David Michael Miller
This is bad. This is really, really bad.
To those on the left who say it is going to be okay, it is not going to be okay. We will survive the next four years but it is not going to be okay.
On the federal level, the Affordable Care Act is as good as gone. Maybe a few vestigial elements will remain in whatever replaces it; I have hopes for coverage of pre-existing conditions and an end of lifetime limits. Democratic Senate filibusters will hopefully stave off a lot of other garbage legislation but I wouldn’t put it past Republicans to gut the filibuster and use the next two years to pass two decades worth of backwards legislation. Republicans only have a slim majority in the U.S. Senate so I’m depending on the decency of less radical Republicans like Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham. Depending on Lindsey Graham is NOT where I want to be as a progressive.
Here in Wisconsin, the Trump wave gave Republicans an even bigger majority in the state Legislature, something I didn’t think was a possibility a few days ago. Expect even more laws aimed at disenfranchising urban voters, mandating what bathrooms people can use and all sorts of social engineering I can’t even fathom right now.
Arguably, the emotional toll will be even greater than the legislative ones. It is very, very likely people are going to die as a result of this election. We will see suicide rates for LGBTQ teens rise. Those who are undocumented, who have already had to live in the shadows for decades, will be forced even further from the light. We will likely see emboldened white supremacists attack black churches and mosques. It isn’t going to be any easier to be a woman either.
The biggest question mark right now is what kind of leader President-elect Trump will be. Best case scenario, he’s America’s Silvio Berlusconi, a powerful figure of bacchanalia who controls his own media message. Mid-case scenario, he’s 21st century Richard Nixon, a paranoid, petty leader driven by vengeance. Worst case scenario… I’m not ready to deal with a worst case scenario. That uncertainty is the worst part. I wish I could go to sleep and wake up in February to save two months of anxiety.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for how this happened. Both parties ignored the needs of rural voters for too long — remember, Trump’s victory is a repudiation of the traditional GOP as well. At the same time, I can’t let Trump voters off the hook just because they have some legitimate grievances against politics as usual. Being economically marginalized and socially isolated is no excuse for electing a man who is woefully unqualified in resume and in temperament to be the next president of the United States. They have forced this country into a dangerous experiment.
We’ll get to a kumbaya moment but ignoring that fact will prevent true healing as a state and as a nation.
Looking forward, Wisconsin Democrats will do a lot of soul searching on how to reconnect with rural voters. They’ll listen to some good sources that offer good ways to move forward — UW’s Kathy Cramer’s excellent book on the politics of resentment will continue to be essential reading. Maybe Mike McCabe’s Blue Jean Nation will actually start providing tools and tips to help win outstate elections. So far, all it has seemed to do is help Mike McCabe book more speaking gigs.
While winning back some rural populations is a worthwhile goal, this is absolutely not the time to ignore our diverse populations, particularly in Milwaukee. If Milwaukee voters had turned out as they did in 2012, Wisconsin would have been a Clinton state.
But here’s the thing: The country did not change on election day. It didn’t change on the day Obama was elected in 2008. It’s still the same country — racist, hopeful, sexist, increasingly multicultural, homophobic, ever more loving, ever more divided. A presidential election can’t wash away all the good or all the bad.
People are despondent right now but Republicans were pretty despondent when Obama took office in 2009. That turned around for the Republicans pretty quickly and it can for Democrats too.
Holding this level of a majority in Congress and in state legislatures around the country, Republicans will absolutely overreach. Midterm elections almost always benefit the party out of power, as long as some element of conventional wisdom still holds. Remember 2010 and 2014 (sigh, and 2016), when progressives were complacent and angry conservatives dominated the polls? The shoe is on the other foot now.
With the election of Trump, the chances to defeat Gov. Scott Walker in 2018 just jumped. It is a silver lining in a week dominated by clouds. Cross your fingers that Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) holds her narrow lead in her re-election fight. She’s an extremely well-poised candidate who isn’t from Madison or Milwaukee, which is probably a good start.
A Democratic midterm wave will help U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin win a second term. Honestly, I had assumed she was going to be a one-term senator. But today’s an entirely new day.
Victories in 2018 and 2020 will determine who gets to craft the next round of redistricting. They will be hugely important elections too. It is not worth the cost to our quality of life and our planet that will result from this Trump victory, but we have to start somewhere.
What I do know is that I, and others, have to be more involved. Sure, I write blogs and cartoons, but what has that really done, other than preach to the liberal choir? I’ve spent too long taking potshots at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin when I should have been putting in real work. More door knocking, less snarky Scott Walker jokes on Twitter.
We need this election to spring new progressive blood into action, the same way that “giving poor people health insurance” drove a plastics manufacturer named Ron Johnson into action.
These next two years are going to be awful. But they can also be the start of something better.