Hope

Doug Jones
Photo by Doug Jones for Senate Committee / CC BY 4.0

Doug Jones beat Roy Moore. It happened. That is something I never expected to be saying. I was as sure Moore was going to win as I was that Trump was going to lose a little over a year ago. I wanted Jones to win, but “hope” would be too positive of a word to describe it. A better word would be “fantasy” or “delusion”, but it happened. I’m still kind of awestruck today.

Hope is something I had lost in American politics. On November 9th, 2016, I woke up to reports that my supposed “liberal bubble” had burst — that “real America” was standing up and taking its country back. They were somewhat right, at least in the first claim. A bubble had burst for me, and another was suddenly very thin and weak, but was still holding at the time.

The bubble that burst immediately was that our country had come far enough down the road of equality and civil rights that a man with a well-documented history of misogyny and bigotry, both of which were on full display in his words and actions during the campaign, could be elected president today. I don’t believe that a Trump voter is automatically a bigot or a misogynist, but I was gravely disappointed at the number of my fellow citizens that could cover their eyes and pledge their support to one. On top of that, this is the party with a history of distrusting so-called east-coast elites, and they would never vote for a NYC real estate billionaire with golden furniture and a business reputation that could be described as shady, at best.

I don’t blame anyone being angry with the status quo. I get why people felt the need to vote for an “outsider”. I had a conversation with my wife one night about that as we came up to the election. I think it was around the time that the Access Hollywood tape released and I felt positive that he would lose for the first time. I talked about what I thought about Trump’s base message – the only one he was consistent in anyway. “We need to put America first. Blue-collar people are hurting. Manufacturing jobs are going, going, gone. Immigrants are taking the few jobs we do have left.” It resonates, and hitting on that blue-collar sentiment is more or less what Hillary was truly saying if you moved beyond the comma in her sentence when she made her “basket of deplorables” gaffe. Hillary just had a much different plan to try and address it. I’m paraphrasing, but I said something to Sarah along the lines of, “Imagine if Trump knew what he was doing…what he could accomplish, and how dangerous he could be, if he was better at hiding his darker side, full of xenophobia, narcissism, and insecurity. He would easily be president in a few months if he were capable of presenting himself as someone who really cared about the rest of us and had the personality and resolve to be a world leader.”

Well, here we are, and wrong I was.

The second bubble that shrunk more slowly before finally blinking out of existence is that, with apologies to Martin Luther King Jr., the arc of societal advance is long, but it bends towards the Left. The parties in the United States have moved back and forth on the spectrum over the years, but for the 241 years our country has existed, progressives have fought conservatives for every inch of progress we can get. Progressives birthed this country. From there, things like slavery, women’s suffrage, social security, medicare, civil rights, and in recent times, marriage equality were all hard fought battles, some of which still aren’t over. Conservatives fought to keep things that most of us would never propose reversing today, but the progressives have always won in the long run. I believe that’s because progressivism is about the common good. It’s the implementation of the idioms “We’re all in this together” and “Treat others as you would be treated”, whereas conservatism is all about “It’s every man for himself”. The latter doesn’t lead to a strong, sustainable society, and it may sometimes take a generation or two, but society slowly progresses and the once radical beliefs become commonplace.

At first, Donald Trump was a speed bump on that arc. We’d still get to universal healthcare. We’d still build a strong safety net. We’d still eventually make progress on gun control and police training, and we’d make more progress on social equality. I might hit retirement age first, but I’d still get to see most of what I wanted in my country come to pass in my lifetime; it was just going to take a bit longer than I had originally thought, and we’d have to fight a bit harder for those inches. Watching our government and our society over the last year, or even few years, got me to a point where I no longer believed that, though. I came to believe the divide separating our nation was too great to be bridged in my lifetime. The arguments and rhetoric were always there, but I was always a subscriber to the idea that I was seeing the most extreme, vocal minority screaming their arguments into an abyss, and a broken districting process led to a legislature of extremists with job security, but most Americans were more rational and capable of having real debates about policy and the right way to move forward. That politicians on both sides actually wanted to make things better for everyone. I believed that if we got the right people in office, we could argue about how to do things to help society, instead of whether or not we should do anything, but I have been seeing more and more evidence that I’m wrong about all of that.

