Election Day 2017 was telling…
As children, we were all taught America’s de facto motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” or “from many, one.” Most of our social studies, history and civics teachers all stressed that the beauty of America was in the fact that people from different races, religions, creeds, and gender could achieve the “American Dream” if they worked hard and played by the rules.
At some point, many of us had conscious awakenings and realized that theoretically, the American Dream was a lofty ideal worth pursuing, but in all practicality, it was a damnable lie.
You see, America as a political construct was forged during the 1787 Constitutional Convention as a government of white men, by white men, and for white men–period. Lest we forget that the very white men that the teachers from our youth hailed as paragons of enlightenment, the “Founding Fathers” if you will, considered African men and women to be property no different that livestock, horses and mules; they considered white women to be the property of their husbands and thus endowed with no rights to vote or sit on juries, and they considered the then vast numbers of Native American Tribes to be hostile nations to be conquered and vanquished.
Knowing this history, even the most cynical racial or religious minorities and women will concede that the gains of minority groups since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s, and the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1970s, have been pronounced. Many of the same minority groups who were granted legal protection per the litany of civil rights acts of the 1960s have found members of their classes elected to political offices great and small across the United States and in the 50 some odd years since, these elected officials have made great differences in legislative policy–differences that have sought to perfect the ideal of this American Union that was designed to benefit only white men.
And if the election and re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States supposedly meant that “We Shall Overcome” had morphed into we had overcome, the stark reality of a sitting congressman screaming “You Lie,” or a sitting Supreme Court Justice mouthing “that’s not true” during his State of the Union addresses, or that Google and Twitter trends confirmed that when the first Black President addressed the nation, that the word “nigger” was searched or written almost as much as “Obama,” or when an oft failed businessman, reality TV host and Lothario led a “Birther” movement that claimed that said Black President was not even a legitimate citizen, such proved the truth that for many of our fellow Americans, as far as bigotry was concerned, nothing had been overcome at all.
The fact that the aforementioned businessman and Lothario actually handily whipped his Republican Primary opponents in 2016 and narrowly defeated his Democratic general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, was further proof that not only had America not overcome its putrid legacy of racism, sexism and religious intolerance, but that a new era in which the country would be “taken back” from the non-White Anglo-Saxon Protestants that some foolish WASPs believed were not only running America, but ruining America by making it “less great” to boot, only confirmed what the great writer William Faulkner once inscribed, “in the South, the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”
And while my native South is far from being the only region ripe with both virulent and subtle forms of bigotry, I strongly believe that the seminal event that led to last night’s “Blue Wave” of Democratic victories across America was the Charlottesville riots this past August.
You see, there are certain aspects of President Donald Trump’s agenda that are mainstream Republican idealism such as tax reform, nativist leaning immigration reform, and the Sisyphean goal to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” Even had Jeb Bush won the presidency, those goals would have been the ones pushed for in Congress.
But Trump, via Twitter, has pushed the culture war narrative to new lows, and when he refused to condemn Neo-Nazi and Neo-Confederate thugs after Charlottesville, and when he falsely equated the anti-racist protesters and having as much fault as the racists, it was clear that the concept of “from many, one” was not high on the list of priorities for his administration and that minority demographics had an enemy in the White House.
Trump has also spent the past nine some odd months pushing other aspects of the “Culture War,” whether it be calls for “extreme vetting” and travel bans when some brown-skinned or Muslim terrorist strikes American citizens, but calls for unity and mental health treatment when some white, Christian domestic terrorist strikes American citizens, such shows how he and his ilk feel about religion. When he called protesting NFL players, most of whom are black, “sons of bitches,” but suggested that there were “good people” among the alt-right racist white supremacist touting extremists, such shows how he and his ilk feel about race. When he has been nasty and dismissive towards women in journalism, such shows that his “grab ’em by the pussy” comment was not some ribald outlier, but part and parcel of a deeper contempt for women that many of his fellow Republicans share and express when they advocate policies that subjugate women as if they are still “property.”
So, when I saw that Virginia elected Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie, the latter who embraced Trump’s culture war battle plans right down to supporting the saving of Confederate monuments, I was encouraged. When I saw that New Jersey elected Democrat Phil Murphy over Chris Christie’s Republican Lt. Governor Susan Guandango, I was encouraged. When I saw that black Lt. Governors were elected in Virginia and New Jersey, Justin Fairfax and Sheila Oliver, respectively, I was encouraged.
When I read this morning that St. Paul, Minnesota has elected Melvin Carter, a graduate of Florida A&M University, as its new mayor, I was encouraged. When I learned that Ravi Bhalla had become the first Sikh Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, I was encouraged. When I saw that Danica Roem defeated a notoriously homophobic incumbent, Bob Marshall, to become the first Transgender member of the Virginia House of Delegates, I was encouraged. When I then read where Andrea Jenkins was elected to the Minneapolis city council yesterday, thus becoming the first openly transgender woman of color elected to public office in the United States, I was encouraged.
I was and remain encouraged in knowing that the bigots in America may be loud and legion, but that those of us who are committed to judging people by the “content of their character,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once inspired, as opposed to how they look, who they love, or how or where they urinate and defecate, will rise up again in 2018 and 2020 to make America great for all of its citizens, not just a spoiled rotten few.