Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Driving Christine: Part IV

In Part I, we went along to the latest in a string of "Coffee with Christine" events, where ordinary Americans became engaged again in their democracy. You can read Part 1.

In Part 2, we went to the Brat House, and enjoyed a campaign event reminiscent of the pre-television age when candidates actually interacted directly with the voters. You can read Part 2 here.

In Part 3, we get to meet the Blogfather himself, then travel to a candidate forum with all three candidates at a local synagogue. You can read Part 3 here.

In this final installment, we discuss the future of our Democracy, infrastructure and planting seeds.

The overriding theme from this weekend at all the events was that the Cegelis campaign had one goal in mind: to involve people in their government. But as we talked in the car between events, it became quickly apparent she wanted to not only win, but build the infrastructure for others to win. She wanted to make not only our government better, but to leave our party better for her efforts.

In a county like DuPage where there is little in the way of Democratic infrastructure and not one office is held by a Democrat, Cegelis knew she was blazing a trail. She was running to win, but also running to attract other Democrats into the process. She was walking point and not only did she know it, but she was inspired by it. If others could see the groundswell of Democratic fervor for her campaign in traditionally Republican DuPage, she knew others would follow and run for County Board, Coroner, Sheriff, and school board.

It struck me just how genuine she was. She's not the typical kiss the baby glad-hander who looks through you as they shake your hand like a cold fish and work their way to the door. The campaign wasn't about her. Her campaign, as she says at all her stops, was about making our country better for her boys. It was about the many people she'd met who were counting on her. It was about the people who had spent countless hours knocking on doors, planning events, calling people, and stuffing envelopes. She was humbled that so many people would put such faith in her, and work so hard for her. She would return the effort for their sakes, not because they could write her a $2,100 check, but because they were her neighbors and saw themselves in her.

We talked often about our faith and the influence it played on our views on life in general. The depth of her commitment to God and her faith really struck me. I actually felt ashamed at one point as I thought of myself as a person of strong faith. But on a personal level, Christine showed me what strong faith meant. As we spoke of the passing of our fathers, and how this had effected our outlook on life and politics, Christine repeatedly noted that she felt God worked through the seeds we planted in life. To her, a run for Congress was an outgrowth of this philosophy.

I felt patriotic this weekend. I felt like I was actually doing something to reclaim my government. I felt involved in a way I never had before, even when I was involved with the Dean campaign. And I'm not alone in this feeling. As Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said when she visited a couple weeks ago:
"You can't fake this kind of enthusiasm and energy."

I went into this weekend biased and came out convinced. Christine Cegelis is winning. She's winning people over with her genuine desire to change government for the better. She's winning people over by listening to them, talking with them, going to their homes, their local ma & pa restaurants, their local events, and their district forums. She's winning because she shows up, early and often. She's winning because she's one of us, and we can all win through her.