The election’s over. What now?
After what has been an unquestionably tense and stressful presidential election cycle for a majority of Americans, people are struggling to make sense of the aftermath. For those whose candidates lost, the big question-mark would be how to mitigate any damage that gets caused in the next four years. And for those whose candidates won, it’s a matter of determining how to use political power in a way that will actually make America safe and prosperous for everyone.
Republicans and Democrats alike are going to be turning their attention to 2018 and 2020. As an Independent, so will I. But there will be plenty of time to discuss all of those scenarios in the coming months.
For now, let’s focus on what can be done in 2017 – especially for the purpose of keeping the citizenry engaged, aware, and productive.
The morning after the election, the cohosts of ABC’s The Chew (a program that’s not exactly known for lengthy political discussions) expressed their reactions to the Donald Trump victory. Mario Batali, an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter, chose to look at the glass half full. In Batali’s words:
As with both sides I would expect that the best thing about America is when you lose your election, you just put your pants on, put your shoes on, and go for a peaceful transition. Let’s move forward, united, and do what we can. I know my [restaurant] group – we’re going to build two more Eatalys in the next six months and build two-thousand jobs in America and we’re going to make it happen!
Michael Symon agreed, observing there was much more animosity in this election than in any past election year he’d witnessed during his lifetime. Now that we finally know the election results, Symon remarked:
One thing that America is great at is loving and respecting each other…we need to continue to listen, learn, and love maybe better than we have [in the past]…We need to learn how to talk and listen again. So much [of the rhetoric] has just been talking [without substance] and some anger, but let’s talk and listen to opinions and different viewpoints and move forward.”
Carla Hall (also a Clinton supporter) added that it means we need to get to know each other better, in light of our differing political and cultural perspectives. The show’s moderator, Clinton Kelly, suggested, “Let’s start a dialogue rather shouting back-and-forth. Let’s start talking.”
Without a doubt, all of this is easier said than done. The incessant desire of some Americans to be “right” and to be “winners” only gets compounded by those showboating lawmakers (unfortunately, usually amongst the most vocal minority of their ilk) who encourage division and toxicity.
So, may I humbly offer up a basic guide to some areas in which I’d challenge every American – regardless of your ideological stripes or personal background – to become proactive. Obviously, any such endeavors need to be balanced with careers, family, and extenuating commitments in one’s life. But the worst possible thing we, as a country, could collectively do would be to become complacent, lethargic, and defeatist.
And, because I’m all over the map when it comes to my own political positions, I believe I can say all of this with some degree of objectivity.
FIND A CAUSE
Many Morpheus readers know that one of my biggest sources of anger throughout 2016 has been the egregious violence and suppression aimed at the Sioux tribe (and its allies) at Standing Rock Reservation, as stewards of protecting the world’s water supply. My hope is, with the Clinton/Trump drama now over, the media will actually give these Sioux-led water-protectors a magnitude of responsible coverage in this political “off-year.”
But that doesn’t mean we should assume the Talking Heads will just do our jobs for us, by their own volition – because they most likely won’t. In addition to the essential issue of national water sustainability, I will also be a vocal proponent for electoral reform and agricultural diversity…every chance I get!
Now, consider which issues are closest to your own heart. Is it the well-being of children and foster care reform? The seemingly insurmountable obstacles faced by small farmers? Preserving reproductive rights? The sickening public apathy toward police brutality against people of color…and our society’s failure to implement necessary reforms? Or the mangling of First Amendment rights by ideologues – overlooking how we must reject censorship while welcoming healthy dissent?
You don’t have to become an expert on everything across-the-board. The average person certainly doesn’t have enough time or energy to call themselves a policy wonk. But that’s still no excuse for apathy and lethargy.
If you decide you just “don’t care,” then you’re sadly enabling a counterproductive system.
STOP THE APOLOGISM
One of my biggest pet peeves is constantly hearing, out loud, the assertion that “All politicians lie.”
Yes, of course all politicians lie. The same way all living organisms breathe. Can you name one non-divine mortal in existence who has never told a lie?
What I reject is the default assumption where we make excuses for untruthful politicians with some “That’s just the way it is” mentality. If a candidate or incumbent is implicated in corruption – no matter how big or how small – we need to demand that they be called out on it and held accountable for it. If only to use the public microscope as a way of preventing such behavior from reoccurring.
As citizens and taxpayers, we have the right to expect better from our lawmakers. That applies regardless of their political party affiliation. After all, you wouldn’t watch as someone successfully broke into and robbed a jewelry store…and then proceed to compliment them about how lovely that stolen diamond bracelet looks on their wrist!
There are certain very narrowly-defined values that I believe are indisputable. Homosexuality isn’t “wrong.” Racial stereotypes are damaging. Religious superiority is a mirage. Gender-based double standards are unjust.
