Just before Tim Carpenter came back home to Orange County in October for a Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) event in Santa Ana, he confided in an email that his doctors might not clear him to travel.
Despite a fierce battle with terminal lung cancer, the PDA's national director (and non-smoker!) made it to lawyer and former OC Democratic Party chairman Frank Barbaro's home from Carpenter's own in western Massachusetts.
Now he's thinking about a PDA without him.
First, as of right now, the nonprofit committed to moving the Democratic Party farther to the left–think vehemently anti-war and pro-union, social justice and single-payer healthcare–“has never been stronger,” Carpenter tells me. “In fact, since May when I got the news [about the cancer], we have had the most success on many fronts during this time.”
He adds, “I'm still working 80-90 hours a week.” For anyone who knows Carpenter and how committed he is and has been to no nukes, social justice and poverty relief, 80-90 hours a week means he's cut back a little.
The Oct. 21 event at Barbaro's home was by all accounts a big success, as those swinging by to hang with Carpenter included progressive icon Tom Hayden, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), actor David Clennon and actress Mimi Kennedy, who has chaired the PDA board since the lobby was founded in 2004.
Co-founding the group that sprang out of Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign sent Carpenter back east after the Cal State Fullerton grad's long career as an Orange County-based social and political activist and popular high school and community college history teacher.
The status report to the Weekly on how he is doing health-wise came after a Dec. 4 In These Times story, which reporter Cole Stangler concluded by asking: “Given that you are waging an uphill battle against cancer, have you been preparing for what's going to happen with PDA?”
“You're definitely putting the elephant in the room in talking about the fact that I've got a terminal illness. It's a question we're wrestling with. The short answer is we honestly don't know. We're not a card-carrying organization; we're a community of people. We're going to meet in February as a community and we'll talk about it. The work's going to continue and I hope to be as productive, or even more productive, as we move on to the 2014 election season.”
That tug Carpenter's feeling from the west is coming from a whole bunch of Orange Countians pulling for him.