A journal of hope

It was a crisp November evening in 1992 that I and thousands of others like me took to the San Francisco streets for an impromptu party that lasted into the work-night morning. We were celebrating the victory of an, until recently, nationally unknown Arkansan to the presidency of the US. That night, fourteen years ago, was the last time that I, and I suspect, many of my compatriots felt hopeful about the direction of our country.

Now I look back at the Clinton years with such fond reminiscence, but it wasn’t long before the “Contract with America” conservatives took majority positions in the House and Senate. From then on, Clintonia morphed into a hodgepodge of scandal, military intervention, free trade expansion, and more scandal. In the end, my hope lay on the cutting-room floor – edited from my life.

This morning we all woke to a new reality. Some of the political capital Bush spoke so boldly of in 2004 has dried up, but this was not an easy election to behold. This post is the diary of one person who, against his better judgment, allowed himself the luxury of hope leading up to yesterday’s election.

Sunday, October 29, 2006:

With a little more than a week left before the midterm election, I confide in Stephanie that I am feeling a slight sense of hope. In a protectionist bid, she admonishes me against my feelings. I understand that her action is love-based; she is psychically slapping my hand for reaching for the hot stove; sadly, due to the state of the world, Steph and I have taken on the role of warning the other when one of us becomes too hopeful.

My mind wanders to the Springsteen lyric, advising the same: “Blow away the dreams that tear you apart; blow away the dreams that break your heart; blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted.”

Monday morning, October 30, 2006:

I’m on the elliptical trainer (and like a fool) watching MSNBC. In a response to a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, Bush is restating his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

I wonder why no one ever seems to mentions that the function of the Constitution is not only to outline the mechanics of the federal government, but also to protect citizens from the government, not to give the government power to limit the rights of the people. So even if the evil, Christian wackos were right about “gay marriage,” (by the way, they’re not), the Constitution is the wrong venue.

Bush, of course, knows this, and he knows that he could never get the two thirds of Congress he’d need to pass an amendment any way. It’s just a tool. The voice of Judge Reinholdt as Brad Hamilton enters my mind: “Tool? Tool for what?” Well, Mr. Hamilton, it’s a tool to motivate his base. Remembering the last election, I start to feel a little uneasy.

Back to MSNBC, which cuts away from GWB to some talking heads:

Host: “Is the New Jersey Supreme Court decision going to make a difference in the midterm election?”

Smiling Christian conservative guy: “Because the American people are overwhelmingly supportive of protecting marriage, yes I think the New Jersey decision will make a difference in the election.”

Smiling liberal guy: “This decision will be passed onto the New Jersey State Legislature which will, most likely, cobble it into a law supporting civil unions, which the president, himself, supports.”

I run faster and faster from my hope, but am stuck in place on the elliptical trainer.

Voice of Springsteen enters my mind: “The dogs on Main Street howl ‘cos they understand…yet I believe in the Promised Land.”

Why the heck am I doing this to myself?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006:

With hope dwindling, I remind myself that I’m not even a Democrat anymore. I changed my party affiliation when “we” nominated John Kerry who promised a “stronger America.” (Don’t even get me started.)

I begin to wonder why the hell I care so much about this election. I have little to no expectation that a Democratically controlled House or Senate would make any difference in the overall course of the good ole’ US of A. Yes I know; the big issue is making the last two years of Bush’s presidency even more lame-duckish than they would otherwise be.

But realistically, we’ll most likely “stay the course” in Iraq where thousands more innocent people will lose lives, limbs, and loved ones; we’ll still rely on foreign oil; and our economy will still become more and more Wal-Martized.

Voice of Chuck D. enters my mind: “Neither party’s mine, not the jackass or the elephant.”

Thanks for grounding me, Chuck.

Wednesday November 1, 2006 (approximately 7:30AM):

After reading an article in today’s LA Times noting that the Senate is still up for grabs, (and despite yesterday’s tirade), my hope level is starting out relatively high.

Same day (approximately 9:00AM):

Back on the elliptical trainer, but this time I’m playing it safe. Hoping to preserve this morning’s positive feelings, I pop in a CD, The Clash, and try to avoid looking at the little TV monitor in front of me, which is tuned to CNN.

(I skip “Clash City Rockers”; I could never get past the “Can’t Explain” rip-off riff, and go right into “I’m So Bored With the USA.” Hell yeah, Mr. Strummer, I couldn’t say it any better.

