Election Eve 2018 — Hope Over Hate:
These last excruciating two years have led us right to this. Despite the adrenaline, the excitement, the crisp fall air and the camaraderie driving us into the home stretch in campaign offices and train stations and polling places, I dread the next 36 hours.
All week I have been experiencing flashbacks to 2016, when I had an election night party thinking that if the right outcome happened I would pop the pink champagne and if the worst happened at least I would be among friends.
Neither happened. No champagne, and everyone went home in disbelief wondering how it all fell apart, how suddenly we were faced with the unthinkable: an unchecked, arrogant, ignorant, unfit, unprepared winner of an election, right on the heels of eight years of an America that was starting to provide healthcare for all and invest in education as jobs roared back and we were finally coming out of the 2008 economic mess inherited by the Obama Administration.
A kind friend from London called me nearly two years ago, the day after that election — on November 9th — and assured me it couldn’t be as bad as I thought and that really it was a matter of days: 1460 days…. and it would fly by.
My friend was right.
He was also wrong.
It has been a matter of days. Terrible, excruciating days, filled with the hate and despair that have created, ironically, the American carnage that is the Trump Administration.
The candidate who won the popular vote in 2016 has insulted, bullied, spewed wild false lies on everything from immigration to women to children to Democrats and even to some Republicans. He has endlessly attacked the press and assaulted civil rights. Hate speech is his go-to and statistics show a dramatic increase in hate crimes from the day he took office. Children are being massacred in schools and while he had a photo opp or two in the White House when he thought he could get some publicity, he and his silent complicit Republican colleagues have done nothing about curbing gun violence and continue to take money from the NRA, even after it became clear they were funneling money from Russia. Republican Senators go to Russia and hold secret meetings. On the freaking 4th of July. Trump embarrasses on the world stage in Helsinki. He starts with fear and ends in blame and riddles all his speech with hate and divisiveness.
We live in a world where AR-15’s are still available for nearly anyone who wants one, pipe bombs are now something we have to explain to our children, and we know towns not by their landmarks, but by their gun violence statistics.
I have a lot more gray hair and some days I can’t seem to find a reason to get out of bed. I am exhausted and I cannot focus. On the good days we joke about blaming the President, but underneath it isn’t the least bit funny. Depression and worry are on the rise and medical professionals say that it is a real phenomenon.
Despite all this, it isn’t the end. When I look out in my community I see a band of democracy warriors who have come together to do whatever it is they feel is right to do. I am blown away by Beto O’Rourke and the kids from Parkland. The youth of this country, and the leaders they are lifting up — like Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams — are rewriting the rules as we speak. They are defying logic, the odds and history. They are going about their business, encouraging each other to action in a way we never could.
My hypothesis — and one of my biggest secret reasons for hope — lies in the fact that I don’t believe the pollsters know how to find them, talk to them or understand them. Of all the things I have hoped for in the last two years, I hope for this more than ever. I hope the youth of America blow our minds tomorrow.
So many people are doing something. We are signing petitions and going to marches. We are donating to candidates in faraway places. We are watching Rachel Maddow in droves. We are, in fact, getting woke.
There are the people who are really choosing this country first, stepping up in their communities because they believe in something better.
My friend Terra Costa Howard decided to run for state representative and in the past year and half has literally knocked on every door in the district. My neighbor from the next town Sean decided to put his money (literally) where his mouth was and take on a six-term incumbent Republican, who has received tens of thousands from the NRA and hundreds of thousands from the Koch Brothers. His parents and sister are all in on his campaign. In our county, a 19-year-old named Hadiya Afzal has stepped up to run because she believes the voice of her demographic is “not usually represented on the county board level.” Wow. The kids from Parkland have come to visit. Senators Durbin and Duckworth have come to visit. Congressman Himes has stopped by, all the way from Connecticut.
Through this, I’ve made new friends. I met Reid McCollum, the most intrepid grass roots activist I have ever seen. He has organized and motivated and trained other people, He’s encouraged them and he has never let up, not one second in two years. I met Gail, who is relentless and started early to find people who could step up and challenge a silent complicit Republican who refuses to hold town halls. I met Michelle, who has devoted too many hours and days and weeks to count to the Leagues of Women Voters. I’ve also spent really meaningful time with people I have known for years. There’s Amy, whose dog is my dog’s best friend. Over hours of dog walks we’ve talked about motivating young people and creating a better world.
