Newark Slushy snow was coming down as we hit the Unitarian Church in Montclair and my host, John Atlas wasn’t sure there would be anyone but us there to talk about Citizen Wealth, ACORN, and the state of the country today this afternoon. The event, jointly sponsored by Shelterforce magazine and Blue Wave New Jersey, was wonderful with over 40 people weathering the storm and heating up the room with great discussion.
When question period began, Bob Russo, former Mayor of Montclair, started it rolling by reminding me how much a small town mayor can still accomplish, since I make the case for community organizers, but then he got to the point by referencing an article in the TriCityNews about increasing disenchantment with the unfulfilled and damaged promises of Obama and his administration. I tend to take the answer to what we need to do to mobilize and put more pressure on the administration to enable it to do the right thing, but Mayor Russo had hit a chord that various questioners returned to repeatedly over the hour. Over and over different people expressed their concern that after a year they had so little to show for their hopes and dreams from Obama, and they could sense it was going to be harder in the days to come.
The issues tumbled out in various questions, but so did the conviction. Part of the story here really is Blue Wave New Jersey itself. Many of the founders were progressive activists who had worked very hard with similar homes for Senator Kerry in 2004. They had come together after that close defeat convinced that they needed to work harder and smarter to make sure that the progressive agenda had an opportunity and flourished. To hear their growing concerns and disillusionment should be a Washington wakeup call.
This is also the first group where I have spoken that understood the consequences of the rise of neo-McCarythism and the need to speak up and out, even in support and defense of ACORN. Civil rights lawyers, former union organizers, and, perhaps more importantly, well dressed and solid citizen folks who were teachers and social workers and health professionals – the backbone of support for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party – spoke repeatedly about targeting Congresspeople who had voted to defund ACORN and rewarding those who had stood tall on the vote.
One woman particularly chilled the crowd. She had read the suit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights representing ACORN and detailed how far reaching and extremist the defunding bill had been and how wide its tentacles had reached. You could have heard a pin drop.
But on this afternoon after that silence, the shouts roared into the future.
There’s a price that will be paid for the concessions and diminishing of hope and promise now unless the administration and the President start delivering in ways they seem to have forgotten in the last year of living dangerously.