I am CAM. I am a 50-year old post-operative transwoman who has worked on progressive issues all her adult life, including, but not limited to, peace, environmental, gender and sexually nonconforming people (think rainbow, alphabet soup – lgbtqiia+++), economic justice and union work. As an educator, I have worked all over the state of Connecticut, and personally witnessed the high degree of racial and economic segregation, and the real life affects our unequal society has upon individuals and communities. As a transwoman, I have personally faced the forces of bigotry which have been brewing in the United States for a long time, indeed, which never left us in the first place. I have also witnessed the silence of the many who were not indirectly.attacked, and acutely felt the pain of that silence.
During my work for peace groups in college, I helped organize, speak and rally other students around issues of foreign policy, all the while learning about the deep interconnections between multinational corporate power and its influence on policy. During my time living with radical lesbian feminists and other work with the gender and sexually nonconforming community, I developed an awareness of how the underlying structures of patriarchy limit us all. During my years helping with all aspects of a progressive community access television show, I heard the stories, news and commentary of countless diverse people from many communities. During my work with environmental groups, I came to understand how corporate influence on both Democrats and Republicans has led to agency appointments which don’t always choose the best interests of the country as a whole over the corporations from which they came, and to which they returned after ‘regulating’ them. I have been the only white person in a workforce of black people, and a workforce of Puerto Ricans. I’ve worked in schools where I have been a numerical minority as a white person. I do not have the vanity to ever say I could speak for anyone else, but such an education is personally valuable in understanding how privilege ripples out, even when you seem outnumbered. I know the difference between equality in laws, and equality in attitude and respect, and I know how personal, regular interaction with people who might initially seem different from us helps transcend these barriers. I have walked through society as one perceived as male, as female and as transsexual, and the differences in treatment is not small, despite being the same person, with the same skills and the same intelligence. I bring all these diverse experiences to bear in my perspective. And all the while, I have read, read read. Not merely corporate media, but also less common sources, and some blatantly ridiculous propaganda, from both the right and the left. If a large segment of the population believes a set of lies, I think it’s a good idea to keep half an eye on what those lies are. Many times, stories with incorrect facts indicate a complete consistency of worldview. People will generally choose their worldview over your facts, even if you are right. One does not challenge an entire set of beliefs and interpersonal connections, without a degree of push-back. I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I’d like to think I have a rare, if not unique perspective, and one which adds a rich and needed voice to the conversation at this point in time. Please join in. Call me out when I’ve overstepped, pop my balloon when I’ve gone too far with assumptions that others do not share. We can disagree and still learn. Just always mind the Rules for the Adult Table and Manners for the Adult Table before you do, please.
While I recognize that great social change in the United States has usually come at the hand of the Democratic Party, and pretty much always, in the last 80 years, it has not come easily. Change has not arisen merely because good Democrats got elected and did the right thing, however. Labor unions and the Communist Party helped pressure FDR and others into enacting the New Deal. Black resistance and civil rights movements pressured the Democrats into passing the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. Etc, etc. For the last 30 years, the Democratic Party has openly pursued two strategies which have shifted them away from any real grassroots, broad-based initiatives: triangulation and neoliberalism. While some good has come from the Democrats, and while Republicans have always been worse, and virulently so as time goes on, the Democrats have shifted their focus towards the interests of middle and well-off citizens of the US, even while income inequality has skyrocketed. If Democrats are to win big enough to make real change, and I would argue that if big changes aren’t needed now, they certainly will be in a few years, they need to get back to a broader base of solid support and enthusiasm. The protesters of Occupy Wall Street weren’t a bunch of nutty whiners – they had reasons for their concerns. The left doesn’t gain strength from tracking to the right. They gain strength by broadening their appeal and fighting, passionately for those values.
We saw that enthusiasm and energy in Bernie Sanders rallies, and we saw it at the Women’s March on Washington (and the world! Still waiting to hear from the international space station…). Both movements harnessed an unapologetically progressive platform with genuinely diverse leadership involved. Many complain that meeting so many diverse needs is hopelessly complicated, but here is where the WMW gave us another great gift: revival of the Equal Rights Amendment, this time with specific minority inclusions. Under this one, encompassing umbrella of equal rights for everybody – EVERYBODY- we have a positive guiding principle to rally around and to which we can hold Democrats accountable. Tepid compromise did not help stem the extremism of the Bush years, and will only serve to legitimize a completely corrupt, bigoted regime under Trump. Quietly voting no occasionally will not save us. It’s time for Democrats who will fight for us.
This is possible, this radical Democratic Party. The rise of the Religious Right and the Tea Party more recently show us how to leverage a party to make it more responsive to its base. The Democratic Party, minus a few individuals, won’t fight for us unless we make them. We can, however, make them. It’s time.