I was told for years that Conservatives wanted immigration reform, too, but were only stonewalling to avoid giving Obama a victory. As soon as they held the white house, we’d see movement…progress. Well, they’ve had the white house for a year, along with every other branch of government, and nothing, not even a real proposal. In fact, as of now, nothing has really been accomplished at all. Every major legislation they’ve tried to pass has failed. Democrats are excluded from the discussion and conservatives are so entrenched in the idea of it’s my way or the highway, to the point where they can’t even seem to negotiate an agreement between the sides of their own party. Did they get so used to shouting “No!” every time Obama and the democrats proposed anything that they’ve forgotten how to have civil discourse, even with allies?

Outside of policy, I’ve watched Trump continue his campaign, acting more like a middle school bully over the last year, rather than any sort of president. I’ve never been a fan of the calls of #NotMyPresident. He is president of the United States. He is my president, and I have expectations of him that I would have of anyone in that role. He doesn’t meet them. I also don’t believe he thinks he’s my president. If he knew I existed, and what I believed and expected of him, he’d see me as an enemy, not a constituent — not someone that he, as a public servant, works for. I’ve seen him do all kinds of things that no other president in recent times could or should have ever gotten away with doing. An abridged list includes things like:

That isn’t even scratching the surface of our president’s immaturity and insecurity, and his base hasn’t wavered in their support. Any sane progressive would’ve been calling for Obama to resign if he’d done half the things on that list in his first year, and Trump gets through a list like that in a single week. His base loves him for it, and they’ve made every excuse in the book for any scandal coming from him or other conservative politicians. 5 short years ago, conservative women were outraged at Todd Akin for coining the term “legitimate rape” when he made the claim that a woman’s body could purposefully avoid pregnancy if the woman was really raped. He said something incredibly insensitive and downright incorrect and he lost his election spectacularly. White women voted for Akin’s opponent, Claire McCaskill roughly 50-45. This year, conservative women defended multiple men accused of unwanted advances, assault, and pedophilia with claims that it was just the liberal media trying to keep conservatives out of office. One of these men is in the white house and the other is refusing to concede an election I never thought he’d lose because God might still come through for him and swing things his way. Current statistics show white women voted for Moore at roughly 65-35. How did we go that far backwards that quickly?

I’m not foolishly hopeful about the future, but I’m glad that I was wrong this time. I’m glad that Alabama rejected, if narrowly, the homophobic sexual predator with a history of defying the law because it went against his relationship with God. I’m not crazy. Moore barely lost, and Trump still has an approval rating in the high 30s. I fully expect this seat to flip back in the next election, assuming the GOP runs a candidate that can keep their hands to themselves. This election did bring my hope back, though, repairing that second bubble enough to hold its shape. I am hopeful that we are learning from the mistakes we made in 2016. I’m hopeful that we can correct it and get over this speed bump in our path.

Donald Trump
Photo by Gage Skidmore / CC BY 2.0

One thing I hope no one forgets going forward, though, is that our president endorsed a child predator with multiple credible accusers and other people who knew him at the time to back them up. He endorsed a man that was removed from office twice for refusing to enforce the rule of law. He endorsed a man that believes homosexuality should be illegal and, with a degree of irony, that homosexuals are a danger to minors. He endorsed a man that believes we could fix a lot of problems in our country by abolishing every constitutional amendment after the Bill of Rights. Donald Trump endorsed this man because he believes a senate seat is more important than morality — that the man that I just described is better for America than any person with a D behind their name could ever be. President Trump endorsed him. The RNC endorsed and funded him right up to the election. And, with rare exception, GOP congressman endorsed him or remained silent. We can’t forget that as we continue moving forward.


Like my last update, I wasn’t planning on writing on this topic yet. I have a few in progress on healthcare, voting rights, and sexual assault, and I planned to finish those before heading in this direction. But the news out of Alabama and the elation I felt when I heard it last night pulled me this way early and I had to get this down today. Those other topics will be coming soon, so if you’re interested in hearing more from me, follow the site or follow me on Facebook, and I look forward to talking with you.

Thanks for stopping by,

-Malcolm

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