Two days have passed since the shocking results of the Presidential election. Like many, I was stunned and saddened, and took a day to begin to collect my thoughts. To be honest, it continues to be a work in progress.
Before I begin, let me congratulate Donald J. Trump and wish him the best success, for his success is our success. While he is not the President that I wanted or would have chosen, he still is the President and as such, I respect his office.
Having said that, I cannot imagine a universe where I would agree with the programs and policies he has stated that he would implement. Nor can I imagine a galaxy where I would find his hate and bile acceptable. His actions, not over the campaign but over years, have shown him to be the misogynist, racist and xenophobe that he is. By any personal standard, he is uniquely unqualified to hold the office he is about to assume.
History is replete with those who grew into greater decency and compassion than they had ever shown in their earlier lives. Franklin Roosevelt is a good example. Once a rich playboy, through the circumstance of disease he was able to come to relate to the plight of the “forgotten man” (spoiler alert – Trump did not coin that term) during the Great Depression and worked to reach out and lift those harmed by capitalism run amok and restore their lives. We’ll see if Donald Trump has a similar epiphany that will recalibrate his focus and come understand the true values, history and people of this country. To be frank, I’m not hopeful.
I am willing to give the new President a chance, but I’m not willing to do at the expense of a lifetime of principles and values. Trump won an election, that’s it. He has not invalidated those things which I hold dear – equality, opportunity, justice, decency and fairness to name just a few. I expect Trump and his allies to aggressively advance their agenda; they had better be prepared that I, along with those like me, intend to defend and advance my agenda.
But if there’s one thing that this election showed us it’s that every day, every week, every year we who profess to support our stated ideals must act to preserve, protect, and defend them against all assaults. To do that, we need to be at least as organized as our political opponents. We need to build a foundation of a movement that endures, not just for the next election but for decades. Politics is a tough contact sport, and it takes the most committed people to win that game.
Politics is an incremental game. If this were football, I’d remind us of former coach Woody Hayes’ admonition of, “three yards and a cloud of dust.” It is a long term game, one that never ends. We will win some and lose some, but in the last analysis victory with go to those most committed. It takes serious commitment not to leave the field of political battle, no matter how many losses have been absorbed.
Over the course of my life, and if what I read is correct well prior to my birth, the American left has been more of a debating society, with its focus on being “correct,” that it has been in being a formidable political force. From what I’ve recently read on social media over the past couple of days, there are more “progressives” who supported Bernie Sanders crowing about how right they were in not supporting Clinton. They have now ended up with Trump. No movement can long endure if it is populated largely by self-indulgent, self-centered, entitled folks. I’d rather go alone than link up with them.
And any movement must be inclusive and reach out to those who disagree with us. If we are to succeed and win the day we will need to treat our opponents as who they are – our family, friends, and fellow citizens. To demonize them because they fell under the Trump thrall not only is unfair but diminishes us.
Any movement must insist that the media do its job of informing the public rather than entertaining the masses. The coverage of this election, on a good day, was a travesty to journalism. Just over two decades ago, William Greider wrote Who Will Tell The People?: The Betrayal of American Democracy. In that book he wrote about the deterioration of political reporting, frankly stating that many, if not most, political reporters know very little about electoral or governing politics. Combined with the daily deluge of information that bombards us each day, this lack of political knowledge served only to erode the citizens’ ability to make wise decisions. This year is Exhibit A of that point.
But any movement dedicated to advancing time honored American values and virtues need not sit idly by, captive of an entertainment “if it bleeds it leads” media establishment. We have access to more data and raw information than any people in the history of man. We can work with those in the media to do a better job but if they won’t, then through the judicious examination of data and facts, of attending events and speaking with (never at) people, we can get an honest message disseminated that will inform and enlighten those we seek to support and serve.
In the end, each of us has a choice. We can either accept this outcome and complain for four years; not accept this outcome and disrupt for four years; or go to work, joining with like-minded, well motivated individuals who seek to advance those values that are threatened by the outcome of this election. It’s up to us and for myself, I think I’m coming to understand what I need to do.