We’ve raised a couple thousand dollars for Hank Johnson, and we’re obviously not where I wanted to be yet, and I’m not nearly giving up.
So I want to ask you all to do one thing tonight.
As an explanation, I’ll talk about one of the great political fundraisers of my lifetime, Willie Brown, former Assembly Speaker here in California. Willie (no one calls him anything else) is a genius, and had he not been so … openminded … about certain ethical issues (note that he was always just on the right side of the law), he’d have been close to the perfect politician. He actually ran the Assembly, and managed to get some good things done while he was there.
One summer, in the late 70’s, he spoke at an Alameda County Labor picnic, on Labor Day.He gave his usual stem-winding speech, then explained that he was going to raise some money for the union that day.
He demanded – he didn’t ask – that each of us take out or wallets and hold them in the air. At first, only a few people did. But he pointed at people and called them out and gradually, over maybe five minutes, the whole crowd was sitting, holding their wallets stiffly in the air.
I was pretty bemused by this exercise in social pressure. But I’ve since then seen it at a number of high-dollar fundraisers, where each table is challenged to match the highest total donation by another table.
So I’m sitting there, with my wallet in my hand, thinking that this is a perfect metaphor for something, when Willie told us to hand our wallets to the person on our right. He asked up to take out a bill – I recall that he asked us to confirm with the owner that it was OK, but I wonder how seriously he meant it – and pass the bill to our right as we gave the wallet back to its owner.
I was suspended between amusement and annoyance when I began to marvel at what a great job he’d done of separating us from our cash. Some of my more conservative friends, when told about this, explained that was how he ran the government as well…
I’ve already asked each of you to kick in some cash to Hank Johnson, and explained in the post and in my comments why I thought it was important – no matter whether you line up behind him (or me) or not.
To paraphrase: The thing we need the most in this country’s politics today is the simple acknowledgement that we’re all in this together, that while we may differ – deeply and strongly in some cases – that we’re all part of the great American project.
Politics has been ruled for the last generation by centrifugal force (yes I know it’s only apparent). It’s time for some centripetal politicians. And I genuinely believe Hank Johnson is one of them.
So here’s what I want you to do.
Go to your email client. Pick ten friends, who you think are solvent enough to spend $20 without missing a meal. Email them, and ask them – in your own words – to go to Hank Johnson’s site at http://www.hankforcongress.com/contribute and give him $20.
Email me and tell me you’ve done it, and unless it’s a violation of election law, I’ll pick a name and send one of you an Armed Liberal mousepad.