Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Loneliest Liberal: The subject is change

Same topic as eight years ago

By James Knudsen

From coast to coast, the citizens of the United States are adjusting to the results of the November 8 election.
    Some are rejoicing, some are weeping. I was among the latter. And in the once smoke-filled rooms of Washington and New York, the people who we thought had this process under control are trying to figure out how they could have gotten things so wrong and still won. I’m not going to delve into their troubles, because, one, it’s so much fun to contemplate their struggles and, two – two doesn’t exist because the first one’s so much fun!

Among those weeping, things are more sanguine. Hey, I get it. Hillary Clinton probably was the most qualified candidate we’ve ever seen. And the most prepared for a job that everyone who’s held it says nothing can prepare you for. But let’s face it, she’s terrible on the stump and, as much as we all would like to believe that it’s not about likability, it is. And I’m someone who really likes Hillary Clinton. So there’s that. But there’s more. In America, there’s always more.
    I will parrot the standard history textbook analysis of the first half of the twentieth century and say that a Democratic administration, led by a philandering cripple, saved capitalism, for everyone. Here in the rock-solid Trump Country of Tulare County, California, octogenarians retain their Democratic Party registration. They are of a generation that remembers the improvements brought to their lives by the New Deal. Throughout rural America, where the Democratic Party once again lost big-time, voters watched the returns on flat-screen TVs, fed electricity from a grid that traces its roots back to a New Deal project.
    Maybe there weren’t enough who remembered the day the lights came on. Or maybe there were just too many who can’t make them stay on every day. Either way, the Democratic Party didn’t remind anyone of its legacy in something as simple as rural electricity. And, for whatever reason, the Democratic Party was not seen as the party that could improve their situation today. Put another way, progressives could not make poor white voters believe that putting Hillary in the White House would amount to any real change.

Change. Progressives love change. Usually. This last change, not so much. But it is an unwritten law that to be a Democrat, a progressive, a liberal – or the rarer and more colorfully plumed, bleeding-heart liberal – means to welcome change. The past eight years have been a giddy time for those of us comfortable with change.
    For those who are not, it has been an unsettling, jarring thrill ride, when all they really wanted was a pleasant turn on the carousel. I don’t think any of us would deride our grandmothers for not wanting to ride the newest, fastest, highest roller-coaster at Disneyland. (But she might well get a scold when she forgets that we now say, “Asian.”)
    This hyper-vigilance can blind us to things that have improved. On this year’s Thanksgiving, all across America, gay couples sat at the table, mixed-race grandchildren sat at the kids’ table, and transgendered men and women walked through their parents’ homes for the first time in years. And while many homes remained glaringly monochrome, and too many individuals were shut out – and thus shut in, forced to spend the holiday alone. Let us not fail to recognize these giant leaps that have been made toward a more perfect union.

A seismic change happened this month, and what changes may follow is unknown. What is known is that changes for the good have been occurring and will continue to occur. Four years from now there will be more solar panels and more electric cars. Gay sons and daughters will not go back in the closet. Racially insensitive grandparents will continue to spoil their bi-racial grandchildren. And remembering to call her “him,” or him “her,” will become second nature.
    What the next four years will do to Donald Trump’s hair? No idea.

Copyright © 2016 by James Knudsen