IT MUST MATTER THIS TIME
TESTING AMERICA’S NATIONAL CHARACTER
I hope that Americans who want to believe in the promise of their nation have paid attention to the presidential impeachment trial. I hope that those in the international community still clinging to the hope that America will finally live up to its promise have paid attention to the presidential impeachment trial. We all know the outcome of the trial, but we don’t yet know the impact of the trial on America’s future.
The rot in the Trump White House and the rancid political self-interest putrefying the Republican Party have been on display as never before. This is what a nation looks like when it has lost its way. Watching Republicans pretend they never said what they are recorded as having said may be a new low point in America’s checkered political history.* That so few Republican voters seem to care about the lies and the underlying hypocrisy continues to provide the fertile ground for mendacity and corruption to thrive.
This is not to say that no Democrat in recent memory has ever said anything untrue or regrettable. But they at least seem to own it and try to explain it away. Republicans, however, are inhabiting a political universe in which readily provable events become props for an alternative narrative that derives its “veracity” from repetition.
Trump will not be removed from office and may well get reelected because way too many Americans willfully avoid uncomfortable truths and seek refuge in that political universe driven by “alternative facts.”** It is hard to watch but critical to comprehend – Trump can get reelected. His acolytes will emerge on election day spurred to the polls by their alternative narrative. Armed with a morally-challenged sense of entitlement, fueled by racism and individual greed, and bathed in religious zeal, they will vote.
To defeat this rolling thunder, the Democrats will have to overwhelm the acolyte army with numbers. Democrats must convert their dream of a diverse and compassionate electorate into a wave of voters on election day. Those who say they are willing to fight for good governance have to stop talking about it and show up at the polls this time. It is way too late to wait for next time.
That wave must include everyone worried about the health of the planet, everyone who seeks racial justice, those who rail against willful ignorance, those from elsewhere, and those who believe that access to meaningful healthcare and quality education must be available to all, without exception.
I will vote this time as I have tried to do every time since I got the right to vote. I have lost more than I have won, but I have voted every time I could to choose America’s leaders. I am a 74-year-old white male, now retired, with access to meaningful healthcare, the lifelong beneficiary of access to a quality education, and resources to spare. I will vote for progressives when they are on the ballot and Democrats whenever they have a Republican opponent. But a lot of people who look like me and are privileged like me don’t vote like me.
This time, as last time, there simply will not be enough well-intentioned progressive white voters to win much of anything outside of a few coastal states. This time, to ensure Trump’s defeat, black voters have to vote in record numbers, with Trump’s racist words and deeds propelling every black woman to carry her community to the polls. Latinos have to get each other to the polls using the images of caged Latino children to make sure that every single one in their communities eligible to vote will vote this time to erase the reality behind those images. And millennials have to stop pretending that Netflix matters more than network news and get their collective asses to the polls to vote to save the planet they are inheriting from my generation that has screwed it up so badly.
And, perhaps most important of all, it does not matter who the Democrats nominate. That candidate has to win this time. It is easy for some like me to rally to Bernie Sanders. Many of us think he would make a wonderful president bringing a lifelong commitment to transformative change to a dying democracy. I am a socialist, so is he. But what if Biden or Bloomberg wins the nomination instead of Bernie? It matters a great deal, but this time it cannot matter enough to allow us to care so little about so much.
For starters, any Democrat still in the running will try to restore some semblance of good governance and begin to undo the damage already done by the Trump cabal to the institutional foundation of the nation. All of them will offer a vision of a government that functions to do the things that government is supposed to do – ensure the national security, protect the environment, and provide resources to meet the basic needs of the citizenry.
The words of any Democrat nominee will at least momentarily renew the spirit. There will not be a Democratic version of “grab them by the pussy” or “American carnage” this time around.***
So if Joe Biden wins the nomination, his basic decency and long devotion to public service will be enough, even though I expect his administration will transform little that needs to be transformed while devoting itself to undoing the damage. With Bloomberg, trust is the issue. Billionaires do not become billionaires without craven self-interest at the heart of their creed, often leaving a lot of broken dreams in their wake. Yet, Bloomberg is smart, and he may be able to deliver a competent team that will begin to restore public faith in governance and government. He surely will fight to undo the damage.
While this discussion leaves out for now the rest of the field, it seeks to make a point. It matters a great deal this time. I don’t want to wait anymore for universal access to meaningful healthcare, for racial justice, for an equitable economy, for confiscated guns, or for an end to America’s corrosive contribution to the world’s killing fields. But, under even the best circumstances, I am likely to have to settle for steps toward those ends.
What I cannot settle for this time is enabling the present national race to the bottom to continue simply because those with a stake in a better America can’t figure out how to vote.
Now is the time to organize, advocate, raise the necessary funds and vote to define a new national character animated by a collective conscience that honors the common good. The American people have failed before, they cannot fail again, this time.