Let's Paint the Nation Blue

Guest Blogger, Rena Korb: Fighting for a More Perfect Union

This guest post is from Rena Korb.

Rena is a professional writer and editor, and one of many extraordinary volunteers working with #DemCastUSA to get out the vote.


Ronald Reagan plays a starring role in my political awakening.

Believe me, I take no pride in these words.

My first memory of Reagan dates back to seventh-grade sewing class. A voice breaks across the loudspeaker, over the clacking of 30 machines, to announce an attempt has been made on the president’s life. He has been shot and injured, taken to a hospital in Washington, D.C. To this day, I can recall my crushing sense of disappointment.

Fast forward two years. Now it’s ninth grade and I’m sitting at the back of the Los Angeles city bus with my friends, a group of smart but cocky misfits. We are scheming to kill Ronald Reagan. We whisper possible ideas and plots. Every one of us declares our willingness to go to jail to do service to the country.

By the time I’m in high school, college, the Reagan Era is entrenched. Tax money is being spent on defense to pummel the USSR. Conservatives have unleashed an anti-abortion campaign that seems nothing less than an attack on women. A generation of kids is scarred by the post-nuclear TV movie “The Day After” (my school is near an air force base and though jets were forbidden to break the speed of sound, they did so with regularity, jolting me awake with fear that a nuclear bomb was about to drop). As governor of California in the 1960s, Reagan took one of the best-performing public school systems and turned it into one of the worst. Now he was doing the same with the country.

Like him or not, as the president of my generation’s youth, Ronald Reagan defined many of us who came into political awareness at an impressionable age. To this day, when I think back on that period, I recall how it seemed that no matter what we did, we had no impact. Republicans continued cutting taxes for the wealthy, depleting the treasury on machines of war, attacking the poor, and lying to Congress. My friends and I became cynical, apathetic, and disaffected, a state that did not lift even when Reagan was out of office.

Under these circumstances, by rights, I should have given up, become one of those people I knew who paid little attention to anything beyond their immediate concerns. But that never happened. I have phone banked and canvassed for many candidates in red states and red districts, even though I am a hardcore introvert. I have attended rallies and marches from New York to Hawaii, even though I hate crowds. I binge watch MSNBC. I argue politics even when it may ruin the social vibe — don’t get me started about those men, newly interested in politics since Trump’s election, who felt they could explain Hillary Clinton and 2016 to me.

You could say I was destined — some might say doomed — to become a civically engaged person. I was raised by a single mom in the 1970s. My mom was a quiet feminist. She wasn’t vocal about her views, but they were apparent in everything, from taking me to defend an abortion clinic when I was 16 to the cardboard mobile hanging in her office with red letters stacked like a pyramid spelling out, “I AM WOMAN,” plastered with pictures of Helen Reddy.

So should I thank my mom for my civic engagement? But maybe it was connected to growing up in Los Angeles, which was full of one-parent families, artists, actors, gays, pot smokers, and people who, in some way, lived outside the norm.

Or maybe it was just a quality of something in myself, some part of me that cared about learning about and challenging the world that existed around me. I have never liked being told what to do.

Or maybe the reason that I give a damn doesn’t matter at all.



Jump forward. It’s August 2020, less than three months remain before the next presidential election. Since Reagan, because of Reagan, I still fill out every ballot with a sense of despair, imagining the future loss. Every single election seems to be more important than the one before it,  this time, that sentiment is actually true.

I’m still delving into my political past, trying to answer the question of what citizenship means to me.

There’s the simple answer: Being informed, being active, voting.

Since I was a pre-teen, I’ve vacillated between thinking we could change the world and feeling profound disgust for my own country. Bill Clinton, who was supposed to represent a new dynamic in politics, ended up following the old playbook cherished by too many men in power. Barack Obama, by far the best president I have ever known, could have pushed Mitch McConnell harder over revealing the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Every silver lining has its cloud, as it turns out.

