So last night, I checked the early returns on my way out the door to Sean Sullivan’s party, and my heart sank. Even then, I really thought we’d make it to a run-off (which is still a possibility), but it was crushing nonetheless. Now, I usually cry at the drop of a hat, so I was incredibly proud of myself for holding it together and not bursting into tears during the party, or the after-party, or even the after-after-party. But when my last guest finally left early this morning and I closed my apartment door behind him, I just fell apart. It’s tough to take.
I really thought it would be different this time, but it wasn’t, and like I do after what seems like almost every single election day, I found myself thinking about my man Herodotus, specifically a section in Book 3 usually referred to as the debate on government. It’s this awesome story about a group of Persians, all excited over their successful coup against the ruling Magi, sitting around and having, like, the Greekest discussion ever about what kind of government they should adopt next.
The first speaker argues for democracy. The following speaker favors oligarchy, and his response to the democracy pitch is…well, I’ll let you read it:
In so far as Otanes spoke in favor of abolishing monarchy, I agree with him; but he is wrong in asking us to transfer political power to the people. The masses are a feckless lot – nowhere will you find more ignorance or irresponsibility or violence. It would be an intolerable thing to escape the murderous caprice of a king, only to be caught by the equally wanton brutality of the rabble. A king does at least act consciously and deliberately; but the mob does not. Indeed how should it, when it has never been taught what is right and proper, and has no knowledge of its own about such things? The masses have not a thought in their heads; all they can do is to rush blindly into politics like a river in flood. As for the people, then, let them govern Persia’s enemies.
Ultimately, I think he’s wrong. But on days like today, it’s hard not to sympathize.
So what happened yesterday? I don’t know. Maybe people just believed all her lies. Maybe people are just totally out of touch and voted at random. Maybe I was just completely wrong, and District 3 voters really do care about the bubble ordinance and plastic bags and banning smoking at bus stops more than crime reduction and decent sidewalks and good, data-driven, well-considered public policy and implementation and fiscal responsibility, and I’m the one who has her priorities all out of whack.
Whatever the reason, it just hurts. I watch nearly every Council and Committee meeting, and I watch her performance, and I see how she treats people, and I just feel like if other people did the same thing, most would agree that Nancy Nadel is just plain bad for Oakland. Sean Sullivan, on the other hand, well I already said it, but I just can’t say enough how incredibly fortunate Oakland would have been to have him on the City Council. I’m so upset. It’s incredibly tempting to sit around and curse the voters (and not just in this race – the other City Council outcomes didn’t surprise me, but I found the margins, in every District, unbelievable. Also, poor Tony Thurmond!), but that would be unproductive. Ultimately, it was our job to make that case to the people who live here, and we just…well, as hard as it is to accept, we clearly failed to do so. I don’t know what more we could have done. I really don’t know what more I could have done. I guess I took two nights off all season to go see the A’s – could I have convinced 114 people in that time?
Wev. You can’t think like that. Almost exactly two years ago, I felt, like Joanna, that I should just give up forever on Oakland politics and the ability of the people here to make good choices. And it isn’t just Oakland. The American public has let me down over and over again. But I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought it had to always be that way. You do what you can, you try to educate people, and you just hold out hope that someday people will wake up, get informed, and do the right thing. If I didn’t believe that could eventually happen, well, not only could I not write this blog, I don’t think I could even stand to read the newspaper. So you just promise yourself to work harder next time. And until then, go back and do whatever you can to make where you live a better place. Volunteer for a cause you care about, get out there on Sunday morning and clean up the trash on your street, and try to get your friends and neighbors to do the same.
And even though the outcome was, frankly, heartbreaking, I want to say again what an incredible pleasure and honor it was helping on this campaign. I had the opportunity to meet so many amazing, caring, unbelievably hard-working people, and it was such a privilege to sit side by side with them day after day trying to bring positive change to this city. Even though things didn’t go our way, I don’t regret a second of the time I put in, a penny of the money I dug into my meager savings account to give, or a single sacrifice I made to try to get Sean elected, and if I had the chance to go back knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do a single thing different. Except maybe skip those baseball games.