction: My family didn’t starve the few months I forked over $25 or $50 a pop. But my budget will break if I continue the frenzy another four to eight years.
John thought maybe Obama’s leadership selections – the return of so many political veterans – dampened my enthusiasm. But I genuinely like his picks (and his guts for going with an experienced brain-trust despite potential flack).
Maybe it’s because a campaign is so captivating. It’s a battle, after all: two opposing forces, ferociously loud spectators, blow-by-blow commentary, and an ultimate winner. It engaged me with feverish momentum. The more I saw, the more I wanted to join. By tracking polls, following pundits, and donating money I became a player, part of the strategy and, as a result, equally victorious in the end. Joining the campaign felt historic. And really cool.
But post-election there’s something unseemly about typing in my credit card to purchase “governing” from my shopping cart. I know technically I’m supporting an inaugural event or an effort to enact the economic stimulus package. But it feels weird. Election won, I thought somebody else (ie experienced professionals) would handle all that governance stuff.
Truth is, I’m finding governance much more difficult to grasp. I miss the consistent stump messages that were as clear as they were inspiring. The election process only expected one thing from me: to learn about the candidates and choose one.
I chose Barack Obama because I believe he can handle the post-election complexities. But I’m not sure I can.
And, yet, I appreciate that I also chose Barack Obama because he asked me to stay involved, long after the campaign fades and the voting machines are packed away. He invites me – implores me -- to keep learning about the problems we face, as complicated as they are. To study our options with focused and deep reflection. To flesh out our opportunities.
And he asks us to keep talking. To him and his staff, who are diligently crafting initiatives and policies to help solve our problems and recast our future. (See change.gov) And, more importantly, to each other.
I keep hearing a campaign echo: our shared values far outweigh our disagreements. And true governance begins where those values intersect. Democracy was rekindled these last eighteen months on front porches, community centers, school auditoriums … on Facebook, blogs, and chat rooms. Governance, it seems, wants the same renaissance.
That’s why I’m still getting those emails, even if they’re momentarily annoying. I’m being reminded -- nagged really – to stay engaged. To rise to our new challenges, despite feeling confused and overwhelmed by their complexity. And to keep talking. To lay our differences aside and join our neighbors, our colleagues, our family and friends – tangible and virtual -- in conversation and collaboration. To transcend from Who do you want to win? to How should we recreate our nation together and make it work for everybody?
I can’t afford a new t-shirt every week, but I will try to do what that t-shirt implies.