We should have seen it coming. Yet few of us did. The pollsters, pundits, media moguls, and establishment of both parties are all asking themselves “how could this happen – and what happens next?”
We are hearing that this is a “change” election. I submit that it is something quite different; it was nothing short of a massive and unadulterated “reaction election.” It was a reaction to a country and world that sometimes appear to be spinning out of control.
It was a reaction against both political parties and a Washington establishment that cannot or will not do the “work of the people,” a reaction against perceived and real political gridlock.
It was a reaction against pollsters, pundits, and the establishment media.
It was a reaction to urbanism, modernity, and new complexities that many in America don’t understand and don’t like.
It was a reaction against immigrants of all backgrounds, striking at the very heart of one value that has made the United States exceptional, the willingness to accept and integrate people from other lands.
It was a reaction to an economy that has operated to benefit the rich and powerful, leaving inequality and decimated communities in its wake.
It was a reaction against Wall Street.
It was a reaction against Obamacare.
It was a reaction against so-called political correctness, preferring the embrace of bluster over even temperament.
It was a reaction against political platforms and policy solutions.
It was a reaction to the Clintons and the culmination of thirty years of “the politics of personal destruction” leveled against them.
How We Move Forward
Late last evening, my wife and I received a call from our son, a freshman in college, who this fall cast his first vote. He was sad and confused, as were so many of his friends, that this country could elect a person like Donald Trump. Not only did he not understand it; he took it very personally. To him and his friends, it seemed to be a rejection of all the values he and many of his generation hold dear – tolerance, equality, diversity, civility. I remembered and told him of my first presidential vote, one I cast proudly against the Vietnam War, for Civil Rights, and in full-throated support of George McGovern. Unlike the narrow loss of last evening, we were decimated in 1972. But we moved on and I believe that while our politics are more toxic and certainly less civil than they were, we have nonetheless made great strides as a Commonwealth and country. And we did so because we refused to cede the field to forces who would take us back. We will continue to work to break down the artificial glass ceilings and give voice to the countless mothers who yesterday brought their daughters to the polls to show them that anything is possible in America.
There are crosscurrents in every election and this one is no different. House Democrats welcome two new members to our fold, and Governor McCrory in North Carolina, the author of the infamous discrimination bill, lost his bid for reelection. The “right to work” constitutional amendment was not ratified by Virginians.
Nonetheless, one branch of our federal government will shortly be controlled by one of the most divisive candidates in the history of American politics. It will be a perilous period and much will hang in the balance, from a health care law that brought insurance to millions of Americans to a Supreme Court that could tip the scales of justice in ways we can only imagine.
Engage We Must
In the aftermath of this election, it will be harder than ever to enter and engage in the arena called politics. But engage we must, raising our voices at every turn, organizing at every opportunity, ceding nothing to those who would take us back to a darker time in American politics.
And that effort starts today – in a place where our great American experiment in democracy took root, the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have 364 days until a critical election for our next Governor and for 100 members of the House of Delegates. The stakes are high and the competition will be fierce. Virginia is clearly a 50-50 state now, and it will require all of our efforts, together, to confront the politics of Trumpism that will be emboldened by this election. Secretary Clinton asked us today to have faith, not grow weary and lose heart, “for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.” I pledge to join in that work and hope you will too.