Miss Dem

{November 16, 2008}   Expectations

With the accolades of winning office, come the inherent responsibilities associated with that office. While many legislators work in offices, removed from the daily interaction with their constituents – a safe zone – I spend my work days seeing the faces of my constituents as they come in for their milk or beer. It is precisely what allowed me to win with such a significant margin of victory, but it is also what will hold me accountable in ways beyond the imagination of many.

Following the “congratulations” that continue to pour in from folks who have yet to see me post-election, comes also the depth of sorrow from so many who have put their faith in me when all else had failed for them. “You realize we’re counting on you, right?”

It’s less a reminder and more a cry for help. “I didn’t vote for anyone else; just you,” one person said. “But I voted.”

The people who society forgets showed up in droves to cast their ballot for the one politician they could relate to. To many, I’m just a cashier but to others – I’m one of them. And they will not take lightly to me forgetting my roots. It is this level of personal accountability that makes it that much more important for me to do solid work on their behalf.

“You’re not going to forget us, right?”

So I say to everyone who raised their hopes one last time and cast their ballot, I shall not forget you. In fact, your faces sit with me as decisions are made and deals are brokered under the capitol dome. It is you I have come to love and believe in and it is you I will remember as the depths of our budget crisis become evermore clear. I often feel like one of the forgotten ones, which is precisely why I fight that much harder to be heard. It is for those whose backs are breaking under the weight of their lives, it is to you I salute and to you I represent.

{November 11, 2008}   The Finish Line

Okay, so my big dreams of starting up the blog again were trumped by the very real need to campaign. Daily. Each year around my birthday, I tend to wax nostalgic about the good old days (were there any?) and the idea that each new year brings with it a fresh new start.

And while most good starts end somewhere, or at least go somewhere, this was more of a false start. A teaser to let people know that in my heart of hearts, I am still blogging. So here I am on the other end of a long campaign finish line feeling rather purged of anxiety, restlessness and a fear that the future just might not be as bright as I hoped. It’s an unusual emptiness that permeates. I’ve been on such an emotional roller coaster – much like the rest of America – that I now feel dizzy from the ride. Happy, but dizzy.

On Wednesday, I begin my training as a representative-elect, learning the ins and outs of parliamentarian procedure, protocol and partisan meandering that allows us to move forward Progressive legislation or block the crap brought forth from the camp dedicated to drowning government in the proverbial bathtub. Campaigning was a learning curve in and of itself, but now there is another steep hill of intellect to climb and a jagged little pill of social decorum to swallow. Opinions run deep with me and I am quite confident in my need to remove my emotional fixation on things as quickly as possible should I desire to move forward the pieces of legislation I quietly envision.

I regret not writing about the ins and outs of campaigning, but it is those ins and outs that often prevented me from having a spare moment to think let alone write what I think. Time and again, life gets in the way. Perhaps I will find time now to write, in hindsight, about my experience. It is an inspiring and also surprisingly lonely process. You can be surrounded by a sea of people and yet feel all alone, often paralyzed by the vast amount of “to dos” on your list. In the real world, there are no campaign managers to oversee all the operations. There are no grandiose speeches or soap boxes upon which the future of our democracy resides

I will leave those pontifications to the great leaders of our time. I see them on TV, I vote for them in the ballot box, but be clear those are the campaigns dreams are made of. Or, the fodder for West Wing-ophiles like yours truly. On the streets of small town politickas, there are doors to be knocked on, postcards to be licked and hands to be shook. But also in the real world, I’ve found that by searching for the approval of others, what we really find is the very real approval of ourselves.

The face we put on the world must be the face we see in the mirror. Authenticity is paramount in the wake of such collective deception, but even behind the quasi-cloak of MissDem there are stories that are harder to share. Behind the bright smile, there are darker moments when it has been difficult to comprehend my own perception of failure in the eyes of my parents. Only now that I am state rep-elect, have they elected to sign on board for the swearing in. Suddenly, I am cool – or at least for the moment.

But there are more important moments when lives have changed, inspiration has been derived and my general faith in humanity has been restored. It is here where personal struggle meets the betterment of humanity that I live. Where the common good supersedes the common sense of even the most sensical of parents. It is here that I live.

