If the events in Washington this week proved anything to Progressives, they proved that Barack Obama meant it when he said WE (not him) were the change we’d been waiting for. I was among those who never truly believed – but I did hope – that the new President could change at least the tone if not the substance of how the Federal government goes about its business.

So I voted with a lot of hope for our new President, but more hope and faith in the folks who voted for him, many for the first time and many volunteering on a campaign for the first time. We had come together in communities across this state believing that we were voting for real change.

Well, guess what, here in Connecticut we have it. We have a Democratic governor for the first time in 20 years. Against the Red Tide of the 2010 elections, we elected Blue across the board. Not only that but I see exciting new initiatives in New Haven, such as Yale’s new promise to provide college tuition to every New Haven public school graduate who matriculates with a B average or better, and nonprofit organizations having conversations around how to support families so that their kids have a better shot at making that grade. The Grove on Orange Street is germinating a new ad hoc community of progressive doers and thinkers, providing work space for freelancers and non profit organizations and hosting weekly themed gatherings – pancakes or wine served, depending on the time of day – on issues from social media use to linchpin people. Small online newspapers – “Patches” – are springing up everywhere, providing more local news sources for residents as regular newspapers give up the ghost on municipal beats.

So forget Washington; there’s damn-all we can do about what goes on down there except debate the goings-on via Facebook and register our views with our Representatives in Congress, the majority of whom share our position anyway. Let’s look at the opportunities we have here at home in our state, our cities, our community, and put our energy into those. Dan Malloy and his team are going to need all the help – and good will – they can get to help Connecticut make it through these tough economic times and out the other side stronger than it was before.

I believe Dan when he says he can do that, and I also believe him when he says he considers himself a social progressive and a fiscal moderate. We fiscal progressives need to brace ourselves for what the latter is going to mean in practical terms. Yes, we can and must at times stand up when we feel too much is being sacrificed on the backs of those who can ill afford it, but rather than being naysayers I hope we take the opportunity these elections – and this crisis – have afforded and be problem-solvers. If we have criticisms, let’s back them up with solutions. How do we fight for progressive policies while helping our more vulnerable neighbors make it through times that will inevitably pull everyone’s belts a little tighter? Can we muster the same energy and contribute the same number of hours to help Connecticut that we did to the Obama campaign? Are there ways of engaging unemployed folks in volunteer work that would not only give them networking opportunities and breathers from the heavy toll that unemployment can take on the spirit but would add to the fabric of our community safety nets?

I believe that there’s still a lot of pent-up desire left over from 2008 from folks who put in hours, days and months of their time and woke up on November 5th saying, “What’s next?” There have been a lot of disappointments since then but that’s even more reason not to give up, especially when you look at the results we achieved here in Connecticut in November. Hope and Change may now be a sad punch line in Washington, but here in Connecticut we have a great chance at keeping those alive. I hope and believe that we can use that energy and the amazing folks behind it to help Connecticut through these tough times and come out the other side stronger than before.

Jennifer Just was Connecticut’s Field Organizer for the Obama Campaign in 2008. She is a resident of Woodbridge.