My husband's cousin Paulette called me the morning of January 20 from Massachusetts. Breathless with excitement, her words tumbling out so fast I could barely keep up, she recounted the joy of Scott Brown's win in the special election to the U.S. Senate.
Paulette is 66 years old. She and her husband are retired. She has an active social life which includes lots of friends and competitive amateur tennis. She babysits her granddaughter and checks on her 92-year-old father in Florida every day. She told me she'd never been politically active, "except for voting, of course."
But all that changed after Barack Obama's election. Paulette started watching FOX News and listening to Rush Limbaugh. Health care reform, with its 500-billion-dollar Medicare cuts, scared her out of her wits. When she learned I write articles for AT, mostly about health care, she started calling me periodically last summer. We'd commiserate on how discouraging it was that no one in Washington is listening, or even seems to care. Paulette, like so many of us, felt frustrated and helpless.
Then Senator Kennedy passed away, and a political activist was born.
Paulette described her first meeting with Scott Brown. A friend called one morning in late November to tell her that State Senator Brown was coming to town that day to open a campaign office.
"I barely had time to throw on clothes. I didn't care how I looked," she told me. She rushed over to the office and signed up that day to work. "I told Scott Brown that we are going to win this." I asked her how she could be so certain back in November, when absolutely no one out here believed Brown had a chance.
"I knew we would win because I lived there. I talk to lots of people. I knew how we all felt about what Obama and the Democrats were doing."
Then she added, "I just couldn't take any more."
So Paulette went to work. She staffed the office several days per week, answering phones and handing out signs and literature. She knocked on doors all over her neighborhood. She visited shut-ins and helped them request absentee ballots. She helped organize volunteers to drive voters to the polls. Just before Christmas, she called to give me another update. She was off to follow up on some of those absentee ballots. "There's a family down the street that has four. I need to make sure they got mailed."
Every day when Paulette would drive to the elementary school to pick up her granddaughter, she would stand next to her car and wave her "Scott Brown for U.S. Senate" sign at the passing traffic. "I get a few thumbs down," she reported, "but most people honk their horns and smile."
When Paulette called me the Friday before the election, she hadn't a scintilla of doubt that Brown would win. "We're going to do it, Carol!" she exclaimed. "We're going to stop Obama!" The polls reflected her optimism. But on the political shows over the weekend, conservatives appeared afraid to be hopeful. More than once I heard it expressed that a Brown win was a long shot. They consoled themselves by saying that even if he lost by a narrow margin, that would be a victory in blue, blue Massachusetts.
A loss for Brown wouldn't be a victory for Paulette, however. To Paulette, victory meant Scott Brown would be senator.
Conservative internet forums were just as pessimistic as the TV pundits. Over and over I read comments gloomily describing how Brown would have to win by double digits to overcome the inevitable ACORN and union fraud. I asked Paulette about it. She laughed it off. "We're going to win," she repeated.
So on Tuesday night, as Martha Coakley conceded hours, if not days, earlier than the conventional wisdom predicted, I had the feeling that Paulette was the only person who wasn't surprised. The next morning, I could do nothing but offer my deep gratitude to Paulette and the others in Massachusetts who "just couldn't take any more."
Scott Brown deserves credit, of course, for fighting an amazing campaign. But I think it's the Paulettes in Massachusetts who have the most to teach us. Such as:
1. There are a lot of voters out there who agree with us. Poll after poll shows that conservatives make up the largest voting bloc in America. It's high time we conservatives actually believed it.
2. There is no substitute, absolutely none, for personal, grassroots involvement in campaigns. Too many of us want to just "mail in" our support. That way, none of our neighbors will know that we are actually (gasp!) conservative. Go back and reread #1. There's a good chance your neighbors are conservatives, too.
3. Democrat and ACORN fraud cannot overcome a tidal wave of conservative and like-minded independent voters, even in liberal Massachusetts and New Jersey. For far too long we have accepted the inevitability of losing because of Democrat voter fraud. Then we just throw in the towel and don't even try to defeat the entrenched liberals. I'm certainly not saying fraud doesn't exist and that we don't need to be diligent in our efforts to combat it. But ACORN is no match for energized, intelligent, informed conservatives.
4. We have to get involved early. Signing up to make telephone calls the last weekend of a campaign, while better than nothing, isn't good enough. It was almost sad to see busloads of SEIU members rolling into Boston for President Obama's speech two days before the election. Outside of giving the media a thrill and depressing Beltway conservatives, the whole effort was a waste of time. Primaries for this year's congressional elections are starting now.
The time for conservative involvement is yesterday. Brown's win taught us that no seat is 100% safe. (My dream is to see that proved again in Barney Frank's district.) My own congressman is a blue dog Democrat who voted for cap-and-trade. I wonder if he has any idea what's in store for him this election year.
So here's to you, Paulette, and all your fellow patriots in Massachusetts. I can almost hear our Founders saying, "Ya done good!"
Carol Peracchio is a registered nurse.