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MSNBC TV
updated 7/30/2013 4:18:33 PM ET 2013-07-30T20:18:33

This summer, as Washington sleeps, the nation awakes.

It feels pretty good to be back here in my Cycle chair. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been thinking a bit about all the things that have happened since I left to have my baby. When I left, immigration reform was stuck in the House, there was saber rattling about the debt ceiling and government shut-downs, Republicans were voting to repeal Obamacare…again, and in general opinions of Washington were at all-time lows.

And now that I’m back immigration reform is still stuck in the House, Republicans are voting to repeal Obamacare again, there’s still saber rattling about the debt ceiling and government shut-downs and opinions of Washington are at all time lows. What is this? Groundhog Day?

All this is quite a depressing way of viewing our nation and our chance for improving ourselves. But to focus on the progress in Washington or lack thereof, is to miss where the real action is. In fact the way I see it, this has been an incredible summer of progress and hope, not because of any politician, but because of the hopeful stirrings of grassroots activism that we’ve seen sprouting in some of the most unlikely places.

In North Carolina, a state changing but still red, protesters have faithfully turned out every Monday to protest the extreme anti-worker, anti-woman, and anti-minority actions taken by the Republican legislature. In the process calling the entire nation’s attention to the real focus of the GOP.

In Texas, Wendy Davis rode a wave of citizen outrage to successfully filibuster Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s latest attacks on women’s health. The legislation would eventually pass but not before Texas Republicans learned there’s hell to pay when you mess with Texas women.

Across the country fast food workers are finding their voices and standing up against their working conditions. Demanding their humanity be recognized through the basic dignity of earning a living wage.

We’ve also received news this week that there is a citizen-led movement against Rush Limbaugh. A movement that sprang to life after his despicable about Sandra Fluke and has persisted quietly since has had a real impact. Cumulus media, which carries Limbaugh’s show on 40 stations is reportedly dropping Limbaugh’s show at the end of the year. It turns out, when citizen raise their voices demanding basic decency in our national dialogue, advertisers will continue to listen.

Most of the actors in each of these stories aren’t paid operatives, or big political donors.  Organized interest groups jumped on board, but they were not the motive force . These were normal people who said enough. Average Americans who said if not me, who? If not now, when? Folks who suddenly realized the great secret and strength of our nation, that they are themselves powerful and that together there is no moneyed interest or intransigent legislator who can stand in their way. Victory does not come immediately and there are always bumps and bruises and battles lost along the long and winding road moving towards justice but the first step, the necessary step, the most critical step is to feel and know that power. This summer, as Washington sleeps, the nation awakes.

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