If I’ve had a thing on this blog from the start — and I was doing some thinking this week while I was traveling because it was that kind of trip, the kind where you start out trying to get warm for the first time in months and end up reassessing your entire life — it’s that Democrats should stop apologizing for being Democrats and being liked and being elected and being supported and being popular. Quit screwing around, seriously. People put you in charge to do stuff. Power has a purpose and you either use it when you’ve got it or spend the rest of your life making up excuses why you didn’t.
I watched the inauguration from Aruba, in the hallway of a restaurant run by an expat New Yorker who shut down the Belgian chocolate sales she had going and turned every TV to CNN so the Americans in the place (lots of us, more than I thought) could see the sights from home. Her name was Christine and all week long people had been coming through the place, buying treats and booze and congratulating her. As if she’d won the election. She felt like she had.
“I’ve heard from Russians, Germans, from people in France,” she said, piling another stack of beers onto her little round tray and laughing as friends across the street waved to her. “Everyone is so happy. The whole world is rejoicing with us.”
All week long I’d pick up the local papers, turn on CNN for a few minutes (just a few, I couldn’t shut it off entirely) and there’d be some other entirely un-stunning display of competence and good sense. Appointing the experienced and intelligent to positions of influence. Repealing laws and directives that stifled the very objectives they were meant to aid. Saying to the world loud and clear with one voice that we will no longer tolerate a lawless prison on our consciences, that we may have fallen this far but we fall no farther.
But what kept striking me was how it was being done: With no hedging, no fauxpology, no “gosh I’m sorry we won’t constrain poor women to bearing children at the dictates of the state,” no “it’s just so horrible how we have to stop torturing people and making up bullshit excuses about what is and isn’t American soil.” I won, you lost, I may listen to you but then you sit down and I do what I was elected to do. Kay? One thing after the other, so much that the GOP can’t work up a head of outrage about any of it loud enough to drown out the next thing, and the collective reaction is sort of a sigh of relief, like, okay, at least we no longer have to worry quite so much about some nitwittery about nothing.
And the world, the world that hasn’t been so wild about us for a while, is rejoicing right along with us.