I’ve been saying for four years that the next presidential election was decided on the day after the last one.
We’ll see if I’m right. I’m terrified of being wrong.
Trump’s election was a smack upside the head for Democrats of all shapes and sizes. Since then, his flamboyant vandalism of what was once a pretty good nation makes them crazy. Myself included.
Trump Derangement Syndrome may be a Fox News trope, but to me — and most of my fellow Democrats — it’s agonizingly real. A fetid stench that won’t go away.
The morning after that election might’ve been the biggest WTF moment in American history. A wake-up call as stunning as any in our lifetimes, including 9/11.
It was the day all those people who “don’t get into politics” suddenly realized they were into politics, whether they liked it or not.
It was the day all those people who habitually stay home on election day — because after all “What difference does it make?” — found out what difference it makes.
It was the day all those people who were sure Hillary was going to win anyway discovered that they should have voted anyway.
It was the day a lot of those “independents” — another word for not paying attention — realized that voting for a third party was as stupid as voting for Trump.
What most of these people had in common is that they were Democrats — by nature, if not by registered affiliation. They were decent people who assumed that other decent people would do the right thing, so they wouldn’t have to. They had presentations to prepare, kids to pick up, appointments to keep, and the lines at the polls were at least half an hour. Besides, Trump couldn’t possibly win, so what’s the big deal?
This is how Democrats shoot themselves in the foot. Repeatedly. They mean to show up at the polls, then they don’t. And every time they don’t, it gives Republicans another opening to undermine the country.
Because Republicans always show up. Every election, even in the off years. They know they’re in the minority, so their propaganda is first-rate — if breathtakingly dishonest — and their get-out-the-vote organizers are ruthlessly efficient. It’s one reason for their success — along with voter suppression, gerrymandering, and methodical corruption. Which makes it all that much easier for them when Democrats don’t turn out.
Yes, it’s infuriating to know there are so many deplorables out there happy to trash their own interests to vote for a sociopath. But it’s just as infuriating to know there was so much willful apathy among people who should have known better.
We failed to take our civic responsibility seriously. Then, when we looked around for a government to help us through a deadly pandemic, there was no government to be found.
We let our guard down. We let really bad people sneak in under the radar, spend billions of dollars over several decades, and win power in every branch, and at every level, of government. While many of us saw them coming, and plenty tried to sound the alarm, ultimately we were blasé about it. We underestimated them, and they took over.
Shame on us. We took our democracy for granted, and now we’re paying dearly, both in livelihoods and lives.
And we’ve come to an inflection point. Another wake-up call is looming, and we dare not sleep through it. Because it’s not just the presidency and the Senate that needs to be taken.
Almost lost in the craziness of this election is that this is also a census year. That means 2021 is the year state legislatures get to draw up new voting districts — a once-in-ten-years opportunity to gerrymander your state and rig the whole system in favor of your party. And if your state legislature is Republican, like it was last time this happened, your local Democrats may never win another election. As Democrats, do we ever think about this stuff? Republicans always do.
But the remedy is simple, if not inevitable. When Democrats come to the polls, Democrats win. The numbers are there. The sympathies are there. The only thing that’s ever missing is the turnout.
Still, the 2018 mid-terms were encouraging. Democrats turned out in overwhelming numbers, and I’m quite sure those included damn near everyone who ever gave a lame excuse for not voting.
So are we pissed off enough? Is our complacency behind us? I hope so, because we can’t afford to get this wrong.