I’ve seen Leroy, an 80-year old in our community, organize the most incredible march for our lives, refusing to yield to the forces of the establishment and insist on the kids leading the way. Our town traditionally turns out in force for the 4th of July and the high school football games but that cold Saturday morning last March, Leroy and a bunch of high school kids got us to take to the streets and raise our voices for the safety of our kids, our teachers and our schools.
Last month, I was honored to meet some of the incredible the kids from Parkland. The first thing I wanted to do was to share our town’s story and tell them how they inspired Leroy.
I’ve talked with high school friends (some of whom still seem to be entrenched in what I see as the wrong side but we continue to find a way to talk in a world where divisions like this have led to lost friendships) like Dan and Clint. I’ve enjoyed the most incredible support from other high school friends, like the brilliant historian Heather Richardson, and the incredible advocate for fairness and rights, Deb from Boston. Emily and Deb and Sally went along to talk first to our Congressman’s staff and then Emily courageously spoke up to him and told him that rage had a place and he should listen, but she did it with grace and civility and good intent. My old friend Cindy from Florida showed up every time I needed a “like” or someone else to help in the battles. Frank and Ken kept me laughing with their endless supply of irony and irreverence. Celia and Peter continue to build longer tables and always have a tent when you need it. We were blessed to have Luke, a summer intern on a local campaign, share his humor and passion and insights into a generation. My “girls” promised to vote from faraway campuses (thanks Sophie and Claire) and my own family stood up against gun violence and to support net neutrality.
We’ve all gotten through this together. For me, it’s been some work with groups, but I was never patient enough for committees so I’ve had to find my own lonely way, worrisome, but saved by the light of activities, thoughtful hugs from friends and a few dance lessons.
I spent 2017 writing, finding that I was better able to process my own fears, but also that I could give a unique voice to the kinds of things I — a fiercely independent-can’t-find-a-home-in-either-party-college-educated-white-suburban-woman-#NeverTrump-er — was thinking about. I found myself engaging more. I made an interim website for a friend stepping up to run in Pennsylvania.
I aired my political views to a reporter from the New York Times, something I rarely do publicly. I’ve taken dinners to the families of candidates and tried to
encourage others with actions that speak louder than words. I’ve taken a board role on the League of Women Voters. I knitted 84 pink hats. I wrote
hundreds of letters and postcards to get out the vote — from the ACLU, for Need to Vote and for Postcards For Voters, all groups that organized and helped direct the energy of democracy toward true change.
And this morning, with a pit in my stomach and yet another batch of cookies in the oven that I’ll run over to a nearby campaign office, here I am. My friend in London was right — while each day of cable news has seemed endless, we are suddenly two years in with a chance to save ourselves.
One day left until we know. I feel like it’s the opposite of waiting to find out if you are pregnant, or what happens when you have a second mammogram and it turns out to be “nothing to worry about it.”
For Republicans, it is a chance to get back the party — ironically, the only possible way to do that is to vote for Democrats.
For young people it is a chance for their generation to claim their destiny, to wrangle the future away from those of us who can’t seem to get it right right now. For all these new candidates who have never before held office, it’s a chance to put their words and ideas and love of country into action. For Democrats, it’s a chance at the responsibility they crave. For independents like me, it’s a chance to re-frame the conversation, to find the middle ground, and to prioritize character and integrity.
If the good guys win tomorrow we are in for a bumpy road. We will see indictments and new hearings and new investigations. We will see fights over healthcare and taxes and deficits. We will see arguments about the border and about how we behave on the international stage.
But if the good guys win, we won’t see a border wall. We will see less unchecked irresponsible action from the White House. We will stop the emoluments and the conflict of interest. We will begin to repair this democracy that we love.
If things, God forbid, stay the course, well…. it is simply unimaginable. It makes me literally sick to think about, to believe that we can tolerate two more years of hate crimes, white domestic terrorism, tax benefits for the richest among us and the continued raiding of programs that help people — like the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Social Security.
So the only thing I can do — besides a batch of cookies, have another conversation with a neighbor, pull another yard sign out of the bushes and put it back up where it belongs, oversee absentee ballots being counted, work a shift as a poll watcher, write a(nother) note of encouragement to someone who has stepped up and made a difference, say a kind word, hug an neighbor, correct a falsehood on social media with a fact and write to work through my dread — is one simple thing.
It all comes back to the one precious thing we can all do in equal measure, without regard for resource, privilege, or time. The genius of our land is that one single thing we can all do.
Hope lies there.