And now, I will celebrate in a wonderful victory, enjoy the company of a fantastic boyfriend and cherish the fragile nature of happiness that we all seek. For as things have come together this week, so shall my will be challenged in the next. It is that challenge that keeps us going -that wreaks havoc on our hearts and leaves us dizzy from exhaustion, misery and joy on that roller coaster we call life.



{September 6, 2008}   McPain

This week launched the beginning of the real test of this campaign. McCain picked brilliantly so far as middle America is concerned. On the surface, Sarah Palin comes across smart and sassy with a bit of good looks thrown in for good measure. It is when we scratch below the surface that things begin to smell a bit less than rosy.

As I knock on doors and speak to people at the mom and pop store I’m moonlighting in, I am amazed at how many people are fed up with Bush, but don’t feel comfortable voting for Obama. They’re not happy with McCain either, but they are looking for a reason to vote for him. To some, Palin may well be that reason. Though I have yet to discover any reason why that would be. Perhaps they have little interest in scratching the surface at all.

So, folks, we need a brand. Or, in this case, an anti-brand. I do graphic design, but have no time to refangle the McCain logo and hope someone might take up this idea and run with it. McCain + Palin screams to me one thing: McPain.

We need a McCampaign – we need to tie the policies of McCain to something as simple as McDonalds. We all understand the McJob – so much so that McDonalds has gone on the offensive about it. Apparently, they were offended to think folks thought of their “careers” as low-wage, slave work for students and folks stuck in a socio-economic spiral. That all said, the idea of a “McJob” or a “Mc-Anything” comes with certain connotations. It is high time we connect the dots.



McNugget (Could be chicken or gold!  Just kidding)

And last, but not least, we need to brand this “McPain” with the McCain logo and everything. Perhaps we could throw in some handy, dandy golden arches instead of that doo-dad at the bottom of his name to add some salient punch to the concept.

We are working so hard to message things when the solution seems quite obvious. And when McCain (or Palin) says something dumb, all our pundits need to say is, “Doh, yet another McPainful moment in history.”

As with anything, this has to be viral – so if you like the idea, run with it. Spread the McPain message and if you’re good with logos, send me one!

{August 29, 2008}   Living History

There are times in life when you know in some small or big way that you are part of history in the making. Tonight, I was moved to tears – not simply by the words I heard from a leader of generations, but by the moment itself.

I am a strong believer in opportunity. It empowers in ways nothing else can. And tonight, we saw the return of the great American promise of opportunity. Opportunity to further ones education. Opportunity to provide for our families. Opportunity to get ahead with some self-initiative. Those opportunities have been taken from us in ways we can’t even quantify let alone comprehend. Each issue exacerbates the other until we are mired down in a malaise of missed chances and measured decisions.

Tonight, that paradigm has shifted. Like millions of Americans, I stood with a group of complete strangers watching a man I have never met change the world by speaking to the hearts and souls of each of us individually through collective consciousness.

We have lost faith in our government which, by default, means we have lost faith in ourselves. Tonight, we regain faith in ourselves, our neighbors and our country. Tonight, we take back the reigns of the government and again own what is rightfully ours.

To be awed is remarkable. To be inspired is incredible. And to be moved to collective action by the millions is a generational awakening. Tonight, we have awoken. Tonight, we have beaten back the pessimism and fear of our adversaries. Tonight, we are again proud, dignified Americans.

Yes, we can lead by the power of our example.

Yes, we can empower the powerless.

Yes, we can educate the illiterate.

Yes, we can create jobs by addressing climate change.

Yes, we can restore our faith in ourselves, our government and the dignity of our friends around the world.

Yes, we can make history. In fact, tonight we just did.

{August 9, 2008}   back to basics

Hi Friends,

After a long hiatus from writing, I have decided it is time to get back to basics. Today, I celebrate my annual personal holiday, this being my 32nd annual holiday. Each year, I take time out to reflect on life, what’s important, where I’ve been and possibly even where I’m headed. (At least where I’d like to head!) I am spending this weekend away from the hubub of Portland, relaxing in my home away from home and gearing up for this fall.

Nationally, 2008 is the year of change and that certainly has translated directly into my life. I have been in DC, come back and am running for office. In the public eye, it has been a far easier transition than in actuality. There are challenges in life we all face, challenges that build character as much as they frustrate. But this has also been one of the best years of my life.

