It was a week in which the American majority held its breath, bracing for yet another gut punch, in which a country that became virtually unrecognizable to so many on Nov. 9, 2016, revealed its utter capitulation to the bitter third again. Instead, Ed Gillespie, who shamefully morphed from ordinary, New Jersey Republican to brown-baiting neo-Confederate cosplayer, lost and lost big in the Virginia governor’s race.
A wave of women, immigrants, candidates of color, and trans candidates swept into office from coast to coast, in an utter repudiation of Trumpism’s ugly intolerance. On an off-year Election Day that typically attracts fewer voters of color, it was those very voters, particularly black women, who carried Democrats and pro-health care, pro living-wage ballot initiatives over the top. Trump apologists in the right-wing media feverishly tried to spin the night as a lesson to Republicans to cling harder to Dear Leader, but the exit polls made it clear that he might as well be made of asbestos.
It turns out that Trumpism is many things: a cult, per religious scholar Reza Aslan, and perhaps even a doomsday cult; an excuse for those who demand that the long dead past come calling on them, rather than proactively moving toward the future, and a window into an ugly part of the American soul. For the Republican Party, Trumpism is like a slow-acting poison. It may not kill the party today, but just as its wiser adherents, some of whom have left the party, warned a year ago, it is condemning the Grand Old Party to at best a schism, and at worst an existential grave.
Tuesday’s election allowed millions in the American majority to finally take a deep, cleansing breath after a year of fear and loathing, watching the rampant corruption of our government and the degradation of our culture by the vulgar president and his Putinite coterie. It allowed the world to see that our country has not gone entirely mad.
So permit me to be unusually hopeful about the future, because no matter how dark the present often feels, we do stand to inherit a world free from Trumpism, no matter how pervasive and oppressive it can feel day to day. Trumpism is doomed to fail because in the end, you can’t beat modernity into submission. Nor can you roll back progress for long.
Gay people aren’t going back into the closet, no matter how loudly the Christian far right howls. They’re going to keep getting married and holding hands on the street and living their lives.
Trans people aren’t going into hiding. In fact, they might just run against their boldest bigots and beat them.
Steve Bannon has been revealed to have no particular political skill. Yes, he and his “foundation” pulled one over on The New York Times and other mainstream media outlets, laundering the conspiracy rag Clinton Cash into a feeding frenzy that ultimately helped the Russians and their co-conspirators in the Republican Party and the Trump campaign take the White House despite losing in a landslide (thanks to the retrograde Electoral College). But the leader of America’s fascist brigade has no second act. He was dead wrong on Virginia and his Breitbart “News” outlet spent Thursday defending disgraced former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who’s attempting to slither into Jefferson Sessions’ old Senate seat but has been revealed to have had a certain predilection for propositioning underage girls.
If Moore is toppled, which is by no means a certainty in Trumpist Alabama, it will be because disgust is still possible, even in deep Republican country. And it will be yet another signal that women are done taking men’s gross innuendos in the form of compliments, and pressure to earn jobs they deserve with flirtation or acceptance of gross sexual advances. Women are finished being silent victims. And no one fears disturbed men like Harvey Weinstein or Roy Moore or for that matter Donald Trump anymore.
Meanwhile, despite the NFL’s absurd attempts at exerting control over the spirits and bodies of grown black men, the anthem protests have only made black America’s will stronger. Black Americans will never, ever accept wanton killing by police of our brothers, fathers, sisters, mothers, or our children. Ever. African Americans will continue to march in the streets and to rail against state-sanctioned brutality and profiling, and yes, to kneel in protest, no matter how many bitter old men and makers of substandard pizza berate them.
The future belongs to the survivors of Trumpism, not to its proponents. Like it or not, the past is shrinking into the distance, and the Obama generation is coming back, whether the bitter third likes it or not.
The Trumpists—who cling to their doomed, dirty coal mines and their guns and their grievances, and their dreams of a wall to keep the brown people out—cannot inherit the future. The future belongs to those who embrace modernity, not those who cling to the past. It belongs to those who pick up all they have and move across land and oceans; whether it’s the immigrant or the internal migrant who traverses the country in search of a better life. These are the people who founded America; some by choice, others by force. They are the Trumpists’ own ancestors, after all.
The future belongs to those who embrace the sciences and innovations that will conquer climate change, not those whose hatreds and fears make them refuse to believe it’s real. It belongs to those who understand the power of technology to inform and uplift, but who have the moral compass to know that unchecked, it can also promote abuse and misinformation.
And while it’s never a good idea to make too much of one election, a few things have been made clear, not just on Tuesday, but over the course of this last long and difficult year.
Americans will not give up our right to health care. Nor will the majority sit still while Trump and his would-be American oligarchs clean out the treasury on behalf of corporations and themselves.
Decency yet has a pulse. You can still get fired for using racial slurs at work and Donald Trump can’t give self-described “deplorables” a license to be the proud public bigots they’d hoped he’d make way for them to be.
No, most Christians do not want to be “martyred” by mass murderers inside our churches, nor will the majority of Americans consent to live in fear while our politicians practice the learned helplessness their NRA donors have taught them. In fact, candidates willing to stand up to the blood-drenched gun lobby won on Tuesday night, showing that it’s not only assault rifle-hoarders who can turn out and vote.
Meanwhile, liberal evangelicals are showing Trumpite “prosperity” Christians who venerate Trump as if his name is in the gospels a different meaning of morality; reviving the poor people’s campaign and uniting Americans across racial, religious, and political lines in the cause of economic justice.
No, it’s not the end of Trump’s presidency. We may need to wait on Bob Mueller, and if the momentum continues, a Democratic House of Representatives to bring that about. And no, one election night does not reset the world, or restore the clean air and water, health care, civil rights, education, and other policies Trump and his Gilded Age congressional Republican partners have wrecked, let alone our national honor and respect in the world. That could take years, or maybe longer.
But this week we got a glimpse of what that future could look like, and it restored the faith of the American majority that Trumpism will fail. It will fail, because no matter how skilled the propaganda machine on the right, most Americans see Trumpism for the disgrace that it is. Most Americans are embarrassed or infuriated by naked racism, not attracted by it. Most Americans are disgusted by the bullying in our schools and online, the violence and thuggery of the neo-fascist so-called alt-right, the xenophobia, ignorance and frankly the whiny self-pity of many Trumpists, whose philosophy of blaming everyone but themselves for their misery contradicts everything we’ve heard for decades from the right about “personal responsibility.”
And this week, we remembered that they, our bitter third, and their blustering, raging leader in the White House are destined to be defeated, because the majority still has the ability to work its will.