Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 was a bad day. It was the kind of day that feels as if your world is ending or on the precipice of a great disaster. To progressives who fight hard in the political arena, it was akin to losing the Pennant race. You spend the following day physically and emotionally exhausted, mired in a deep, dazed funk. Unlike sports, however, politics has longer-term repercussions that impact millions of lives both here and abroad.
Imagine the coming typhoon of nonsense "investigations" on which Republicans will no doubt waste taxpayer time and money while trying to undermine and dismantle Obama's presidency (see also: Bill Clinton). It's easy to envision more tax breaks for Billionaires and more tax cuts for companies who outsource jobs overseas, all the while de-funding programs and policies meant to actually help people as one Republican after another lines up to "starve the beast" they fought so hard to be a part of.
Meanwhile, every radio, TV, and print outlet features interviews with Republicans glowing from their win and talking about "mandates to repeal healthcare" and other overreaching nonsense. If you're not careful, this despair can consume you until you no longer have faith in your own ability to fight and change the system -- nor faith in the American people's ability to vote for their own best self-interest. This is a perilous path. Make no mistake: once the American people become your enemy, you are doomed.
Like many Progressives, I battled with these demons of despair and depression the rest of the week after Election Day 2010 -- or, as my friend Bob Fertik put it in a post-election email, the day "Bush's Empire Struck Back." But I rallied by the weekend and by the following week I was over it. How so fast? Am I sticking my head in the sand and ignoring the dire reality all around me? Hardly. I just took a full week off from the news, turned off the TV, disconnected the Internet, and caught up on a few old issues of The New Yorker I've had lying around since the summer. I also spent some valuable time reconnecting with History, which serves as a perfect reminder that yes, not only have we been here before, but the repercussions were once much more dire.
"Change" doesn't come in one election cycle or, often, in one lifetime. Change takes time. There will be gains and setbacks, and eventually, as the public's political paradigm shifts and their internal set of assumed "truths" changes, so too can the policies and politicians that go with them. Climate Change activists should take note: the earth remained the center of the universe more than 100 years after Copernicus, and even then they still burned Giordano Bruno at the stake in 1600. Women earned the right to vote in 1920, 72 years after the first battle lines were drawn in Seneca Falls, New York.
So I remind myself that politics is a pendulum and not a bullet train and that yes, there will be losses and there will be setbacks. But as often as not, these are temporary. Yes, people get hurt, even die, and yes, there remains injustice and suffering, but above all else those are facets of the human condition, not just an American one and most certainly not an American made one. My friend Charlie once said, "There are no 'thank yous' in politics, only old fights to be had anew." He's right. All we can do is continue to muster our courage, our calm, our brilliance, and our best to fight the good fight for what we believe in. In the meantime, we must remember that we are not the first, and most certainly won't be the last, to taste the ecstasy of victory or the migraine of defeat. So Progressives, while you buck up and get back to work through and against the long hard slog of American politics, try to remember that so much of Life truly is beautiful outside your window. You need only unplug and get out there to enjoy it once in awhile.