This spring, I had the honor of meeting far more people in my neighborhood than I ever would have had I not run for office. As I wrote about my experiences, I didn’t realize people were paying attention to what I was writing. In fact, someone came up to me on Primary Day and said, “You make it sound like everyone should run for office.”

I was so moved by this simple statement. On the one hand, I was honored that this person was paying attention to what I was writing. (Yes, I am a Leo after all) But more importantly, my experiences on the campaign trail were resonating with someone on a level that inspired civic engagement. I hope the message translated to others as well because, in fact, I do believe everyone should run for office. You meet people you would not have otherwise met, you hear stories that break your heart as quickly as they lift if up. I have developed friendships and found moments I will never forget.

It’s been a remarkable experience, one that I encourage anyone who cares about their community to take on for themselves. It is humbling in a good way.

Well, the sun is peaking out just in time for my birthday and I should be spending time outdoors instead of in front of a laptop. So, I’m going to get out there and soak up the first rays in about three weeks. Best to you all; will be writing about life and politics again soon!



{August 9, 2008}   usps

USPS: Big Problems for Small Publishers

27 July 2007

Since the Pony Express, the U.S. has put forth a solid show of support for snail mail forms of communiqué. As costs have inflated in other areas of life, the U.S. Postal Service has consistently worked hard to keep costs low enough that even poor people can communicate with others and pay their bills. Meanwhile, the service is consistently high with the mailperson showing up once a day to drop off your prized bills, letters and postcards from abroad.

This, dear friend, has changed. In lieu of the standard, all-is-fair mode of postage pricing, the US
Postal Service has moved toward a system that is priced according to size as opposed to the traditional weight system. While the USPS maintains that this change more accurately reflects the true cost of transporting our mail, it has placed an undue burden on our media outlets.

In particular, magazines and newspapers are being hit hard due to their larger shape. This is significantly increasing the postage for many publishers forcing them to increase their subscription
rates or lose money. In an industry where every dollar literally counts – and subscribers are hard to retain – this does not bode well for print media.

In response, The Nation is leading an effort, with other print publishers, to draft (and hopefully introduce) legislation to overturn the recent rate changes and as The Nation editor, Katrina Vanded Heuvel wrote, “counter the power of high priced lobbyists and corporate power.” Read the Article

Under the traditional weighted system, publishers had a number of options for reducing weight. They could reduce the number of pages, change the paperweight and trim the edges if necessary. The new size structure precludes publishers from any of these industry cheats. In fact, it leaves very little room for price reduction due to the structure of the size standards.

While I am clearly an Internet junkie, I still greatly appreciate the ability to hold a magazine in my
hand and sift through the pages. Call it nostalgia for my childhood, but the tactile nature of
magazines adds a component to the experience that keyboards just haven’t yet replaced.

Beyond the sensory deprivation caused by fewer tactile publications, there is a very real fear of
intellectual deprivation that may be created as a result of this “size-mic” shift.

There is speculation that this new price structure was driven, in large part, by industry lobbying and
corporate interests. And it is true that the TimeWarner Cable’s of the world would rather folks
find their content online or on television. It’s how they make their money.

This is also where various issues tend to start interrelating, not necessarily through conspiracy, but by
unintended consequences. I have ranted and raved religiously about corporate owned media – and the
need for deconsolidation and Net Neutrality – for some time. If the media continues to be allowed to
consolidate – and further consolidate – the number of voices peaking up out of the sand will continue
to diminish. If the Internet is deregulated, then industries can begin controlling the speed by which its
consumers are able to view certain content, if they allow consumers to view that content at all.

Now let’s add to the scenario a significant reduction in print publishers due to unfair postal rate
charges. Suddenly, the corporations have either bought up or eliminated competing voices from the
supposed “marketplace of ideas.”

And this, dear friends, is why returning to the previous system of equitable postage rates becomes
critical to the foundation of our democracy. If people are unable to obtain objective information, or
at least have a choice of information sources, they will be unable to formulate informed opinions
about the world around them. And that is when democracy breaks down altogether.

So pick up your pen, or click a button and ask Tom Allen and Mike Michaud to please work with the
publishing industry to reverse this seemingly innocent intrusion on our freedom of speech. The Nation
and its coalition partners are looking for cosponsors for the bill they plan to draft later this year.