A lot of these core beliefs are what I would view as universal truths. And I will fight until I take my last breath to uphold people’s legal sovereignty, when it comes to maintaining them. But there are a host of other issues for which multiple solutions could exist, just waiting to be pinpointed. Health care, education, tax policy, foreign aid, bilateral diplomacy, and immigration reform top this list.
With these such domestic or international problems, what we should be doing is crafting many different articulate, well-reasoned solutions that are viable. And then, use social media to promote the hell out of them! This, by the way, involves acknowledging how there are often multiple “sides” to the complex issues that we face – not just “two sides.”
Just remember…there is no “silver-bullet” to solving any problem. Normally, effective solutions require numerous variables working cooperatively in tandem.
REJECT “CULT OF PERSONALITY”
By “Cult of Personality,” I’m referring to citizens who attach themselves to a certain political figure out of blind devotion. Obviously, not every American who supports a candidate will choose to support that candidate for this myopic reason. But a large chunk of citizens do. We saw this with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – garish individuals (activists and “lay people,” alike) out there would latch onto these candidates’ statuses of “celebrity” based on unquestioning adoration in lieu of actual policy analysis.
It’s nothing new. Many politicians in recent history have benefited from their “personality” and “reputation” rather than prudence of those politicians’ actual platforms. John F. Kennedy. Ronald Reagan. Pat Buchanan. Al Gore. John Ashcroft. Howard Dean. John McCain. Barack Obama. Condoleezza Rice. Even, to an extent, Bernie Sanders.
The point is: we need to move past this mentality. No single politician possesses some hallowed Golden Goose filled with infallible answers hiding underneath their office desk. The purpose of our U.S. Presidents – as well as members of Congress and state-level legislators – is supposed to be to serve as facilitators of balance and smart ideas. At least, in theory.
Now, let’s remind ourselves we need to insist that our favorite politicians make a good faith effort to apply that theory in practice.
TAKE THE MIDTERMS (IN 2018) SERIOUSLY
It’s quite tempting for so many citizens to say, “Let’s just take a breather” when it comes to politics. In light of Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, I can understand that.
For people who loathe partisan gerrymandering: 2018 is the most opportune time to change that. 72% of the state governors elected on November 6, 2018 will wield tremendous veto power and clout following the results of the 2020 Census – as far as how seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are redistricted. Their influence will shape our national elections for the next decade-and-a-half.
The so-called “conventional wisdom” was that if Hillary Clinton and a new Democratic majority in Congress had controlled our government in 2017, there was a good chance the Democrats would have incurred massive losses during the 2018 midterms. This was especially daunting in light of the Democratic incumbents who will face tough reelection bids in “swing states” (or in outright red states) during the 2018 cycle.
But now, with Donald Trump and a Republican majority, that equation may have shifted. Democrats will have to compromise – or yield – on certain issues during the next twenty-four months. But if Trump and the GOP majority push the envelope too far, or test the public’s collective goodwill with bravado and corruption, then the results could be much different than most electoral experts would have envisioned.
Democrats need to remember that they have an incredible opportunity to energize their base within the next two years, and, in 2018, come out for incumbents and challengers who tout a much different tone and message…at least, compared to how they would have been campaigning if forced to run for reelection under a tenuous Hillary Clinton presidency.
Remember how, after George W. Bush received a second term in 2004, GOP operatives were gloating about becoming a “Permanent Majority?” Yet, in 2006 and 2008 – their well-laid plans were shot to sunshine. Badly. In fact, during the 2006 midterms, the Great Recession hadn’t even hit yet.
Then, two years after President Obama’s historic election, the tide gradually began to turn against the Democrats. This was due, in no small part, to the unpopularity of Obamacare (along with partisan gerrymandering, of course).
If George W. Bush is viewed as a lamb compared to Donald Trump’s lion roar…then the general public will be a lot less generous with a President Trump. Even Congressional Republicans are most likely feeling this way…and realizing that Trump won’t be nearly as malleable as Bush was.
And, obviously, it’s even more tempting for pundits to begin speculating about who will run for the U.S. Presidency in 2020 – both on the Democratic side, as well as a possible intraparty GOP primary against Trump himself.
There will be plenty of time for all of that discussion in the new year. But, until then, I ask everyone to consider the dynamics I’ve touched upon within this quaint little editorial piece of mine.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the pendulum always swings. Trends occur in cycles. This holds true no matter how well-meaning – or how blustery – those who are in power choose to behave.
You may call me a “hippy-dippy” Millennial optimist who has my head in the clouds. You may think I’m completely kooky for refusing to embrace some inevitable perception of Armageddon.
That’s fine. I just care deeply about the future of this country. And I’m sure, deep down, that everyone who is reading this feels the same way. So how about you put your time and energy where your mouth is?
Featured image by Véronique Debord-Lazaro via Flickr.