I’m feeling good, and my heart rate is at a comfortable 134 per, when I (like an idiot) look up at the TV. White House Spokesperson Tony Snow catches my eye. He’s giving a press conference, but I refuse to give in; I keep my personal entertainment system on the CD setting.

A battle for my attention between The Clash and the TV ensues:

Mick Jones: “To-tal C-O-N control…”

TV: Snow is bobbing his head, looking pretty darn worked up about something.

Strummer: “And he knows what he’d like to do; he knows he’s gonna have fun with you!”

TV: Snow is waving his arms? He must have something really important to say.

Strummer: “…scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition.”

Fuckin’ hell! I give in, and switch over to the TV setting. The entire press conference is about the really bad joke that John Kerry tried to tell yesterday in California.

Snow: “Why doesn’t the man just apologize?”

Press Corps member: “Why didn’t the administration demand that Rush Limbaugh apologize to Michael J. Fox?”

Snow: “Rush (note the first-name basis) isn’t a US Senator; there’s a pretty big difference.”

I find myself agreeing for the first time with a Bush Administration member. It’s time to pull the plug, my hope level damaged but not too severely.

I hear Joe Strummer in my head: “All over, people are changing their votes, along with their overcoats.”

Thursday November 2, 2006:

Elvis Costello plays in my head: “As I walk on through troubled times my spirit gets so downhearted sometimes.”

Truth be told, there are days when all the hipster lingo and rock references in the word can’t distance me enough from my feelings of deep sorrow at the state of the world. It’s days like this that I become paralyzed by thoughts of the unimaginable cruelty and torture that is happening right now as I write this; days in which the word “hope,” as written by a privileged white American, has no meaning.

Friday November 3, 2006:

Due to an overwhelming instinct for self-preservation, I institute a 24-hour news blackout. Throughout the day, my levels of hope fluctuate in a much more natural way; the peaks and troughs are much smoother and smaller.

Saturday morning, November 4, 2006:

I’m standing in the kitchen double fistin’ my news –eyes to the paper, ears to NPR. I’m feeling a little shaky and woozy; there’s just too much to process. I need someone to help me sort it all out. The man I trust to play this role is Daniel Schorr, and he’s coming up after the news.

As I wait for Dan, my most trusted and beloved voice of reason, this morning’s soundtrack plays in my head:

Lou Reed: “I’m waiting for my man.” [His name just happens to be Dan.]

Host: “Bush is campaigning hard in Republican strongholds. What does this tell us?”

Dan: “…that he’s not so sure anymore that they are going to win.”

Host: “What are you expecting? Will the Democrats win on Tuesday?”

Dan: “The chances seem very good…thanks to the very things that have happened under this administration.”

Lou sneaks back into my head: “I’m feeling good; I’m feeling oh so fine; until tomorrow, but that’s just some other time.”

Sunday, November 5, 2006:

I am entering blackout mode for the rest of the day and tomorrow. Despite a couple of bumps in the road, all indications that I’ve received via the NY Times, LA Times and NPR point to my feeling hopeful about the Democrats capturing, at least, the House and possibly the Senate.

This has been an interesting experiment for me (if not an interesting read for you). I haven’t told Steph that I’m still feeling hopeful. This time I am secretly reaching for the stove while she’s in the other room. I can’t help it; hope is all we really have anymore.

Voice of John Lennon: “Whatever gets you through the night…it’s all right, all right.”

Tuesday, November 7,2006 (8:20 PM):

Steph and I just toasted sparkling wine to the new Democratic House as proclaimed by NPR.

Holy goodness, was my hope well placed? Still three seats to go in the Senate, but tonight is still worth celebrating. If for no other reason, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Steph’s Berkeley home-girl, is only two heartbeats away from the presidency.

More bacon, Mr. and Vice President?

48 responses to “A journal of hope”

  1. Lisa Parrish says:


    I also dared not hope, but wow, what a turnaround! So looking forward to some serious spanking of those lawless goons in the administration.

  2. Rachel says:

    “All over, the news spread fast:
    They’re dirty, they’re filthy,
    They ain’t gonna last!

    This is Joe Public speaking…”

    “Complete Control” is one of the greatest songs ever.

    Here in Wisconsin, we managed to remain a blue state while passing referendums for the death penalty and against gay marriages & civil unions (umm…they’re already illegal, guys). Still shaking my head over that one.

    Still, though…there’s cause for hope. Let’s send care packages of bacon and cigarettes. I also hear that Republicans like to stockpile their crystal meth.

  3. Rachel says:

    And in other news…

    Britney Spears reclaimed control of her house yesterday, too.

