Keep in mind I’m an elderly white baby boomer female who knows nothing about real world politics (back up the salt truck) . . .
I think there are two Americas at this point, the diverse, liberal elitists on the Western Coast and the Northeast, and the white, socially conservative Heartland. And I think we demonize each other because we’ve been so polarized by our political parties. The Democrats with their (our) organization and ground game have had the White House for eight years, trying to govern from the top down while dealing with Republican Congresses elected from the bottom up. It’s been a national vs state game. And the state approach won by a hair.
Abortion rights have been rolled back at the state level. Marijuana is legal at the state level a lot of places. The Death Penalty has been reinstated at a lot of state levels. Right-to-die is legal in some states. Bathroom bills are made at the state level. Gerrymandering is accomplished at the state level. If Clinton wins the popular vote and Trump wins the Electoral College, this election was decided at the state level. The state level is where national policy is born not most quickly but most effectively.
When change is instituted from the top down, it comes faster and more surgically, but it splits the country.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation sparked off the Civil War between two Americas already battling each other. Johnson’s Civil Rights Act helped Republicans create the Southern Strategy that deliberately widened the divide. Both of those acts were not just long overdue, they were crucial to America’s identity as a nation–that statue out in the harbor is our most iconic image–but they also came from the top down because it was the only way to begin to combat America’s racism. And then we elected Obama twice. We did the right thing at the national level all three times, and all three times, the country split further apart politically. It was necessary, but we never healed.
People have said this election was about economics, but the economy is in the best shape it’s been in years. They said it was about change, about throwing out the Old Pro Politicians, but Republican incumbents are being sent back to Congress in droves. This election was about identity, about who we are, and the touchstone was race. One side said “We’re diverse and accepting” and the other side “We’re white and we need protected from terrorists (and immigrants and blacks and women and trans people and . . .).” One political party marginalized that whites only group and the other exploited it, and in so doing both sides made white people in the flyover states a radicalized minority with a clear identity to fight for, to make America
great white again.
I’m pretty sure that what happens next is going to be a nightmare. But I’m also pretty sure the way to fix it is at the state level, not by polls and ads and flyers and robocalls, but by people talking to people. A couple of months ago I read a survey that showed that people who lived in communities with immigrants were not the people who were anti-immigration; it was the people who lived in white enclaves who were screaming “immigrant-terrorist-rapists.” We don’t demonize people we know. We may not like them, but we don’t think they’re the first wave of the Antichrist’s army or deranged White Supremacists trying to make The Handmaid’s Tale reality. We find common ground. We figure out a way to work together so we can live together. And we change things locally that percolate up to the national level. It takes years, but it works. Just ask the Republicans in the red states who have been crafting local law for decades. We lost the top because they won the bottom. So we work from the bottom up now.
The good news is that a lot of people who said, “I don’t like either candidate so I’m not going to vote” or “I’m going to vote my conscience” are looking around like the rest of us, trying to figure out what happened. And even in writing “the rest of us” I’ve picked a side. We have to stop picking sides and pick causes. We have to stop laying blame and start making common ground. We have to stop thinking of Us and Them and think about protecting decency and human rights at the local level. Gay marriage is legal nationally now because it began at the state level. I’m fairly sure that marijuana will be legal nationally in a very few years because the preponderance of states will have legalized it. If the Republican government repeals Obamacare, we can work to get single payer systems in place at the state level. We’re going to lose a lot, but not as much as the most reactionary of Republicans think because even though half the country voted for The Way We Were, the other half said No We’re Not That Anymore. Black Lives Matter is not going away. The millions of women on both sides of the divide who’ve discovered that we haven’t come that long a way, baby, are not going away. We just all have to be smarter and more open-minded on both sides, and we have to be active.
And part of that is to look clearly at what’s going to happen. The Republicans will “repeal Obamacare.” But the no pre-existing condition clause will stay because people love that. They might try to privatize Medicare, but I’m pretty sure the AARP will be down on them like a ton of gray bricks. Roe vs Wade is under attack, but Planned Parenthood is everywhere and is going to be well-funded this winter; I’m going to my local branch on Monday to see how I can help and bringing a check. (Also, you can sign up for Amazon Smile and designate PP as your charity. Every little bit helps.)
The asshats who were just elected are not my America, but I’m pretty sure my America will triumph in the long run if we keep fighting for equality and common sense. History bends toward justice, it doesn’t provide it free of charge. We have work to do. All politics is local, so let’s start there.
ETA: If you’re in the mood to write checks, the ACLU is always good:
ETA: Maggie Hassan is now the Democratic Senator from NH. And the Senate is split 50/50 with Pence the tie-breaker.