A conversation about change

March 7, 2008

I HAD a really interesting experience selling Socialist Worker outside a train station in Oakland, Calif.

We sell SW there every week, but recently, we were joined by an older Latino couple tabling for Hillary Clinton. We gave them their space to operate, but sold next to them asking passersby, "Do you think Clinton and Obama will bring the change you want?"

The woman came up to me a few minutes into the sale and asked, "Can I ask you a question?" Initially, I braced myself for some snide comment, but her tone was polite and sincere. She asked me, "How can you come out here and do this when what you want is not really that likely?"

At first, I wasn't sure how to respond, but she stuck around waiting for me to answer and seemed genuinely curious. I told her that she was right--that it is much more likely for us to see Clinton or Obama as a president in a year than for me to see socialism in the U.S. next year, or even a decade from now.

I told her that I was out here for the same reason she was out here--I'm sick of endless war, of racist immigrant bashing and a racist justice system, and of the rich getting away with murder. She agreed with me on those issues, and I said that we disagree on how to achieve the better world we both want.

"You see the road leading through the Democratic Party and people like Hillary Clinton," I said. "I believe the road to that better world lies outside that party and their candidates, and relies a lot more on what you and I do than a person like Hillary Clinton."

We talked more about the Democrats, and their relationship to struggle. She agreed struggle was important and even shared some of my skepticism about how much change would come from a Clinton presidency.

I asked her if she wanted to buy the paper and read our take on the Democrats and other things, like fighting racism in America. She gladly bought the paper. I thanked her for asking her question and told her that I hoped to see her out here next week.

For me, this experience was an important reminder of the gigantic gulf which separates the cynical politicians like Hillary Clinton and their ilk from the base of voters in this country that sincerely hopes to see even modest change, and are even willing to take action to achieve it.

I told the woman that we will see in the months to come which of us is right. I don't know if I will see her in the coming weeks, but I really hope I do.

To me, there is 1,000 times more sincerity and courage in this couple's decision to come out and table in front of tired evening commuters than a vampire like Clinton who cashes in on people's yearning for change, only to convert it into the currency of personal gain and corporate power.

Andy Libson, San Francisco

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