And, incidentally, Tom Allen’s office has already met with consumer advocates regarding the issue of
Net Neutrality; this should be a natural complement to that issue.

{August 9, 2008}   online connections

23 August 2007

Online Connections

Each day, I peak back at my F-book tab on my trusty Firefox browser, learning who is bored, going on vacation, falling in love or having their heart broken. It is also my own personal RSS feed for dummies.

Ahh, yes.

My loyal friends, all Demoholics, circulate YouTube videos, news articles and candidate updates. As the loyal operator, I have had the privilege of passing through countless events and breaking stories to
folks interested in moving forward a vision of public policy designed to benefit the common good.

It was with sudden and rather heartbroken disappointment that I learned my account had been shut down. Apparently, I’m not a real person. As such, the nearly 200 friends (mostly from Maine) I have acquired over time are all so madly angry at me that they have continued to be my friend, tag me in items that need circulation and write nice compliments on my wall. Oh, the hatred!

It has taken me some time, but yesterday I began the process of rebuilding what was lost, this time with a more strategic eye toward keeping this high-profile profile a bit more on the down low. As we move toward an even more contentious election in 2008, it will be increasingly important to be able to quickly share relevant information, volunteer requests and events in a meaningful manner that
engages people in the process.

As I have gone around the state in the past year, I have been genuinely struck by how many people are simply tired of the polarizing effect that this administration has had on the political process in general. Folks are tired of hearing the “he said, she said” bit and are looking for real leadership. The independents aren’t blaming the Republicans, they’re blaming both parties and saying, “a pox on both your houses.”

Howard Dean has been incredibly insightful and diligent in rebuilding the party from the roots of the grass, inspiring new folks to shirk the sidelines and take action. Change is a collective effort; government is not meant to be a spectator sport. But life takes away time on so many levels, removing people’s ability to always get out and get involoved.

This is why online social networking is critical. Yes, the loyal of the loyal and the dyed in the wool congregate around the MySpace and Facebook profiles we’ve collectively built. But it’s the soccer
moms and the baseball dads and slammed college students who are picking up and circulating
information, too. We’re engaging people who might be astute to what the Democrats are trying to
do, but just don’t have the time to spread the gospel of the common good, the way some of us
loyalists can.

I, myself, find it difficult to sparse out minutes in the day to write, edit and code this blog while also
xholding down a full-time job and serving on a board of directors of a Progressive Maine
organization. And I don’t have children or a husband to focus on (not even a boyfriend at this juncture,
come to think of it).

It is only by engaging people on their own terms in a positive manner that we will win the hearts
and minds of this country. Indeed, it is community-by-community that the grass begins to green itself
and the country begins to right itself.

The people on the streets of Maine are asking for a fresh, positive vision for the future of Maine, and
for this country. By engaging in uplifting, ethical politics, by presenting our vision for the future, and by
implementing that vision, we will start to erode the negative, fear-based structure that has hijacked
our political process.

We are the people.

It’s time we were once again the government.

{August 9, 2008}   mr. dodd takes on washington

the soapbox

17 December 2007

Mr. Dodd Takes on Washington

I had a moment with Sen. Dodd today.

Nooo… not that kind of a moment. We shared a moment between two idealists pushing back against a tide of indecency.

The entire duration I was there (four or so hours), only two to three senators were in the chamber at any given time leaving eloquent speeches to be handed to the ghosts of our founders’ past. Senators would come in ahead of their allotted speaking time, deliver powerful speeches no doubt written in haste by their staff writers and delivered in their entirety to the cameras.

While most CSPAN watchers presume that beyond the reach of the camera lie senators listening with rapture, in fact there are staffers chatting quietly amongst themselves, or devouring their work tuned out of the show of democracy before them.

Amidst this dearth of disappointment, Sen. Dodd proved a colorful and honorable divergence. While others read their speeches and left, Sen. Dodd sat through the majority of the debate listening to all viewpoints with respect and even allocating time to opponents. For eight hours, he sat there listening and intermittently delivering brilliant speeches full of passion and grandeur. Not the kind that come from several stints on the campaign trail, but from earthly frustration with the system.

