I’m reading through last night’s comments now, and I sense a note of gloom among the commentariat. I feel none of it. If the current political situation alarms you, consider that important victories were won last night, and it’s a step forward to reclaiming whatever we mean by “this country.”
Michigan had a one-state blue/pink wave, electing all Democrats (and all women) as governor, secretary of state and attorney general, as well as brooming two GOP congressmen, replacing them with Democratic women. The state legislature will no longer be in charge of drawing congressional and state legislative districts, turning the job over to a bipartisan commission. And hey, we also legalized marijuana. Recreational marijuana.
So if you’re a Democrat, there was a lot to smile about last night, at least around here. If you think it sucked to see Stacey Abrams go down, to see Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum go down, I understand. But as smarter people than I have said more than once: Donald Trump is not a cause, he’s a symptom. All the terrible things he represents — nativism, prejudice, heedless unconcern for the future in favor of now-now-now and me-me-me — is deep-rooted in the American psyche. Wall Street rewards quarterly numbers, not long-term planning. When I am tempted to despair — and despair is a sin, as good Catholics know — I look at a photo of our president and consider what it reveals:
He’s old. He’s insecure. He takes terrible care of himself, physically and mentally. He’s a tar baby of misery, who contaminates everything he touches. He hasn’t read a book in decades. I doubt he’s thought deeply about the nature of his life, his soul, even his family, in his whole life. When he goes down — and he will, because nothing lasts forever — he will take so much with him, so many things that have stuck to his tarry body. I expect Ivanka will be the last into the pit, hair flying, stilettos digging into the dirt on the rim of the hole. “Moderating influennnnnce” will be the last thing we hear from her.
I have hope, slim hope, for the future, because I have to. I’m starting to see Trumpism as the flame-out of supernova, that will eventually shrink down to a cold rock.
I haven’t lived here all that long, but I see a theme in Michigan’s election: Don’t overreach. We passed an anti-gerrymandering measure in part because in the last redistricting, when Republicans controlled Lansing, they turned a purple state into one that, legislatively, looked more like Indiana, with four Democrats and 10 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Along with two Democratic senators. Because statewide elections? Purple. And now, after this election? It’s 7-7. Purple.) A lawsuit filed over the current district lines turned up emails between Republican legislators and their consultants, talking about “cramming Dem garbage” into one district, to “raise a middle finger” to a long-time congressman. Another successful ballot proposal, on voting rights, put straight-ticket voting into the state constitution. One-click (or one box, filled in) straight-party voting has been studied again and again, and shown to primarily advantage Democrats. In a practical sense, it helps cities like Detroit, which has lots of Democrats and terrible election procedure, by keeping lines moving in polling places. (We’re a long-ballot state. Really long.) But the GOP has tried to kill it again and again, in the name of “encouraging more informed voting,” etc. It passed by a wide margin.
It’s often pointed out that when Democrats were in power, they did the same thing, aggressively protecting their interests, and they did. But this year, the answer to overreaching was to take the dish off the table entirely. I can’t help but see this as a move forward.
In elected offices, the new AG is a woman who fought the same-sex marriage decision all the way to the Supreme Court, and won. The unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate was the AG who fought her every step of the way, invoking a 2004 election that put a SSM ban in the state constitution, as proof that Michigan simply didn’t want this to happen, with no acknowledgement of the politicking behind that move (it was a Karl Rove strategy to boost turnout for Dubya, imperiled that year), the way society had changed its attitudes, none of it. He overreached. The new secretary of state is an advocate of political reform; her opponent feared same-day registration would encourage voter fraud, an issue that simply doesn’t exist on a wide scale in the U.S.
Pendulums swing, but the lessons stay the same: Remember who you work for. Don’t put party over people. And don’t overreach. It’s a cautionary tale for, yes, BOTH SIDES.
I don’t think happy days are here again. I think a lot of pain lies ahead. But I believe this was an important election that revealed a lot to be hopeful about.
So, a little bloggage:
Sorry about the ads, the exploding pop-ups, all of it, but this column by Neil Steinberg echoes a lot of what I feel about you-know-who, and brings in the Great American Novel in the bargain. Worth the ads.
When I was in junior high, I read a novel with a theme of anti-Semitism. It was honestly hard to wrap my head around; it seemed such a weird prejudice to have. As we know, it’s back in a big way, and it was incredibly blatant in the latest campaign. Just in case you have to be reminded what you’re fighting for.
John Sinclair was Michigan’s “marijuana martyr.” Last night, he watched the state legalize it.