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A Case For Hope In the Time of Trump

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by Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Kip Malinosky, cross-posted from The Voice

Now this is a strange thing to say, given the state of our Republican-led government, but looking toward 2020 and beyond I am hopeful about the direction of the country. It’s true that with our current President any number of nightmares, from nuclear war to economic catastrophe, are not out of the realm of plausibility. Climate change is on an extremely dangerous trajectory. Income inequality has reached levels that are threatening to both democracy and economic growth. Yet, I remain hopeful. Not the kind of hope that turns on the wheels of inevitability or ignores the very real perils of our present, but the hope that a much more perfect union can be realized with tremendous efforts of ordinary citizens. Why?

First, Americans on the whole are becoming more liberal than they have been in decades and on some issues more liberal than they have ever been. It used to be a cliche that Americans are philosophically conservative while operationally liberal. Not any more. According to Pew Research, more Americans favor bigger government with more services than vice versa. On taxes, more than 60 percent of U.S. adults say that both the rich and corporations pay too little in taxes. On health care, 60 percent say that health should be the government’s responsibility and a growing share of Americans, especially younger Americans,  support single payer health care. On climate change, a record 62 percent of Americans believe it is happening now and 45 percent say they worry a great deal about climate change. On gay marriage, a record 62 percent of Americans now favor it. And on immigration, the number of Americans who want to decrease it is a near-record low, and the number of Americans who want to increase immigration is near a record high.

Second, Virginia showed the world that Americans now are voting on issues they care about and rejecting Trumpism. Polls had suggested Ralph Northam might win the governor’s race by three points. He won by nine. The top issue was health care, and Northam won these voters by 77 percent. This win was with a progressive platform including: Medicaid expansion, a $15 minimum wage, gun control measures, and keeping Virginia in the Climate Alliance. Furthermore, Democrats were expected to win six seats in the House of Delegates. We won at least 15, including the first two Latinas, two Asian Americans, lesbian and transgender delegates. In 2009, about 800,000 Democrats voted in the gubernatorial election. In 2017, about 1,400,000 Democrats voted. Virginia shows that a more progressive, younger Obama coalition is on the rise.

Third, our cruel and incompetent Congress actually shows some rays of hope when one looks at the Democrats. Democrats are pushing policies for a $1 trillion job and infrastructure bill to fix roads, bridges and airports, taking on corporate consolidation and lack of competition, health care plans with a Medicare buy-in and strong public option as well as a single-payer plan, a plan for 100 percent clean energy by 2035, and plans to strengthen unions. This is a more progressive agenda than the platforms that either President Obama or Secretary Clinton ran on. Furthermore, the Republicans in Congress are now clearly demonstrating that they care nothing for norms and regular order of the Senate in pushing radically harmful and unpopular bills on health care and tax cuts for the rich. Democrats should not follow the Republican example of legislative cynicism, nor should they allow the hundreds of filibusters that blocked a DREAM act, health care plan with a public option, and a larger economic recovery act in 2009-2010.

After 2016, I don’t want to make any predictions about what 2018 and beyond will bring, but there are very real reasons for hope. A large majority of Americans want a more liberal, active government. Virginia showed that Democrats can win on expanding health care and fielding scores of new, diverse candidates. Republicans in Congress are showing the world they cannot govern, and Democrats in Congress are showing they should govern. Come what may, let’s get to work electing Democrats.