Purification by Fire

I was sad and angry and fearful. I sat down with my kids and told them we lost and they should not argue about it at school. I told them, I’m sure some jerk will throw it in your face and you should just let it go. We live in Massachusetts. I will protect you. Our friends stand with us. The election does not change who we are.

I thought a lot about what a stunning rebuke this was to the my idyllic vision of what I thought the world was becoming. When I was a kid, I was different–not gay, but bullies called me a faggot and the best the school could say was to warn the bully that he could be sued for slander–because of course I was not actually a faggot, right? Today, we live in a different world, where my daughter can go march in a pride parade…and we can be members of a church with a gay minister.

It seems like a distant memory what happened to Mathew Shepard in 1998. Or what happened at my school in the mid 1980s when I got off the school bus and saw that someone had painted “[name] is a fag” on the oil tanks for everyone arriving to see. Trump, I don’t think he personally hates different, but the followers, the “deplorables” that supported him…God help us.

But then I started to remember other things. In 1992, when I was organizing delegates for Paul Tsongas in Washington State, the executive director of the Democratic party told me to get in line behind Bill Clinton because that was the only way to win. “You just need to swallow.”  And he was right. And they did win. But we cast our votes for Tsongas at the national convention and for that I am proud.

I voted for Hillary and I think she would have been a great President. I have no doubt that in her calculus of what was needed to win–to get to the place where she could do the right things–a strategy of beating down Bernie Sanders and then vilifying Donald Trump was the only way they were going to win. But they were wrong. And they lost. Never again.

We are now free of the baggage of compromise and political expediency. The best organization, the smartest minds, the clever strategy–in the end none of it could defeat an unqualified buffoon. It could not overcome the visceral hate and distrust, the misogeny, the homophobia and racism–all marginal elements, but in sum, an anti-establishment, break-stuff reaction that ruled the day.

There is no taking back, only moving forward.

I love the Bernie Sanders campaign ad, America, that aired during the primaries. We’ve all come to look for America, because somewhere along the way, America was lost…or at least the sense of greatness was lost. I never agreed with Trump’s slogan, Make America Great Again, because I said, “what do you mean, again? We’re still great!” But great is not a measure of stabilized unemployment and survival after a recession. Great is about faith and belief and optimism.

Democrats did not listen to the real message people were saying…that the bullshit of politics was taking away that optimism. We overthink it: Well, what do you want exactly? Factory jobs? Sorry, those jobs are gone. Get retrained. Call this “poli-splaining” and it is the tired refrain of the establishment everywhere. “We know better than you. You didn’t do what you were supposed to do, so now, you do not get to complain.” This is the arrogance that destroyed the Democratic party.

We can no longer risk compromise with our ideals for political expediency. Let the purification by fire begin and let it consume all those who lacked the courage of their convictions to trust the American people. I’m just one voter with some mostly progressive opinions, but I want to find a way to be a part of a positive revolution and a liberation from the failure of the Democratic party. There are 724 days to November 6, 2018.

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