Now we have lived through almost four years of Trump. After the election, I didn’t really want to be here. I tried to persuade my husband, who is Australian, to move back. But when my family shot me down, I faced the decision of keeping my head down and trying to get through it — like many people I know chose to do — or fighting back.

“Citizenship is a full-time job.”

Fighting for a better country is what true citizens do. Remaking our country into a far more perfect union is what true citizens do.

Years of Trump’s cruel policies and corrupt acts and attacks on the Constitution have reawakened countless Americans to their civic and moral duty. This is, of course, a good thing. But while I see more engagement than I have ever seen, there are still people who “don’t do politics.” a sentiment I can’t understand.

Not doing politics means refusing to be part of your community and your country. Not doing politics means ignoring who your leaders are and who sets your values. Not doing politics means making do and giving up.

So maybe it does matter what inspires Americans to become engaged citizens. Nature or nurture? If we knew, we could instill in our children and young people a desire for activism, involvement, and making their world a better place. But unfortunately, and despite the many hours I have devoted to solving the question of why I am a person who cares about what’s going on around me, I still am no closer to finding an answer. My biggest hope now: that my own kids — only 12 years old — will pick up the torch one day and, of course, that well before that, we resoundingly vote Trump out of office.

Recently I heard this quote from Dan Pfeiffer of “Pod Save America”: “Citizenship is a full-time job.” Imagine if everyone took these words — and this duty — seriously. If everyone respected citizenship, our country would have leaders who all considered it their jobs to build a better country, not just their own bank account or political capital. We would be in a position to continue making progress to that city upon a hill, one that has a home for every American. And we could all take a little time off.

(c) Rena Korb, 2020

You can read this and other writing by Rena Korb on DemcastUSA. 

Rena Korb is a professional writer and editor. Her publications span from children’s books to political commentary. She volunteers as a DemCast California captain and as a leader with her local Indivisible chapter. She also is a lifelong activist, attending her first protest when she was 16. She lives in San Mateo with her family and, in non-pandemic times, enjoys playing Ultimate frisbee.

What is #DemCast?

37 thoughts on “Guest Blogger, Rena Korb: Fighting for a More Perfect Union

  1. I read everything here Rob. It’s heartening to see so many stepping up to the plate to fight for democracy. I identified a lot with all Rena was talking about, and Keith’s comment ahead of mine. I can’t be without MSNBC on in the background lol. I have a private political group on FB and post lots and I’m not even American, lol. But like one of memes circulating around now – ‘Canada feels like they’re living in the apartment above a meth lab.’ I’m posting far and wide and taking flack from some, asking why I’m so concerned what goes in the states. Ya, stupidity gets around! Blue tsunami!!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Debby, I’m glad you care. This is not just happening in the States. Putin has Canada, Germany, France, and the UK in his sites. Thanks to his interference in the Brexit vote, the UK is suffering as much as we are. Whether one was for Brexit or not, the idea of a corrupt Russian oligarch launching a psychological attack designed to trick us into destroying ourselves should enrage us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 100% I know it. I’m petrified for my own country as I watch the hatred spread. So much bashing going on of Trudeau, as if people are sick of democracy, so hey, let’s stir up shit. I’m petrified of our soon coming early election where they are trying to overthrow Trudeau for the KONservative gov’t aligned with your republicans. Believe me, I follow very closely. Scary times for us all, especially if Russia arranges tRump to win again. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trudeau was being bashed by Russian trolls in the last election too. I had a conversation with a friend in Vancouver. He was down on Trudeau. I said I don’t know what you’re hearing, but he stands up to the fat Russian puppet in our white house. He keeps Canada safe. That cleared his head pretty quick. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Believe me, I know. I’m sickened by things I read, and like you said, Putin already has his tentacles over North America, and definitely eager for Merckel to step down in Germany, which is even more frightening with the new empowered neo nazis there stirring up shit.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. A president is who is contemptuous of sacrifice for the greater good tells his followers to risk their lives to support his decision to ignore the pandemic. I wonder how they feel now that they know he thinks they’re idiots and losers.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Being in Canada means never having to say you’re sorry for helping the basket case at your southern border fight tyranny. Anyone can help us get out the vote from anywhere. #DemCast needs content creators and people to amplify facts to counter the lies. I’m working on a call for writers who live in democratic nations to write about their lives as citizens of a democracy, or perhaps a story about losing faith in democracy and finding it again. I’m brainstorming here. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Even those of us still in democracy are at risk for next elections – LIKE CANADA. Believe me, I’m plenty worried about our KONservative party is trashing Trudeau big time and itching for ‘early’ election to boot him. I’m plenty worried! 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      7. He has made some mistakes, but omg, seriously it’s like US division spreads its tentatcles. I can feel the climate in my own country and plenty worried. It may be time to move to Mexico once there’s a vaccine. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up and wiser with Reagan too. Then I thought it couldn’t get any worse than GW. How wrong I was. Great post from Rena, Robert, and this is be, by far, the most important vote I’ll cast in my lifetime. The future of the country is on the line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. This isn’t a contest between political parties it’s a contest between political systems. The question is, do we want to live in a democracy based on reason and the rule of law or an autocracy designed to serve a corrupt minority. Thank you for leaving a comment. I’ll make sure Rena sees it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Mary, thank you so much. It has gotten some exposure, and Rob and I are soliciting more citizen narratives, which you can read her or on DemCast!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rob, Rena, well done. Living in NC, I have witnessed the purposeful passage of one of America’s strictest Voter ID laws and US and State district gerrymandering. All three have been ruled unconstitutional. As an example, in a purple state, the gerrymandering allowed for very few competitive elections leading to 11 out of 13 Republican districts. The author famously said the reason we have 11, as I could not figure out how to have 12.