  4. Dave says:

    I hear that Republicans like to buy their crystal meth in very small amounts so they can make frequent repeat visits to their “dealers.”

  5. Dave says:

    And yes, let joy and presidential bacon abound!

  6. Scott Godfrey says:

    Is anyone else totally freaked that the Dems may have won the Senate too? I hope I’m not just setting myself up, but I’m feeling the Wendy West “whoosh” about the US. Have we collectively come to our senses?

    Oh yeah, there’s the fact that PA elected an anti-choice “Democrat,” and RI threw out a super liberal “Republican.”

    At least we have our first socialist senator, Bernie Sanders, “Independent” from VT. Yet another reason the Lovermont, eh Parrish?

  7. Scott Godfrey says:

    Holy hell! First Rummy, then Montana…C’mon VA, don’t let us down!!!

  8. Lisa Tremain says:

    i’m a little suspicious that the tower has fallen with so much drama and speed…

    “it’s all so sudden!”

    please excuse my caution; it’s just that i’ve been burned before. i’m happy, don’t get me wrong, but can someone help me get off this elliptical?

  9. Lisa Parrish says:

    Whatever happens in Virgina (I’m crossing all fingers and toes), we’ve all earned the right to a little EUPHORIA!!!!! So, let it loose, peeps!!!


  10. Jeremy says:



  11. WW says:

    Whoooooooosh! The political events of the day (and Britney’s freedom from her Fed-Ex), might be better than falling in love. Mmmmmm. No. But close. Whooooosh!

  12. Ruben Mancillas says:

    I am willing (OK, eager) to go be one of those recount disrupting maniacs who were shipped in to Florida six years ago when this long national nightmare began.

    It’s interesting how greedy I got so quickly.

    I went from wanting at least one house to wanting the House by a bigger margin, to almost coming to blows at lunch today with a “colleague” over my desire to waterboard him if he defended our ex-Secretary of Defense one moment longer, to now not being satisfied unless we absolutely get our deserved Virginia seat as well.

    But all this hatin’ on K-Fed has got to stop-you’re just giving him material for his next album y’all.

    Celebrities with more cash than brains have long been known to marry what they consider to be eye candy and what others suspect to be trash-isn’t it just a bit sexist to decry the leech/celebrate Britney’s adventures in this department any more than the many others that could qualify in this category?

  13. Lane says:

    “The New Radicals”

    Some of you will recognize the name of this one hit wonder band. And others of you are rolling your eyes.

    Ken Freedman played the hit today as part of his post election celebration.

    Google it. Download it and remember the words of Ivan Chermayeff “if something is big and ugly it’s not big enough.”

    In regards to this paper thin brit pop crap, “if something is loud and stupid, it’s not loud enough.”


    and rejoice.

  14. farrell fawcett says:

    it’s official. the dems control the senate. fuckin A!!!!
    turn it up, kids. it’s been a long time waiting for such joy.

    fucking christ i can’t believe it.

    obama in 2008 and i’ll shit my pants.

    wait i already did. i don’t care. i’ll do it again.

  15. Ruben Mancillas says:

    just don’t squish it down the drain of your shower with your toes.

    that would be a deal breaker.

    but the sentiment of scatalogical worthy celebration is certainly shared.

  16. Stephanie Wells says:


  17. trixie says:


  18. i feel like i was the last person in america to find out how good today’s news was.

    i’ve been teaching or prepping to teach since 9, then had to go do a bunch of middle school orientating for parents of molly’s grade.

    finally, sitting at the bar, stephanie and jason looked at me like i was an idiot because i hadn’t heard about rumsfeld or the senate.

    i thought it was great to wake up this morning — i can’t wait to wake up tomorrow.

    can i start a separate post-election haiku thread?

  19. Stephanie Wells says:

    I don’t know, Bryan, are you sure your lines will scan?

  20. i was asking for contributions from others. not putting my own forward.

    by the way, all lines scan. some just scan more awkwardly than others.

    that said, “anapestic substitution” is quite possibly the hottest phrase i’ve ever read on TGW.

  21. farrell fawcett says:

    Let the haikus begin:

    In January
    a terrorist can
    finally have a

    partial birth ‘bortion
    then send the fetus to him,
    Michal j Fox where

    he can inject it
    directly into his spine
    and cure parkinsons

    while smoking ganga
    rolled in US flags, then
    marry his boyfriend

    ha ha ha ha ha
    hee hee ho ho ho la la
    la di da da da

    the democratic
    agenda finally un-
    furled in its full glory

    let the love flow!

