America is at a crossroads. That is often a tired cliche, to say something is at a crossroads. But this year’s midterms is truly that.
I honestly hope enough Americans understand what is at stake. I am nervous, I must admit. I do not have a great handle on just how many people actually see what is happening at the moment. I think the current political environment is very hard to read, despite the best efforts of MSNBC’s Hit Marriage Comedy Morning Joe and the New York Times. Who are more or less declaring it over, the GOP has won. We shall see.
The stakes are very high, as in, our very democracy. Whenever people who are not really paying attention ask me where I heard that the Republican Party is anti-democracy, I say two words:
I mean, they are not exactly shy about it. Their disdain for voting rights, belief in The Big Lie (I do not buy that all of them just say they believe that the 2020 election was rigged just for the votes), and not-so-thinly veiled threats of violence should be alarming to any American not under their sway.
They also have big plans if they take the House. Chris Hayes does his usual fantastic job of outlining everything they have in mind. Impeaching Biden? Check. Going after Social Security and Medicaid? Check. Impeaching Merrick Garland to try to take the heat off Donald Trump and his looming indictment? Check. Non-stop BS investigations….well, you get the idea.
In my darker, more cynical moments, I think that people are aware of what the Republicans are up to, and believe, and they are secretly okay with it. They tell people they are “independents” or “moderates” and are undecided about who they will vote for, when in fact they are going to vote Republican because they like the racism and abject cruelty. Perhaps there are some of them.
I also think there are people who are just not accepting that America is indeed a place where “that can happen here.” I know this is true because I have ancestors who were part of the 19th Century forced relocation of Native Americans, most infamously The Trail of Tears. But that’s not in our misty distant future. Many of you who are reading this were alive when the notorious Indian boarding schools were in operation into the 1970s.
The concept that the arc of history always bends towards justice is something that many Americans know is not a guarantee. Our story is a truly complicated one. Thomas Jefferson once said: “Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. education & free discussion are the antidotes of both.” He also held slaves, and not as a moonlighting gig, either. There is no guarantee that we continue to evolve as a nation toward the light.
I know that some people perhaps do not want to think of friends, family, and neighbors as being capable of authoritarianism and cruelty. But history tells us that people who find themselves under the yoke of totalitarian regimes also discover that sometimes the people who are the dictator’s foot soldiers are people they knew and liked at one time. The people who stormed the Capitol on January 6 did not crawl out of the ground at Union Square Plaza. They are people’s friends, relatives, and neighbors. There is no reason to think these people are done.
I would also add that I have a question that those people who still refuse to believe that America is at a crossroads, that this is just another election where you read the voter’s guide to figure out who to vote for, that “both sides are just as bad”…have you noticed how many times you have been surprised over the last seven years? Starting with Trump winning the primary, to “the country I know would never elect Trump,” to doubting that the Supreme Court will go after Roe, people should not be surprised by anything conservatives do any more. Your offering them the benefit of the doubt, believing that “all Americans want the same things,” simply has not worked out for you. You MUST learn from those experiences.
I am not doom and gloom, but realistic. I can point to recent events as proof we need to be concerned, from Trump’s election right up to the alarming (and trackable via data) increase in anti-semitism. And it’s not just here. You cannot truly understand what is happening around the world without acknowledging that right-wing extremism in countries such as Russia, Brazil, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, etc. are a de facto alliance.
At the same time, I do not believe that we should roll up in a fetal position and give up. The election hasn’t happened yet. Like they did in Britain, the American right is going to overstep and likely hurt their chances to take back the White House if they win one or both branches of Congress. And again, there is no guarantee of anything in the midterms, it’s truly a tossup and very hard to read. Joe Biden and the Democrats had a great summer, and got a lot done, and I don’t buy that Dobbs isn’t going to be a factor.
Just like too much optimism is delusional, too much nihilism is self-defeating.
So, we as a nation have a choice. Do we live up to our ideals of a multicultural, multiracial democracy that continues to progress towards a great society, or do we fall back on lies, hate, and idiocy? That is what is on the ballot on Nov. 8.
The last word goes to Golden Age of Hip-Hop artist Black Sheep. The choice is indeed ours.