Forging a Path Forward
Let's be clear about something: history was made last night. For the first time in American history, a woman appears to have won the popular vote for President. California voted to legalize marijuana, pass universal background checks for gun sales, and send a privileged resolution to Congress to overturn Citizens United. And we are sending the second African American woman ever elected to the United States (and the first Indo-American US senator ever - yeah, I'm damn proud of my state).
That being said, last night was horrifying, disgusting, calamitous. Despite Hillary Clinton's apparent popular vote victory, Donald Trump was able to capitalize on white, industrial resentment and win the electoral college vote. We were defeated not just by a media willing to normalize racism and the bragging about sexual assault. We were defeated by the white industrial midwest (and south) in decline nostalgic of a bygone era and resentful about the rise of Americans who do not look, believe or love like them. Last night was their moment to disrupt the system, to hell with everything.
I take some of the comments here on TPV from last night to heart. While racism and misogyny were huge parts of the "fuck you" wave, not every one of what is now looking to be 60% of white voters (higher in the midwest and south) is a racist, misogynist homophobe. They cast the wrong votes in this election, but not all of them are lost causes. We have to consider what - not just in our policies but in our rhetoric - is not reaching them?
Part of the answer, I believe, is that our reverent media has made national elections into boner fests. Instead of civic duty, they tell us that voting is about 'enthusiasm' or 'anger' or a mix of emotions. But part of the answer also has to be that when they are told again and again - not from their TV screens but in their communities - that immigrants, blacks, gays and abortion are to blame for their lot in life, they often never hear the other side of the story. How do we tell the story of our America to them? Help me. Because the alternative is to wait 30 years for that part of the country to diversify enough.
How can I speak this way? Aren't I angry? I am angry. I do see the power of racism, of a dangerous demagogue. I can't eat. I could barely get 3 hours of sleep last night, though I laid in bed holding my boyfriend for nearly 8. I am physically sick, emotionally devastated. I have heard from friends, from family, who are equally worried. I haven't cried, and that's because I am still in deep dismay, terrible shock. I cannot fathom how badly deep seated racism, white resentment, and ideological anger has harmed our country.
But as we reel from the horror, the anger, the sadness, can we ever stop imagining the future? Can we ever stop building for it? I don't think so.
This is not the first election in which I have felt rejected by my fellow citizens. In 2008, as Barack Obama was elected in a landslide, Californians passed Proposition 8, taking away a then existing right for me to marry. That night's mixed emotions does not compare to last night's pure heartbreak. But I can tell you hope is the only thing that has ever helped me survive. I still choose hope.
So what's the path forward? Frankly, I don't know. I have some ideas, but we have to all pitch in on this. I know one thing: on progress, we are not going back. Trump is an unknown quantity even to his own party in Congress and he still may be able to undo a lot of President Obama's policies - from health care to consumer protection. The Supreme Court will suffer. But we will still have the blue forts in the east and west coasts, and for the time being, our states will have to become more active. We have to become more active in reaching out to and protecting our fellow citizens.
We have to forge a path forward. We have to come back. We have to take care of each other. We have to hope. We have to work. We cannot give up. We were beaten down, but we have to get up. And get up we can. Get up we can in a country that still voted with us more than it voted with the winner of the electoral college. Get up we can for our friends, our neighbors. Get up we can for the rest of the world.
Let's figure out how. Together.
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