I was not one of those people who said after the disastrous election in 2016, “It’s just four years. How much harm can he do?”
I was, in fact, terrified of just how much harm he could do. Looking back, the only thing I would say is that I wasn’t terrified enough.
In 2000, after the Supreme Court handed the election to another incompetent man, I was angry, but assured myself that we could survive that. A year later, I realized my mistake. Even after the election of Barack Obama, I was not optimistic that the damage caused by Junior Bush would ever be repaired.
Then we got a narcissistic criminal who wanted to be king. He never cared about policy, only about self-glorification. Others used that to get some policies they wanted, causing vast harm to our already shaky country.
The only good thing that came out of the storming of the U.S. Capitol by right-wing terrorists on Wednesday is that a number of people who had been acting for years as if things were normal have finally realized the error of their ways. Of course, they don’t have to do much about it now.
Though maybe one other good thing has come out of the last four years: Many more people are now aware of the deep flaws in our country and how rooted they are in racism.
One core part of the fight we’re in for this country is between those of us who believe that the democratic principles that underlie it apply to everyone and those who think they’re just for white men and a selected few from other groups who suck up to those white men.
I’m currently reading Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste, which I highly recommend. Her description of the way in which we in the U.S. established a caste system intended to leave Black people at the bottom forever is chilling.
And yes, we did this. I grew up in the era of the Civil Rights Movement, watching as changes came a hundred years after the end of the Civil War and the supposed end of slavery. Yet over the last half century, new ways were found to keep that caste system working. The prison industrial complex is only one part of that.
We may have elected a Black president, but we didn’t end the underlying problem.
I have been thrilled to see the confederate monuments come down and the renaming of schools and programs that honored those people who rose up in rebellion against our union and who promoted slavery.
It occurs to me that the end of the glorification of the Confederacy surprised me more than the election of Barack Obama. I thought the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts would make it possible for Black people to achieve the work and status they were owed, but I never though the romanticization of our history could be challenged.
I didn’t even realize how much it needed to be challenged. I do now.
At the same time that seditionists were storming our Capitol, two Democrats won election to the Senate, one a Black man and the other a Jew, from a state that was at the heart of the rebellion.
The efforts of Stacey Abrams and Fair Fight Action show that effective organizing can bring our diverse population together behind candidates working for real change, even in states with strong voter suppression policies.
We need to get rid of that voter suppression, but it’s going to take winning elections by hard work to get the power to do it. Georgia shows that it works, and what worked in Georgia could also work in Alabama and Mississippi.
I note that both of the Georgia candidates ran as progressives, rather than as “Republican Lite,” and that their victories are also the result of years of organizing.
Elections are just part of the path to the country we really want, the one that is inclusive and fair for all, the one that addresses other threats we face such as climate change, income and wealth inequality, and the pandemic.
What all this shows us is that we must be involved in some way. We can’t just show up to vote every couple of years and expect things to go well.
There are too many people out there who are actively trying to destroy the country we ought to become. We saw a lot of them on Wednesday, both rioting in the Capitol and making speeches as elected members of Congress.
We have to stay involved to keep them from taking over.