As the sun was setting and Wilco was playing, there was hope in the possibility that maybe the wrong direction would be righted, and America would find itself again. The entire weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival that September in 2004 this sense had grown and that night's performance seemed to crown it with glory.
Earlier that summer I had been surprised to find myself in new alliances. I had been in Austin to testify before the state school board about health textbooks. None of the textbooks had adequate sex education. Only one of them even mentioned condoms. One listed "get more sleep" as a way to prevent pregnancy. You can read my blog post about testifying, here. I was there as part of the Texas Faith Network, and we were working with a wide array of people from medicine, social work, education, etc. advocating for better textbooks. At lunch that day I found myself sitting with representatives of Planned Parenthood who were part of our coalition.
This was new for me. I had been a Republican from 1988 to 2003. In reaction against the Iraq War and disappointed by the growing influence within the GOP of the Far Right, especially Christian Fundamentalists, I had left the party. And I was suddenly finding myself in working coalitions with folk who I had once not been associated with.
So, one of the most dramatic developments of my Thirties has been the change in my politics.
And this blog has been a central venue in that development. The very reason I started the blog in April 2004 was to express my political views, including dissatisfaction with the Bush administration and the direction of the country. The first real post was entitled "A Former Republican Against Bush." For a long time that post was the top return when you Googled "Former Republican." The post drew thousands of hits. The blog and airing my political views helped me to make connections with a group of other bloggers, some of whom I've remained in contact with but never personally met (more on blogging in a later post in this series).
Throughout 2004 I kept wondering why the country wasn't disgusted at the administration because of all the illegal activities that kept coming out--wiretapping, torture, Abu Graib, etc. Though I wasn't a huge Kerry fan, I was sure that the country would vote against Bush, and that many traditional and moderate Republicans would. When then-conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan endorsed Kerry and then The Economist, a traditional conservative magazine, also endorsed him calling him the "conservative choice" in the race, I felt vindicated.
Then, we lost of course. Though close, it was disspiriting. Remember how depressed people were the next day? Here's the post I wrote the morning after the election. For a time I considered leaving ministry to pursue public policy, as it seemed to be the great challenge of our time to save the country. If the CoH-OKC call hadn't come, I wonder what might have happened?
Once in Oklahoma City as my ministry became more politically active and social justice oriented (I've written about that already in this series, here), I began to develop more relationships with activists and grassroots organizers. Sometimes even I was surprised by my Radical Left wing friends, because in so many ways, I think there are continuities with my earlier views, just that the national political discourse shifted radically right compelling new alliance among moderates, liberals, and more traditional conservatives. For instance, what were GOP policy proposals in the 1990's on health care and cap and trade, policies I liked and supported while I was a Republican, are now the policies of the Democrats and are called "socialist" by the GOP.
Early in the 2008 primaries I was excited by the possibilities of Barack Obama. I was disappointed with his handling of the Jeremiah Wright episode and shifted my support back to Hillary Clinton.
But, I did support him in the general election and celebrated his victory, while also being deeply disappointed that night because on the local level many candidates I was supporting lost, and also because Prop 8 passed in that election.
The Obama years have been a disappointment, and I have grown more cynical. For more than a decade now I have voted for candidates opposing the war poliy that emerged post-9/11, to no effect. Even when Democrats were in control, they continued espionage, drone strikes, and other features I had objected to on Constitutional and moral grounds. The Democrats are disappointing and don't inspire my enthusiasm.
While I remain politically active, particularly on the local and state level where I have participated in real, tangible victories, . . .
. . . I'm cynical of the ability of politics to currently solve any of our big problems, and in my darker moods I worry about the country. But the worry is different from the year I turned thirty. Ten years ago I worried with anger and passion and a view that things could be set right if only we all talked about it and worked diligently. Now I consider that naive. And worry that we've gone down paths that did irreparable damage to the Republic and to who we are as a society.
That doesn't mean I'm going to quit being politically active. Being a follower of Jesus and a moral person both compel me.
But though my political hope has diminished, the hope and optimism which arise from my Christian faith are even stronger. Christians are the "eternal beginners," after all.