I sat near the back for some time before asking permission to move to the front of the aisle so that I might see a senator from the intelligence deliver a compelling speech calling for the right of every senator to see the evidence he had been allowed to see. Even I wanted to see the evidence by the time he was finished.

As I walked down the staircase, the movement must have caught Sen. Dodd’s eye. He looked up, right at me. And that’s when we had a moment. I smiled, holding his gaze, and mouthed the words, “Thank you.” He smiled back, warmly grateful for the cheerleader in the stands.

Threatening a filibuster as a senior member of the majority party is no easy idea; some might call it crazy. But as Sen. Dodd argued, there have been times throughout his recent career when he didn’t take a stand. All those incremental, easy decisions were adding up and eating away at our liberties. The comprehensive look back was much harder to swallow than the incremental look forward.

I chose to come to the gallery today, not because I couldn’t watch the debate on television. I chose to come in person to show my support, in my own way, to the impending filibuster. To be honest, there wasn’t much I could do today other than call my senators. But, by showing up, I found my own way to
push back against the wave of people begging him not to pull out the final senatorial stop. One average
Jane stood in the galleries, an unknown to politicos, and gave fresh encouragement to a cause that
many outside the beltway supported.

When I returned home, I learned that Sen. Reid had pulled the controversial pieces of legislation
from further consideration. It’s too bad none of the other presidential candidates were there to see
what I saw. The topic was of grave importance to our future and to the future of this democracy
as we know it. I learned something special today, one that will never be put into words. Perhaps
they, too, might have learned something. Perhaps any of the other senators who elected to stay
out of the chamber might have learned something. But I suppose when people spend most of their day
raising money, the people’s business just isn’t that exciting.

Today, Sen. Dodd won. By sitting through the various debates, he staked out his place and
demonstrated his commitment to doing whatever needed to be done to protect the American people.
And I sat there watching, giving just a small glimmer of support from one stranger to another.

Sometimes, change really is about showing up.


~ MissDem

{August 9, 2008}   i heart karl

14 August 2007 Rovian Legacy

I idolize Karl Rove.

I do.

In that sick, twisted way that moths are drawn to the flame, I too am a sucker for a nugget of his Confuscian insight into political strategy and communications.

We all should be secretly enamored with Mr. Boy Genius, even if we do loathe, detest and despise all that he embodies. He orchestrated our greatest defeats. He taught us to second guess our true nature and believe in the dark intent of nefarious forces. Darth Vader masqueraded as Luke Skywalker, and we as a country ate it up like an ice cream sundae.

We lost faith in ourselves, in our history and in our ideals. It was but a blip on the millennial radar screen, but a tight blip that brought about profound destruction, imperialistic tendencies and even a fear of hope itself.

Those who would question the rationale and intent of his beloved President were vilified, demonized and lynched in the public eye, with the public’s support. One by one, references to 1984 began to chip away at the references to 2001. Individual voices began to rise up from the ashes, voices whose purity could not be dissected and driven into the obscure gray cloud of suspicion.

As those voices became stronger, more diverse, Rove and his pet project, our own Manchurian candidate, raised his voice louder still in an attempt to drive down the insurgency that had developed underneath him. His own power, greed and inflated ego assured him as any arrogant king, that such dribble stemmed from a militant faction of the enemy party.

In fact it was the mob… I mean the people.

Conspiracy theorists, once the rubbish pile where enemies were publicly relegated to, they were now the unsung heroes of the populists who dared to dream as the founding fathers did. The idealists whose intent had been questioned almost as much as their sanity, passed along tidbit after tidbit of information to the grassroots armies that were building online. And like a virus, those pieces of information began to infiltrate the broader public and wear down the fabric of the neo-conservative quilt that Rove himself had sewn together.

Stitch by stitch by stitch, the quilt began to fray at the edges, and then it moved toward the center
and then even the fabric of the Republican party began to give as the lies and deceit and
control-mongering beleaguered even the devout.

Lives were lost in the Iraq war, the war that served as a distraction to the war going on right here
at home; the war for American capitulation. Our side suffered defeat after defeat as we pushed back
against the onslaught of fear and attempted to defend the troops whose lives had been put at risk for
political purposes.

But we pushed back, using the internet as a new form of guerilla warfare, firing off shots behind
blogs and building armies around social networking sites. Each time we pushed forward, new folks
gained the courage to speak out until the sound of Rove’s castle became overrun and his defeat was
at hand.