    When one party relies on lessened voter turnout to win, then its ideas must not be good selling points. Regarding the later ruled unconstitutional Voter ID law, a Republican leader in Buncombe County let the cat out of the bag in an interview on The Daily Show saying “the law was designed to kick Democrats’ butts.”

    Donald Trump won because he got Democrats to stay home. He also got some Bernie supporters to vote for him, which is as big an insult to Bernie as possible. And, he is at it again. The Senate Intelligence Committee, just last week, confirmed the Mueller Report and said the Russian involvement in the Trump campaign was even more intrusive in 2016. Trump won by about 100,000 votes spread over three states. Of course, this had an impact.

    So, my plea to Democrats (I am an Independent) is turn out like you did in the 2018 mid-terms and more. Trump must not only lose, he must lose convincingly. Take it to the bank, Trump will lie and cheat to win. He has been so doing with his attack on the mail-in voting system (which other GOPers are touting and the US Intel disagrees with the untruthful president). Biden is not perfect and neither is Harris, but both will work to unite our country and Biden has a long history of bi-partisanship, which is not a dirty word.

    If Trump wins, he will use his autocratic bent and ignore Congress. He will also punish his critics. This last point is important. After being cleared by the Senate in February, Inspectors General, testifiers and whistleblowers were reassigned or moved out. These are courageous and dutiful Americans the president crushed and the GOP Senate rationalized it away. That will continue of this most corrupt and deceitful of presidents wins.

    Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Keith, thank you for your kind words about my post. And I absolutely agree with you about your analyses of the election. I am working around the clock to get Biden elected and I know many others who are as well. The country can’t afford more Trump. Plus, when we get Democrats back in power, we can ungerrymander states — some states are Just insane and completely fail to represent the voters’ intent. I appreciate those quotes as we; — I had not heard them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome. If Dems gain majorities in states, they need to make sure they do not replicate what the GOP did on gerrymandering (and as they have done in some states in the past). Dems need to govern the right way and follow the procedural rules. Dems must model the change they want to see. Otherwise, we will have these inane battles every election. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The democrats are in an interesting position. We are a political coalition of who place country before party, at least for 2020. I find it exciting and hope that if we win, we can return to the bipartisan consensus building we had before Fox News and the Stalinist smear jobs fostered by Newt Gingrich. We will have to have some challenging discussions about the line between free and subversive incitements to violence.

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