Please Pardon our Dust: Post-election patriotism and self-preservation pep-talk
Making it through yesterday was difficult. But after I sat with it a while I realized that it wasn’t as difficult as the day after the last election. The disappointment was there but not the disillusionment. I know you America, I’ve known you all my life, all my parents life fighting for civil rights, all my grandparents lives fighting Jim Crow, all my great-grandparents lives in a mining town in Alabama, all their parents lives as the first generation in who-knows-how-many to not know slavery. You caught me slipping in 2016 but not this time. I know to save my energy. I know that Rumplethinskin knows outrage is a finite resource. So he’ll fire Jeff Sessions AND attack the freedom of the press all to make America forget how he went full racist fearmongerer with phantom caravans and phantom tax breaks the days leading up to the midterms. (Can’t wait to see how he explains those tax breaks away).
America elected record numbers of women — black, muslim and native this week. America elected openly gay and lesbian representatives. The house which is the truest representation of the American electorate is now MORE representative of the American electorate and a counter balance to our petty, thin-skinned, egomaniacal executive. A majority of states attorneys are in position to reform our criminal justice practices. Millions of non-violent ex-offenders, many of whom were victims of a prejudicial and racist “war on drugs” have had their right to vote restored and will be a force in national elections to come. There is reason to be optimistic about the American electorate.
Great progressive candidates have shown the ability to capture the national imagination in Texas, Florida and Georgia (unfortunately not in my Maryland) with policy that expands access to education and healthcare and ensures justice for all citizens. They had to fight for votes while fighting racism, sexism, voter suppression and literally the system itself. They had to be twice as good but one-by-one they came up 1% short. (But we are not dismayed, nor have we given up)
All the old problems are still there too. Yes, racism is still not only acceptable in much of America but a winning electoral strategy. Yes, voter suppression with voter-id laws and closing polling places is the same as poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses. Yes, gerrymandering ensures that even if you count every vote, every vote doesn’t count the same. Yes, stoking fears of neighbors and immigrants alike because they look, love, think or worship different from you is still a winning electoral strategy. Yes, lying and cheating is ok as long as you win. Because your cause is just, and if it’s not then their cause is worse, and if it’s not then they lie and cheat too, and if they don’t then they’d do the same to you if they had the opportunity, and if they didn’t then what-about-this-other-thing. But these are all old problems. We’ve been dealing with them as long as we’ve been dealing with America. So disappointed? yes. But discouraged? No. This ain’t nothing new.
This President, to give him credit for one thing, is systematically showing us where we’ve patted ourselves on the back too quickly without doing the hard work of ensuring this democracy is constantly being redesigned and upgraded so that it works for everyone, in statute, in policy, and in practice. Progress is not as fast as we would like, but it is being made. Yes, it’s been 240+ years but with patience and perseverance we’ll one day get it right and Make America Great Already. Please pardon our dust.