In true Rovian style, even his resignation caught everyone by surprise, not the least of which was the
Atlantic Monthly who was detailing Rove’s rise to fame and success in their latest, upcoming issue.
Even the hollow of the Capital’s August recess could not stall the cameras, mics and broad speculation.

Even in the White House, staffers for the Veep stood transfixed by the television following the
news stories with their fellow Americans, shocked themselves at Rove’s sudden departure. The current
staffer theory is that Rove will be back to help Guiliani’s race.

So does the departure signal defeat, or even a setback from the subpoenas, or does it signal the next
chapter in Rove’s obsession to be the mastermind behind the long-term Conservative foundation? Do
Democrats finally have an opportunity to relax and rejoice in the fall of the right hand to a would-be
dictator, or should we now, more than ever, be pushing harder to put the final nail in a coffin that
can’t quite be buried deep enough?

I say, enough with the balloons and noisemakers; We’ve got work to do.


~ MissDem

{August 9, 2008}   meet shirley

Meet Shirley 9.11.07

Shirley cleans our offices every evening, Monday through Friday, like clockwork. She comes in with a bright smile and genuinely looks forward to our office where we tell her jokes and make attempts to speak her native language, Spanish. She laughs as we chat her up while she empties the trashcans and vacuums up the messes we’ve left. At about 9:30 each night, she finishes up her work and heads home. That’s when she does her homework.

Shirley is a senior in high school.

Last night, her bright smile dimmed as I asked her how she was. “I’m sick” she said in a strong South American accent.

“You look it; why don’t you go home, Shirley?” She shook her head.

“I can’t. Even sick, I have to work.” She smiled defeatedly and walked out of my office.

A senior in high school, Shirley probably makes the same as the rest of her family who join her on the office rounds, $6.25. While she dreams of going to college – and gets decent grades, her father is
intent on her following a more realistic path: work.

Though she will graduate from a United States high school, Shirley will likely be forced to pay international tuition to most of the universities and/or community colleges she applies. A bright, smart young woman, Shirley will probably be pushing vacuums for people like me who try not to leave
random pennies or the remnants of a three-hole punch war on the floor for her to clean up.

In an area like ours, she’ll watch countless interns come and go on their excursions through their collegiate experience. For her, it will be an internship in the school of hard knocks.

How can someone achieve high academic marks if they are unable to begin their homework until 9:30 or 10:00 at night? How can a student learn if they are exhausted from staying up late the night before? And how is it that we live in a society where a 17-year old high school student can be forced to work with a fever from the flu, simply so that her family can put food on the table?

We have an obligation to do more than talk about raising the minimum wage; we have an obligation to look people in the eye and see them as the human beings they are. For most of the people in our building, Shirley is invisible. Her smile is looked over with glazed eyes, returned by a polite smile and a glance back to work. If she’s looked at to begin with.

Most don’t know that she has dreams of going to college, or that she wants her cousin to come here from South America. They don’t realize that she had a burning fever last night; they’ll just notice that she missed a spot on the floor, or a trash can.

When I asked her if she was a US Citizen, she was quick to point out that she lived here legally. “I have
my papers.” I couldn’t help but realize that I would never have to offer up proof of my place here in the
US; I would never have family or friends who had to choose between living in an Amnesty City like
Takoma Park, MD, or be subject to racial profiling.

When I’m sick, I can take the day off without losing my pay. When I have a headache or just don’t
want to go to the office, I can opt to work from home. And despite my relative online anonymity, when
people see me, they look at me. People I meet don’t brush me off as “the help” when their eyes
first glance at me.

And in a city like DC where “the help” is everywhere, it becomes easier and easier to push people
aside in your mind, to refuse to understand the trials and tribulations of their lives. Or, to think people
have hopes and dreams that are often cut short because of archaic, systemic roadblocks designed to
keep the poor uneducated and the wealthy, well, rich.

The basic right to a fair wage for hard work, the right to medical care, the right to a paid sick day off
and the right to an education, all lead to empowerment. All ships float better on a rising seas of
opportunity and empowerment.

Right now, people like Shirley are drowning under the weight of bills and fevers.

# # #

et cetera