Election Hangover

Today, a lot of my friends are feeling pretty blue about yesterday's election. While I sit pretty firmly on the progressive side of things, I have to say that I'm not nearly as down about what happened. Despite my militant (and often annoying) optimism, I actually think that keeping the Senate gives us a lot to be hopeful about. Things did not go as I had wished; however, I'm pretty sure that we can turn things around if we get involved.

How can I be so sure? Well, nothing is sure, but this reminds me of my despair 4 years ago when I saw George W. Bush get re-elected by my state (Ohio), despite what felt like a mountain of energy expended on fundraising, canvassing, and even election monitoring. That election, while standing in the rain as a monitor, I was repeatedly and randomly ordered by a 19-year-old police officer to cross the street. I saw developmentally-disabled people escorted into a voting booth one-at-a-time by a single Republican Party muckity-muck. I saw live newsfeeds of Ken Blackwell (George W. Bush's campaign crony and eventual Governor candidate) counting votes behind closed doors while stonewalling press access. My partner and I felt generally despondent after my country re-elected an incompetent President and my state turned out in great numbers to marginalize my LGBT friends and fellow countryfolk. We were so devastated that the first thing we did was drive to a blue state (Michigan) and buy a blue couch.

That despondency didn't last, however. When the dust settled, sport and I just doubled down and worked that much harder. We joined a local group and started talking politics with our friends in coffee-shops and offices. Every week. It was really nothing crazy, but it wasn't easy either (I still have hate mail from people who didn't like professors writing letters to the editor--the horror!). We just started caring and putting our time and money where our hearts were. We articulated a vision and worked towards it. Unsurprisingly, we found that a lot of people either agreed, or were just looking for somebody else to care. We changed minds. Long story short? By the time we left for North Dakota two years later, Ohio had elected President Obama, voted in a Democratic governor (and several new Democrats) and cleaned out much of the corruption that we saw rip apart our faith in American democracy.

Don't lose sight of the fact that we make our own hope, and that we can only win if we share that hope. Every. Day.

Chin up. We've still got a chance to change the world for the better. Let's get working!


Kate B said...

More and more, I'm becoming convinced that Americans need to engage more on the local level and only by changing their local communities will they be able to make a change at the state level and the national level. Not that people shouldn't be engaged nationally, but it's unlikely that I'm going to be able to play a role that shifts how Washington, DC operates on my own. If your local community is changed and operates such that it respects all people, then that community of people will be able to join with other communities that have done the same thing until together we can change DC. It won't be an overnight change, I know, but at the very least, it helps me to guide my daily actions, which is all I really have control over.

I also think that it's important to remember that progress doesn't happen overnight. If we really look back, we'll see that society is making progress. So public education isn't uniformly great, but we have public education available and are focused on improving it. Yes, the justice system isn't always fair or accessible, but it is more fair than it once was and people are working to continue to make changes. And yes, we do still discriminate and bully people, but over the years as a society we've put laws in place to prevent discrimination and removed laws that people used to legalize discrimination. Certainly more work is needed, and we'll take sometimes gigantic steps backward, but I find it comforting to realize that overall we are moving forward and that our tiresome battles do make a difference. - K

Sport said...

Well, I don't share your optimism, but I like to be around it. :)