  22. farrell fawcett says:

    in the interest of medical precision:

    can now inject stem
    cells into his depleted
    substantia nigra

    sorry for the confusion.

  23. Dave says:

    Substantia nigra? Sounds like something George Allen might say on the campaign trail.

  24. PB says:

    Balance from the roots
    People have spoken with heart
    Still a fascist head

    Pardon my caution
    The mess is a miasma
    Inheritance sucks

    Pabst Blue Ribbon is
    A big buzz kill Eyore gloom
    Just be happy now

  25. Scott says:

    People, I really can’t believe it. I love you all so fucking much. I am so bummed that we are not all in the same room shitting our pants together.

    We once again live in an internationally respectable country!

  26. Lane says:

    “We once again live in an internationally respectable country!”

    Hold on there, let’s be really careful. Not to be a buzzkill but . . .

    Let’s all keep the pressure on, in any way one feels compelled.

    I did this weird thing an hour ago. I e-mailed the oldest cousin in my family, the heir to the seat as the “family head”. (Nothing formal it’s just that everyone likes this guy.) But he’s an ex-military, (West Point) Mormon, STAUNCH 60 year old Arizona Republican. So I e-mailed him, to give him shit. And to BUSH BASH! It felt great, after having had dinner with him two years ago on the island of Manhattan and listened to him defend Bush.

    I also called my mom at 8 AM yesterday. To snicker. In 04 she drove my Aunt Ada (mother of Ron, the West Pointer) to the polls and said “I’ll only take you to vote if you vote for Bush.” We laughed and she told me “Well someone asked me at a resturant last night who I should vote for and I said ‘all those girls, vote for the girls.’ And I responded, “Yup mom and they’re all Democrats.”

    We won, will can keep winning, but in the words of Echo (of the Bunnymen) “Never Never Never Stop”

    Honestly, let’s not have another Lewinsky meltdown.

    ON TO 08!

    (And I know I’m being PAINFULLY dorkey here. But honestly, I worry, I really really worry.)

  27. Scott Godfrey says:

    Lane, what I mean is that the average European will look at this as a sign of hope that average Americans are coming to their senses. Thats all.

    Yes, I am weary of ’08 myself. I hope that the Democrats are smart enough to make change, but not to push too hard — too fast.

  28. Dave says:

    No, Scott, they need to push hard, but on the right things. Open government reforms, a few targeted lines of inquiry designed to embarass and prosecute the worst deeds of the administration, sending up economic legislation that obviously helps working people and that Bush will have to veto, standing up to Big Oil and Big Pharma, which are tremendously unpopular. The Dems need to show backbone while enlarging the political space of the left-center.

  29. Lisa Tremain says:

    Well fucking said, Dave.

    And, Lane, I called my entirely Rebulican mother to give her some shit too. She said, “Well, you know I voted Republican all the way, but I think the people are ready for a change and nothing’s happening at all in Iraq.” My favorite part, the at all. I do love my mom.

    I vote Scott for GreatWhatsit campaign poster boy.

  30. Bush has twice pushed my very Republican parents to vote Dem. I never thought I’d see the day, but it’s true. He must have had that effect on more people like them.

  31. Rachel says:

    You know when my home state of New Hampshire goes blue that things are dire.

  32. Lisa Parrish says:

    Oh, my lord – I had the opposite familial response. My mother, a lifelong Democrat (and a Florida voter, so it mattered), voted for Bush in both ’00 and ’04. I coud NOT convince her otherwise. She didn’t like the fact that Kerry threw his Vietnam medals over that fence! Agh!

    That said, she did vote straight-ticket Dem on Tuesday.

    She also has announced, two years in advance, that under no circumstances will she ever vote for Hillary Clinton, no matter who is running against her.

  33. Rachel says:

    It’s dismaying how many times I have heard Dems say, “I have no problem with Hillary; I just don’t think she can win.”

    True or false?

  34. Scott Godfrey says:

    Dave, yes, there are real changes that need to be made, many of which you outlined, and having backbone is uber important; it’s what’s been lacking in the Democratic platform for the last six-plus-years.

    However, moving too fast on things that many Americans would see as radical (like impeaching Bush) will only cause a massive backlash. It is important to remember that both parties have moved toward the center because that’s where the majority of voters are. Yes be firm, yes make change, but sell it to the people as you go. Otherwise we are looking at Frist in ’08.

