“If not us, who? If not now, when?”
That was Barack Obama, who was quoting Ronald Reagan, who was paraphrasing his boyhood friend, Hillel the Elder.
It is also a call to action for progressives on January 8 and January 14, and in the following weeks.
We knocked on three million doors. We distributed 10,000 orange yard signs. We talked to four million neighors. We phoned, we tweeted, we wrote, and we won.
Minnesota became the first state to reject a constitutional amendment to ban equal marriage. Maine, Maryland, and Washington did us one better on the same day by becoming the first states where the voters decided that all of us are created equal.
But because we worked and won, we now need to follow through with the Legislature we elected.
This could be a legislative strategy for St. Paul.
Get speeches ready for Tuesday, January 8. That is the start.
No real work gets done that day. The House swears in its Members, elects the Speaker, chooses the Chief Clerk and other officers, squabbles briefly over the Temporary Rules, and authorizes the hiring of staff. The Senate will do similar things.
At the end of the session in both Houses, there will be opportunities for Representatives and Senators to rise “to points of personal privilege.” They can then let it rip with brief statements of support for Equal Marriage. Let them know that the fight is not over, and they should just get used to it.
Then take off the gloves on Monday, January 14. Both Houses will introduce bills and assign them to committees. We need to crowd the Capitol on January 14.
Near the end of this “second day” session,the battle begins. On the agenda there will be a time for “motions and resolutions.” At that point, someone in each House should move to transfer the Equal Marriage bills from their assigned committee to the General Register, and they should ask for a roll call vote on the motion. At least 15 Representatives would have to support the call for a recorded vote.
Ideally, the motion would pass easily in both Houses. The bills could be considered on Thursday, January 17. The final deal could be signed by Governor Mark Day by January 31. And lots of people would have a fun February 14. Lots of money would be made by florists, bakers, caterers, hotels, and party rooms.
But that is not what is going to happen. Instead, the roll call votes in the House and the Senate will show us where we need to get the work done.
If there are some DFL legislators who vote against the motion on January 14 to move the bills forward, we need to get busy.
If there are some GOP legislators who vote with us, we need to say thank you in audible and visible ways.
And in the districts of GOP legislators who vote against equality, we need to rise up. In their districts, we need to show up at every time and place where the legislators’ friends will hear us.
Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Chamber. Churches, basketball games, local call-in radio. College forums, grocery stores, hockey arenas.
Remind them that Dorothy might have meant it more than one way. “THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME ANYMORE, BUSTER!”
We need our allies to draft the bills and make the speeches on January 8.
We need the heroes to make the motions on January 14, and get the roll call votes that will allow us to focus the revolt.
And then we need to follow through.
If not us, who? If not now, when?