THE BLOG
11/09/2016 08:33 am ET Updated Nov 10, 2017

Now What?

AFP

As with my prior post, I am writing this on my own behalf, not as a representative of any organization.

I'm still numb from the results of yesterday's election. But I do know one thing. People of good will need to come together and find a way to fight back against the worst of what's to come. I agree with Jonathan Chait, who has written an eloquent piece on the New York magazine web site about the need to stop talking about fleeing the country in the face of a Trump presidency and start thinking about how we're going to defend our democracy.

Even if Trump hadn't won, the idea that millions of Americans were willing to vote for a man who is sexist, racist, anti-immigrant and profoundly anti-democratic was shocking enough. But the fact that he's going to be the president of the United States starting in January of next year is a nightmare of historic proportions.

There will be plenty of time for recriminations. Was James Comey's unconscionable last minute intervention in the electoral process the final straw? How did the press, the pollsters and the Democratic and Republican establishments so badly misread the mood of the country? Did everyone with a stake in the outcome turn out and vote? Why couldn't the Democratic Party come up with a platform and a framing of the issues that addressed the real concerns of white working class voters who felt that their needs were being systematically ignored?

This year's election also raises questions about the very nature of our politics. Is it possible to have a substantive discussion about the future of our country in an age of 24/7 cable news and 140 character sound bites on twitter? Does the truth matter any more, and can we come up with a consensus on how to determine what's true and what's nonsense? Can we get back to a place where hope wins out over fear?

We are not alone. It may end up that a majority of the country voted for Hillary Clinton. In the short run that's small solace, given that it's the Electoral College, not the electorate as a whole, that counts. But it does mean that there are tens of millions of Americans who aren't buying what Donald Trump is selling, people who can be galvanized to push back against his most extreme policies.

There should be room for some unusual, broad-based coalitions on issues like protecting civil liberties, ending mass incarceration, and opposing costly, large-scale military interventions. This kind of all-hands-on-deck defense of basic freedoms will be an essential part of winning our country back.

But even as we play defense on multiple fronts, we can't shy away from putting forward a vision of what we want our country to look like in the years ahead. Fear of Trump and all that he stands for wasn't enough to keep him from getting elected, and fear won't be enough to dig us out of the hole we are now in. We need a positive agenda, and it shouldn't be limited by pragmatic concerns about what the next president or the new Congress will accept. We need to capture the imaginations of a durable majority, and that will mean thinking big.

It's understandable if you want to roll up into a little ball, pull up the covers, and try to pretend that last night never happened. So take a few days, if you need them. But then we need to get back to work, and start talking to each other about how we can turn this awful, unacceptable state of affairs around.