The world feels so quiet and colorful here in Cranston, RI as the leaves fall and we begin to experience life after Bush, life on the yet-to-be-explored frontier of Obamaland. It felt to me from early on that Obama was inevitable, even before I became a true believer, and while I made phone calls for Obama on Saturday night with friends, calling Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado (all states Obama won) it was easy work — many people answered gladly that they would be supporting Obama. In a way it felt like victory was imminent, and part of me wondered if Obama’s grandmother also felt that imminence and finally relaxed and let go of her mortal self, left the earth in peace with confidence in a job well done.
Here in Cranston we also had another significant victory as Stephanie Culhane became our new school committee representative for Ward 2. It may feel, compared to Obama’s victory, like this is small potatoes, but not so — very few people have the courage to run for such a selfless job, and even fewer have the voice, skills, and ambition to win. Hats off to Stephanie and her campaign team, and as I said to her on Facebook, I hope she can take care of that pesky 8 million dollar deficit problem lickety-split (LOL!).
But while there were many large and significant victories, I also became more intimate with the experience of defeat last night, as Cindy Fogarty lost to Allan Fung 37-63%. Some things never change. Losing still stinks, no matter how old you get or how many times you weather it. It hurts to acknowledge the disappointment, and to begin to grapple with how much of the loss was your own responsibility versus factors that were outside of your control.
But nothing is ever wasted. I took on the job because I wanted the experience, and I kept working at it until the end because I had made the commitment and wanted to see it through. As a result, I learned tremendously about many things — the financial and educational issues Cranston is facing, the process of planning and running a campaign, the process of trying to build a movement. I became more appreciative of the work involved in trying to bring people together for a common goal when there is a recent history of division and warring factions within the group.
I always give people as much hope as possible. It’s part of my job as a clinical social worker. When families come to me feeling hopeless about their child’s behavior, when couples come to me unable to feel hopeful about their marriage, with their emotional “gas tank” running on empty, I look for ways in which we, together, can imagine and build a better future.
I believe in relationships. In taking on the campaign manager role for the Fogarty campaign, I believed that, with the right support and guidance, a strong Democratic challenge could be created. But sometimes I overestimate the power of relationships — a tendency that plays out as both a weakness and a strength for me. It’s the same tendency that got me out there supporting Obama early on — because he engaged my ability to imagine myself and so many other people having a different relationship with our country where we would be heard and known, where we would be “at the table” of decision-making to move the country in a better direction.
Over the next 30 days, I have decided to write daily about the experience of managing the Fogarty for Mayor campaign. It was an important opportunity, a touchstone that connected me with the community and helped me understand the many dynamics at play in Cranston politics. In concert with National Novel Writing Month (though this will be memoir), I am going to take this opportunity to present that experience and try to draw some “life lessons” from it. I will also bring into the story the many people I met and worked with along the way and how they influenced me, and/or how I influenced them, as the campaign unfolded.
Think of it as a local political soap opera with daily installments. Tune in tomorrow for more As the Campaign Turns.