by Virginia Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria)
I live in Alexandria, a vibrant and fast-growing city full of diverse, happy people and lots of children and dogs, replete with history, art, great restaurants and a beautiful waterfront. Perhaps growth is a little too fast and housing insufficiently affordable. But these are the Champagne Problems of living in such a desirable place.
Meanwhile, rural America faces globalization and outsourcing, with a steep decline in manufacturing and family farming. Some of these declines are due to Republican policies that incentivize moving jobs abroad. Some are due to the increasing automation of the economy. The latter is nothing new. Read Odes to Village Blacksmiths in the late 19th Century to see how people bemoaned the loss of the horseshoe industry caused by the new horseless carriage.
Whatever the reason, vast swaths of rural America – including rural Virginia – contain ghost towns where the population is plummeting. Too many young people leave their rural hometowns because they know there is no future there, while others suffer from opioid addiction. Trump’s dark, conspiratorial vision obviously appealed to these people in pain, who feel ignored by both their Republican representatives who fail to represent their concerns and by Democrats in urban and suburban areas who rarely pay attention to rural needs.
It’s one reason why I want to bring broadband to rural Virginia, even though it would not benefit folks in the 45th District. We have to reach out to our fellow Virginians.
But let’s be honest: rural decline is not the only reason for the Trump Electoral College victory. No one should ever underestimate the raw power of sexism and racism, of xenophobia and homophobia, and of Islamophobia and antisemitism in America. We progressives are stunned by this election, precisely because alt-right conspiracy theories and bragging about sexual assault as “locker-room talk” are notions foreign to us and to our families, friends and neighbors in lovely Blue America.
We must never underestimate the power of propaganda. I spent a lot of time on Facebook as the Election approached, working hard to provide links and facts to combat the Big Lies of the Trumpist Trolls (some of whom are directly funded by the Russian Government to aid the Trump election. See, e.g. http://www.thedailybeast.
Many of you supported me in this effort. You helped me with facts and logic. And since people who live in an alternative reality– and arrive at their opinions via emotion–cannot be dissuaded by logic, you worked with me to make strong emotional arguments as well. Thank you. Our job is not done.
There is a tremendous urge right now – I feel it too – to give up. To move away. To feel helpless. We are stunned at our fellow Americans falling for such an obvious con man. We are dismayed by the coarseness and lack of humanity we’ve witnessed.
In times like these, I think it’s useful to remember it has been even worse in the USA. In America’s darkest times, we have withstood a shaky revolution and a brutal civil war. We escaped the lash of slavery and the hopelessness of a Great Depression. The Know-Nothing Party, internment camps, and McCarthyism are gone.
Tough times. But our nation survived. We worked hard. And it’s largely grass-roots movements that made the difference. Sometimes it’s the only way to fight an entrenched system. I’ve personally been involved in grass-roots activism for more than 25 years. Some of you have been involved for twice this time.
So we know now is no time to quit. And if our days ahead are dark, it just gives us more work to do. I know that Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax will never be places where racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, or religious prejudice will be tolerated. That is not who we are. That is not who we will ever be.
I pledge to re-dedicate myself to the diverse and wonderful community I am privileged to represent in the House of Delegates.
We Democrats are the majority, both in the USA and Virginia. Yes, the Electoral College and gerrymandering (aka, a “rigged” but legal part of our system) allows the minority party to rule over the majority party. But we the majority still have free speech. We must never be silent. We must always stand up for our values.
We have a vitally important battle ahead in just 12 months: the Election of 2017. We must elect Ralph Northam as Governor and Mark Herring as Attorney General. If we don’t, it gets darker: gerrymandering will keep Democrats from having a majority in the Virginia House of Delegates until at least 2031. None of us want to wait 15 years to help promote progressive values in the Commonwealth. It’s going to be tough. It’s quite probable neither the US Supreme Court nor the Virginia Supreme Court will help us any more. Without a Democratic Governor, Republicans are quite likely to pass in Virginia the voter suppression and other Jim Crow laws they use across the nation to maintain minority power.
It’s up to us. This is our last, best chance to save our Commonwealth.
So lick your wounds. Rest up. Enjoy the holidays. But get ready to fight again in 2017.
Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, as Margaret Mead tells us, it is the only thing that ever has.