Let’s Pull Ourselves Up by Our Pantsuits Now

On Tuesday I took my daughters to vote with me and was sad my mother had died before she ever got to see the first woman president. On Wednesday I was thinking it might be the same for me. But by Thursday I realized it was time for us to pull ourselves up by our pantsuits, to listen to the victors and to strategize.

The collective lefty wail of “my-gawd-how-could-they?” seemed to me to answer its own question. “They” is us, as in US. We need to recognize that this country is diverse in some ways that we don’t want to welcome to the rainbow coalition but can no longer ignore. If history has taught us anything it’s two steps forward and one step backward on civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, you name it. There is no doubt our country has been going through some major changes. And they are good changes. But as we all know, Change is Scary.

Donald Trump, a salesman extraordinaire, understood that fear and exploited it. He recognized how many people, his people, were feeling left out, left behind and decidedly not left wing. He didn’t create their fear, or the hatred that expresses that fear. Trump surfaced and fueled the rejection of feminism and the embracing of racism and nationalism. He made it okay to say it, indeed to shout it in a crowd of tens of thousands of others. And still, it was so hard for many progressives to hear and we wrote it off as an aberration. It was as foreign to us urban pant-suiters as a NASCAR race is.

And so we failed to hear or understand.

Now Trump is going to be our President. There’s still time to shed a few shocked tears and to cringe while we give his supporters a few moments to yell “suck it we won!” They did. But there’s a reason we have a transition period in this country where other forms of government do not. It’s to allow us all to breathe, put aside some of the animosity and divisiveness and begin to plan for what’s next.

And for those of us who could never contemplate a Trump Administration, unfortunately we no longer have that luxury. The train is coming and we have work to do. For many of us that task will be to express our discontent in rallies and protests, in person and on line. But we also need to decide how we can work together with those in power to preserve what is most important to us on the left and to even advance our causes where we can.

For example, let’s make Trump’s paid maternity leave a reality. What he proposed during the campaign — 6 weeks of paid leave for women — is by no means ideal but there is some common ground there and it’s a starting point.

Mike Pence is likely to try to lead the charge to burn down the reproductive rights house but let’s make sure we have some voice in the process and save what we can. Compromise or burn.

Walling off Mexico remains thankfully impracticable but we all know that immigration needs some reform and that the massive deportations under Obama were disastrous for families. We’ll need to work to determine our priorities and to protect who and what we can.

The reality is that our federal government has rarely if ever been a leader on progressive causes. The work we do in the states and in our communities sets an example of what is feasible and desirable. It starts small and by doing so takes away some of the fear of the unknown when we roll out federal policies.

So today let’s pull ourselves up by our pantsuits and dry off our tears as we prepare for some real conversations. Otherwise our only solution is to build a wall around DC for four years because I don’t think Canada wants a crumpled weepy pantsuit on its doorstep either.

Kids decorate the sidewalk outside Clinton headquarters after the election.