Thursday, July 28, 2016

Some Election Musings

I did not watch the Republican convention. Even following it on Twitter made me feel stressed and sad, and angry, but not at the people the speakers wanted me to be angry with.

I can't say why I decided to turn on the Democratic convention on Monday night, but I'm glad I did, because Michelle Obama's speech was amazing, and restored a good deal of my faith in my country. Trump's amazing press conference (which again, I couldn't bring myself to watch, only read about) destroyed it again. And last night, President Obama's speech convinced me once again to hold on to my hope that we can continue our progress in this country towards a more perfect union.

Pumpkin was absolutely transfixed by Michelle Obama's speech, and has wanted to watch the speeches every night. We tune in after dinner, so we missed Joe Biden's speech last night (I watched it later) and Time Kaine kind of lost her (although she enjoyed the Spanish), but she paid attention through the President's speech.

She's been asking lots of questions, which I like, because it gives me a chance to try to put this weird election into context without needlessly scaring her.

One of her questions last night was about why we need to have two parties. At first, I thought she was asking about why we didn't have more than two parties, so I launched into an explanation about how in our congressional/presidential system, coalitions are built within the parties, and compared it to the situation in New Zealand's parliamentary system, in which coalitions are built between parties. I doubt I did a great job, because let's face it, I'm no political scientist. But I thought I did OK.

It didn't matter. What she wanted to know was why there were parties at all. I struggled through a bit about parties allowing people to coordinate and work together towards common goals... but I found myself talking more about why we need an opposition. Why, even when the party that is in the ascendency is the one with which I usually agree, I can't celebrate the utter implosion we're watching in the other party.

I don't know what the future holds. Maybe the Republicans will get their act together and morph into a party that is less beholden to racists. Maybe they will figure out how to turn themselves into a party that looks a bit more like the country, instead of a group of freaked out white people who want to go back to a time when everyone else "knew their place." If they can do that, I will be happy.

But I've started to wonder if maybe that is too much to ask, and if instead they are just going to die out, leaving just the Democrats. If that happens, then I strongly suspect (and in fact, actually hope) that the Democrats will have their own period of chaos, in which they end up splitting. Or perhaps the Greens will get their act together and evolve into something we can take seriously. I don't know. But a democracy needs an opposition, and given how our democracy is set up, it would not be healthy to have that opposition be entirely within one party.

So, if I think about what I hope happens- not about what I think will happen, but what I hope happens, here it is: I hope that this ugly election will help us find a path towards becoming what I heard Gwen Ifill call a "post-racist" society. I don't want a "post-racial" society, because that would deny us the beauty and strength in our diversity. But I firmly believe we can learn to celebrate our differences instead of fearing them.

I hope that this election is last gasp of the politics of White Fear. I hope that it demonstrates that catering to the segment of society that is responsive to these dog whistles (or, in the case of Donald Trump, clear calls via bullhorn) is not the path to power, so that maybe that segment of our society can finally force itself to find its place in our diverse society instead of pining for the "good old days" that were only good for them. They have been pandered to and lied to by their supposed leaders for far too long, and this has let them hide from the truth of our history and impede our progress towards living up to our founding ideals.

I hope that we can look at how close we came to electing a "homegrown demagogue" and reflect on how we got there, and then start the hard work of acknowledging the racist sins of our history so that we can find a way to redress them and make our diverse society more truly integrated, allowing us to create a society in which everyone gets a chance to live up to their potential and we all get to fully benefit from the full diversity of ideas in our society.

I don't think this is going to happen in my lifetime, but if, in the aftermath of this scary election season, we find ourselves at least on that path, all the anxiety and worry this election has caused me will be OK with me.

I'm sure Pumpkin will want to tune in to hear Hillary speak tonight. I wish I could enjoy this moment without the undercurrent of fear, but that is not what history has dealt us. So I will listen, and I will commit myself to work for her to win, and I will hope that we not only make it through the scary months ahead, but come out better on the other side.


  1. Anonymous3:55 AM

    All this for me too (except I always watch the Democratic convention and I was answering those questions for my son). He fell asleep during Hillary.

  2. Calee5:28 AM

    My kids are away with their grandparents this week (!!!) so we've avoided their impressions of the conventions, but already had plenty of conversations in the last few months. I'm sure that will continue.

    I am beyond thrilled that our school instituted "no talking about who your parents are voting for" rule last year and I hope it continues. It was so sad to see neighbor kids parroting their parents, and then ostracizing others based on their parent's political preferences.

    I hope that as a country, we are able to get through this election season and still see the humanity in those who vote for the other side.

    I hope our children learn that it's important for a democratic society for people to have and express their deeply held beliefs.

    I hope for a lot of things for my family and my country. We'll see what happens.

    1. I grew up a Democrat in a very Republican area. That was a less vicious time in our political discourse, I think. I don't remember catching much grief for my politics, other than for feminism. I caught a fair amount of grief for that, because a lot of boys thought it was fun to make "jokes" about it. I guess not much has changed in that regard.

      In past elections, I have made a point of emphasizing that the person I was not voting for was still a good person who wanted to do what he thought was best for the country. I can't really make that case this time. I do try to tell my kids that some people are really having a hard time with this election because they don't like either choice. I feel genuine sympathy for my Republican friends who are horrified with their nominee but also don't like Hillary. They have a tough choice to make. But I also hope that once the election is over, they can think about how some of the way the Republicans have conducted their politics helped land them with that tough decision. I see some grappling with that already.

      I don't think Democrats are angels, either, and like I say in the post, I suspect we have a split coming, too, particularly if the Republicans can't right their ship.

  3. I read your title as "Some Electron Musings."
    *sigh* Too nerdy.

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