  35. Dave says:

    Oh, no, as much I as I’d like to see Bush impeached, I think it’s a bad idea to do it, at least right away. But you pick a few areas for high-profile hearings: intelligence failures leading up to 9/11 and Iraq, war profiteering, the Katrina fuckup, torture, maybe the wiretapping stuff. Or maybe not all of those, but some of them. And you start holding hearings and investigations, and show how thoroughly corrupt and dismissive of the law the administration has been at all levels. The target isn’t really Bush, but the Republican party and their whole kleptocratic and authoritarian way of operating.

    I think we basically agree: pick targets very carefully.

    And that’s not to mention the legislation Congress can now pass and force Bush to veto. Again, pick really popular stuff and then be shocked, shocked when the Republicans reject it. Even if no substantive legislative changes for the better occur in the next two years (due to what we must learn to call “Republican rejectionism”), there can be some fantastic political theater designed to elect a Democrat in ’08 andwin larger legislative majorities.

  36. Lisa Tremain says:

    Yes, kleptocratic. I have a crush on Dave today.

  37. Lisa Parrish says:

    It’s kleptocraptastic!

  38. Tim Wager says:

    I’m a Dem. I *do* have a problem with Hillary *and* I don’t think she can win.

    She’s edged farther and farther rightward over the last 6 years (there was her shift on abortion last year, e.g.), forever keeping her eye on presidential aspirations, looking to change her image in the national press. The most recent example I can think of offhand is her calling John Kerry’s botched joke “inappropriate,” which heavily implies that she thinks he was insulting the troops instead of Bush. That she felt compelled to say this days before the election (and at a point when the story was already dying down) indicates to me that she feels that she needs to make a greedy grab for the heartland centrists who may have found insult to the troops in Kerry’s words. It seems to me Lieberman-esque, putting as it does her concern for her own image and 08 presidential desires above the good of the party’s 06 election chances. While left of center, she seems to me almost entirely self-serving and therefore not very trustworthy.

    As to her ‘electability’, if she is nominated the turnout against her will be huge. For some reason many people (many women, especially, e.g. Parrish’s mom) in the center and on the right developed a passionate hatred for her during her tenure in the White House. Interestingly, this hatred is double-edged in its focus on gender: she’s too bossy on the one hand, pushing a strong agenda while First Ladies should be more tame *and* she’s not strong enough to have dumped Bill. She’s damned for being too strong a woman on the one (political) hand and damned for being too weak a woman on the other (personal) hand. (This is, for lack of a better term, country music feminism. The Dixie Chicks are great as long as they confine their songs to depicting themselves as tough babes who don’t take crap from their men. When they venture into not taking crap from their President, well, they need to stay in their place.) If the Dems want to generate a huge Republican turnout in 08, nominating Hillary is the best way to do it.

    Add to this that Hillary has consistently alienated the left in her time in the Senate and there’s just no way she’d win. Well, IMHO.

  39. Dave says:

    I don’t mind Hillary myself. I’m not crazy about many of her policies, but I’m so far left of center that I tend to have big problems with anyone who’s remotely electable.

    Besides the sexist opposition to her (from both men and women), which is I suspect the biggest part of her negative rating, many people find her too much of a politician, too insincere to trust. I can definitely see some validity to that.

    On the other hand, she’s got great name recognition. And here in New York, she’s really done well at making people like her as a senator.

  40. Lisa Parrish says:

    It’s official! Allen has conceded!

    Hurrah! Hurrah!

  41. Dave says:

    Sweet, sweet dual majorities! Macacacacacacaca, ca-caw!

  42. Macacacacacacaca, ca-caw!

    This may be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard you say, Dave. I wish I had actually *heard* it.

  43. Scott Godfrey says:

    This is all too good!

    Dave, when we finally meet, you’ll know me because I’ll be the one jumping into your arms; I’m a sucker for a super lefty.

  44. Stephanie Wells says:

    Careful, Dave–he’ll be singing the Little House on the Praire theme about you in a minute.

  45. Scott Godfrey says:

    Steph – how did I know that you’d be chiming in?

  46. Dave says:

    42: Yeah, everyone in my office was kinda startled.

  47. lizardbreath over at unfogged linked to this earlier today — a post about a group of bloggers who conference called with pelosi. if only half the things she says she wants to do get done we’re headed for a much better political system. did we have to go through 6 such horrifying years to get people to think this way?

  48. […] Dave B, “The Coming Shitstorm” (Parts 1 and 2) Dave B, “Hope: a non-sermon” Scott Godfrey, “A journal of hope” […]