Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Listen: American isn't suddenly different.

Hillary Clinton lost the election by fewer than 80,000 votes spread out among three states: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  She got three million more votes than Donald Trump, and if 80,000 voters -- total! -- had voted differently across those three states, then we would be talking about President Hillary Rodham Clinton.

What would that say about America?

The day after Election Day, a bunch of pundits would be writing lengthy explanations about how President Obama had been vindicated in his faith in the country, how no political party could rely on a coalition heavily dominated by whites and the elderly, and how even the appeal of nationalism and chill of paranoia wasn't enough to overcome Trump's glaring deficiencies.  In that world, Ted Cruz would be sorting out his staff for his 2020 run, Jeb Bush would let slip a mild I-told-you-so, and Ben Carson would have already settled into a cozy nap.  Folks like myself would be disturbed at the dark strain that had come to dominate an entire political party, but we'd feel vindicated.  I can see the Politico headline now: "MADAME PRESIDENT," with only a chiding warning about nationalism in the subtitle: "NARROW CLINTON VICTORY HINTS AT 2018 TROUBLE."

But here's the thing: that America is the same country as this one.

I'm not saying that the Trump administration can't or won't change the course of the nation or the world.  They're going to do some damage, believe me: civil rights are already under attack, the green-energy revolution is going to be slowed, and the incompetence and malice of a post-truth presidency will cost human lives.  Nor am I saying that our culture hasn't been changed or that it won't change more under the influence of a leader and a right-wing media that vocally scorn empiricism.

What I am saying is that America is not suddenly different.  You shouldn't feel afraid of your country or wonder what happened to it.  The overwhelming majority of Americans still believe in liberty, justice, compassion, honor, democracy, and truth.  Yes, some minority of our country were deceived by a world-class huckster and his craven enablers.  And yes, some minority of our country were justifiably terrified at the looming demise of their way of life.  And yes, some minority of our country were devoted entirely to single issues: guns, abortion, or the like.  And yes, there was even some small minority of our country that wanted to preserve a dominant white race or who just couldn't trust a female president.

But those minorities have always existed, and they were and are just that: minorities.

Remember that Hillary, never a particularly inspiring figure, ran a mediocre campaign after a bitter primary, and that both a foreign power and the FBI Director intervened in the election.  Remember that she was running as the first female nominee so that she could succeed the first black president after he had endured eight years of truly shocking obstruction by an amoral Republican Party.  Remember that many people were still complacent that she would win.

Remember all of that and then remember that despite it all a majority of Americans chose Hillary Rodham Clinton to be their president.

I don't believe in any sort of inevitable progression towards justice.  I believe you have to work for it -- that every generation is given their fight, and that this is ours.  It won't be easy.  But we can do it.

And if you ever fear your country, or feel alone... remember that a majority of Americans still value the things that you value.  Despite it all, we stood together.  We can do it again, if we try.

We don't need to fear America.  We are America.

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