Art by David Michael Miller
I want to finish the year with a couple of blogs that might gladden the heart of liberals.
We might start by saying that things are so bad right now that they couldn't possibly get worse. If you think that, then you might not want to consider the theory that Donald Trump’s next step right after he takes office would be to use some terrorist action or international crisis (possibly provoked or orchestrated by his friends in the Kremlin) as a pretext to crush his opposition and our civil liberties.
But I promised to offer hope, so put that crazy, paranoid notion out of your mind.
To observe the Twelve Days of Christmas, here are 12 thoughts to offer comfort and joy to liberals:
1. There are more of us. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million votes. And if about 100,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin had gone the other way she’d even have won the Electoral College. She also would have won if Michigan had gotten Toledo instead of the Upper Peninsula in its disputed border with Ohio at statehood. Really. You can look it up.
2. Americans are liberal on the issues even if they don’t like the liberal label. By decent margins, public opinion favors liberal positions on key issues like global climate change, most elements of Obamacare, gay marriage, the minimum wage, background checks to purchase guns and a bunch of other stuff. The Democrats just need to find some way to connect the Democratic label to the positions that are already popular.
3. The big blue demographic glacier is slow but unstoppable. Trump won to some extent because Obama coalition voters just didn’t show up in the numbers that were needed. But that coalition continues to grow. America adds 800,000 more potential Hispanic voters every year. There are as many millennials as there are baby boomers, and younger voters skew left on most issues. The older white population is declining, and the younger, more diverse population is growing.
4. Thanks to the above, even the Electoral College math gets harder for Republicans. Hillary Clinton actually did seven points better than Barack Obama did in Texas four years ago. Georgia, Texas and Arizona might all be in play for the Democrat next time largely because of the growth in the Hispanic vote.
5. The party in the White House almost always loses seats in the mid-term elections. This should help U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s reelection campaign in 2018, and it may help unseat Gov. Scott Walker.
6. Speaking of Walker, his approval ratings continue to hover well below 50 percent, which is generally considered the point at which an incumbent is vulnerable.
7. The Democrats may have a sleeper in their midst. Yeah, yeah, yeah. They say you can’t beat somebody with nobody, and you won’t find a lot of insiders who are impressed with the Democratic field that is shaping up to take on Walker. But none of these people are stars because the Democrats don’t have any starring roles. With the exception of Baldwin, who won’t run for governor, all the important statewide offices are occupied by Republicans. So of course people are going to say they have a strong bench and the Dems don’t. It means nothing at this point. So, don’t write off the Democratic field until you see them run.
8. It’s not inconceivable that the Democrats could take back at least one house of the state Legislature in two years. They’ve already won a historic court challenge to Republican gerrymandering when a federal court ruled, for the first time ever, that the GOP-drawn maps here disenfranchised Democrats. If that reasoning holds in the inevitable appeal to U.S. Supreme Court, which is possible even with a Trump nominee replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia, then fair maps might be in place for 2018. And, again, given that mid-terms are usually bad for the party in power, that could bode well for Democrats.
9. Maybe the debacle of 2016 was for the best. Face it. There has been a long simmering resentment out there that has its roots in the fact that lots of people are working harder and still find themselves falling behind their parents’ standard of living — a ready benchmark for how a person is doing in life. Hillary Clinton, for all her strengths, was the very embodiment of the comfortable establishment. Of course, Donald Trump will only make things worse. If all this winds up creating a more ambitiously and unapologetically liberal Democratic Party that can also win elections, maybe it will have been worth it. Clinton triangulation may have been right for the 1990s, but maybe Sanders leftist populism is the future. No pain, no gain.
10. Economic power is blue. States that have consistently voted for Democrats are much more prosperous than those that have gone the other way. That hasn’t paid off politically because of the vagaries of the Electoral College, but economic power still matters a lot. When California, with over 35 million people and the sixth-largest economy in the world, moves in a certain direction, the country, eventually, starts to follow.
11. You still live in the People’s Republic of Madison. Whatever the federal and state government does, those of us who live in Dane County still have a government that isn’t bat-shit crazy. And while it’s true that the mayor and county exec don’t control the nuclear codes, there is an argument to be made that, as regards the nuts and bolts of your daily life, your local government is more important than those levels that are farther away.
12. Your country is strong and better than any one man. I have faith that the system of government James Madison and his contemporaries created — and, not insignificantly, the common practices and protocols that have developed since then — will stand up to their biggest challenge since the Civil War. Most of all, call me naïve, but I have faith in the American people. I really do. The vast majority of people who voted for Trump did it out of either justified frustration with an establishment that wasn’t paying attention to their very real economic plight or out of a much less justified idea that Hillary Clinton would be somehow worse. Americans may have put an awful, dangerous man in the White House, but it was not a vote for fascism. If he tries to be a dictator I have faith that my fellow Americans will not allow it.
So, it’s not hopeless. The Grinch did not steal America. The Ghost of Christmas Future has given us fair warning and time to change. America did not drown in the river, and we can still discover that ours is a wonderful life.