What I’m Wearing: New Fashion on the Political Runway

When I learned that the October topic for Feminist Fashion Bloggers was feminist takes on fashion and youth/aging, I mused for awhile on the ways my attitudes and wardrobe have changed as I’ve gotten older. Those changes were mildly interesting, but probably only to me, and I decided I wouldn’t be writing anything about the differences in what I wore when I was young and what I’m wearing now.

Apparently my dreaming mind had a different take on this subject. In a dream I titled “Red Velvet Cake Body Suit,” I went into a clothing store to buy a shirt and ended up trying on, then eventually buying, a cranberry red body suit. It was an odd experience — I had never before worn or owned a body suit. But I loved the color and, apart from being a little roomy in the arms (which I liked), the suit was a perfect fit. It seemed made for me. The dream ended with me walking out of the store wearing the suit.

As I woke up, still partly in the dream, I thought of the red velvet cake I had this past spring at Afterwords Café in Washington, D.C. The café, at the back of Kramerbooks, is in the Dupont, one of the most liberal neighborhoods in our nation’s capitol. I had been drawn to the red velvet cake because of the color, and the slice I was served was beautiful and delicious, perfectly made. It was my first time to try red velvet cake.

The deep red color of the cake reminded me of the color of the body suit in my dream.

I can’t imagine myself ever actually wearing a body suit, or even trying one on. I asked myself what I was trying on in my life that was unfamiliar or odd, never before tried. The link to the red velvet cake brought politics to mind, which reminded me of being impressed by George Clooney’s remarks in a recent interview. In discussing his new political thriller, “The Ides of March,” he said that a scene in the film is based on his father’s experience of running for Congress in 2004.

“I remember my father saying, ‘I’m going to have to go out and shake hands with people I wouldn’t normally shake hands with (to raise funds),’ and it killed him to do that. It’s soul-stealing. So I thought that was an interesting thing to talk about in this film — how nobody gets in without some dealings they wouldn’t normally do. Nobody.”

The statement that nobody reaches high political office without compromising some of their values gave me new insight into politicians I admire. I thought of Obama, and Clinton. I donated time, energy, and money to both their campaigns. Though I have never thought of them as perfect men, I realized I had idealized them as politicians.

This realization caused me to see President Obama in a new way. I think he’s a truly decent man who’s trying his best to do what he believes is right for the country. But he has made some compromises that were suspect. The fact that single payer was never put on the table in the health care reform debate, and that the public option was given up so readily, suggests to me that back room deals were made. I suddenly saw those “soul-stealing” compromises as part of the price of high office — they go with the territory. Understanding this, accepting it, I felt I could still support Obama, and continue to work toward what I believe we both, deep down, value.

This is the new “suit” I’m wearing. I’ve never felt this way before, never taken this political or philosophical stance. But the suit fits perfectly. And it protects me from the body blows I’ve experienced in the past, the recurring disappointments that assail me when politicians I believe in don’t deliver on their promises, or seem to give in to the opposition.

The fact that there’s room in the arms of this body suit means to me that there’s room to grow some muscle, get tougher, stronger, and arm myself for the fight ahead.

Some people might say I’ve been disillusioned. I think that’s true. That word — “Nobody.” — had the effect of a Zen koan. I woke up. I’m no longer governed by my illusions about progressive and liberal politicians. I feel like a realist, and it energizes me, gives me what I need to go forward.

Barack Obama and Joseph Biden are good people. They are intelligent and loving, and I believe both men are working hard all the live long day to do what’s right. To understand this about them is real — as real as knowing that they have and will probably again compromise their values in order to do their jobs. This new and more realistic perception of them enables me to support them and work with them to do what needs doing.

Obama may not be perfect; no one is. He hasn’t always accomplished all of what I want. He may and probably will miss the mark in the future. None of that means that I have to throw the baby out with the bath water. I want this man, along with his wife Michelle and their children, to stay in the White House for another four years.

I know that we need to get our politics out of the money racket. But until that day comes, this money game is the political system we have, and my dreaming mind has shown me a way to work with it. As a citizen I don’t have to raise funds. I can spend my time and energy writing and speaking about progressive values, and I can band with other progressives and liberals to rebuild and strengthen the American left. The American Dream Movement (ADM) is a good group to join forces with; it has already formed a strong coalition, and we need to expand it. It is powered by MoveOn, aligned with many other progressive organizations, and it supports Occupy Wall Street, which has now become Occupy America. If you haven’t already checked out ADM, I urge you to do so at http://rebuildthedream.com.

If we are organized and active in all fifty states, we can show up in numbers, and vote the people we want into our local governing bodies, our state legislatures, and our Congress. The more liberals and progressives we have in office, the less likely it is that they will have to compromise on core issues, and the more likely we are to see those issues resolved in ways that are fair to most Americans. As a united populace, we can keep pushing our representatives toward progressive solutions, keep reminding them where we stand on the issues. That’s our job as citizens in a democracy. It goes with the territory.

The 2012 election is only months away. Put on your best body suit, and put some muscle into it. Set your shoulders, lift your chin. Work that runway. And win.

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