So, whatever happened with those US elections?
I ask because from the vitriol and violence I keep seeing on social media, it seems like the elections are still looming over us. The one fact we thought everyone would have to accept, the actual hard data of votes cast, is just as much up for debate as everything from the campaign. In fact, even though we have exit polling — you know, hard data from people who actually got off their butts and did their civic duty — we’re still dwelling on predictive polls from the past, the ones based on calling someone up, expecting them to answer truthfully and assuming that they will follow through on their promise.
I’ll offer my take, though there’s nothing to make it more valid than others. Arguably, as an American who’s lived in Israel (or Canada) for most of the past 20 years, it may be less valid. But here goes.
I come from literally (and I mean that in the old dictionary definition) the bluest district in all of America. It’s remarkably static, electorally at least. When my parents got married 45 years ago, it was represented by one Charlie Rangel. And you know what? It still is represented by Charlie, despite primary challenges, ethics charges and a few devastating pieces on “The Daily Show.”
What I’m saying is I come from a very blue district (currently NY-13) in a quite blue city in a reliably blue state. Yet I watched, for the first 30 years of my life, a Democratic Party that was only on the defensive. “De-Fence!” as we used to shout at the Knicks games (they’ve also been losers my whole life). Now, for a good chunk of that time, the Democrats were in fact in charge of Congress, but as a kid, who knew who the Speaker of the House was? It was all about the White House, and for the first three decades of my life, I only saw one Democrat get elected to it: Bill Clinton. Every other Democrat was a dud, often losing by a landslide.
But Bill was still a Democrat playing Defense. NAFTA might have been George H.W. Bush’s project, but Bill was the one to sign it into law. Welfare reform, the Crime Bill, the Defense of Marriage Act, don’t ask don’t tell, repealing Glass-Steagal–Bill was GOP Lite.
But what else could he be? A Democrat couldn’t win the White House. Even Bill only managed to get 43% the first time and 49% the second because a mad anti-trade multimillionaire who talked funny and weaved bizarre conspiracy theories was running alongside the Republican candidate. And those were ugly campaigns, in which whoever supported the Democratic agenda had to ignore the certainly sinful and possibly criminal things Bill had done to women over whom he held power.
Barack Obama hope-and-changed all of that. He had a vision which he laid out brilliantly, and he inspired people from all walks of life. Sure, there was plenty of opposition, but he did something no one had done since Eisenhower, winning two elections by getting at least 51%. And he sits today with an approval rating in the mid-fifties. He’s far from perfect, he had his own bitter battles with Congress — but he was not a Democrat playing defense.
Then, for some reason, we Democrats picked Clinton again, not Bill this time but Hillary. Except, of course, Bill comes along with Hillary, and there was no way he’d ever stick to the East Wing and putter around as First Gentleman. And we got a Clinton election: vicious, salacious and above all defensive. And once again, we got the result we should have expected: Clinton, the far more qualified and competent candidate, winning the most votes, but only a plurality. And this time the mad multimillionaire WAS the Republican nominee, so that added up to an electoral catastrophe for HRC. By the exact same electoral margin as Obama – Romney, and about the same number of votes as Mitt, Trump won. He will be the 45th president of the United States. If you’re American, he is your president (elect).
I don’t have patience for counterfactuals. Nor do I have patience for petitions, protests or pity. Those are all your right (assuming you’re doing it peacefully), but you’re still playing defense. Equally counterproductive is to say: if only we stopped giving people a hard time for their slurs and slights against minorities and women, the majority would like us more. That’s defensive as well. Yes, stop being politically correct and kowtowing to the (alleged) consensus. Instead, make an affirmative, offensive argument for your vision. Engage with the new administration. Make your case. Help your fellow man. Advocate for your cause. Because when all you’re trying to do is not lose, the other side will always win.