Home 2016 elections Sam, I Can’t Understand You

Sam, I Can’t Understand You


Can I make sense of Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) resigning his leadership position in the House of Delegates Democratic caucus? No, I can’t.

Sam said the action would allow him to “listen to…constituents and treat them with respect.” He stated that he wanted to focus on strengthening the party and connecting with average Americans. Ever since I have known Sam, he has listened to constituents and been focused on strengthening the party. I’ll bet the rest of the Democratic caucus also has listened to constituents and wants to strengthen the party. Nothing that happened Nov. 8 changed that.

I’ve known Sam Rasoul ever since 2008 when he ran against Bob Goodlatte as a young man barely 25 years of age. I respect him greatly. He was so energetic and effective as a candidate back then that the 6th District Democratic Committee gave him our grassroots award for party building that year. Sam is a consensus person. He’s no firebrand or political brawler, but his latest iteration is absolutely confusing to me.

I was at a Nov. 20 Roanoke meeting of Our Revolution, a grassroots group that sprang out of the Bernie Sanders campaign, and I still haven’t figured out the reason for the event, which was very well attended by several hundred people. Sam was the moderator (see his intro below). I guess I was expecting a gathering to help us get over the Electoral College defeat of Hillary Clinton and get on with the business of electing progressive Democrats in the state elections next year. That’s not what I got.

Instead, Sam gave us a presentation on how to have “radical empathy” for those who voted for Donald Trump. I agreed with him that it was a strategic mistake on Clinton’s part to use the word “deplorables” to describe half of the people who were supporting Trump. I also agreed with Sam that the second half of the Clinton campaign focused mainly on the reasons we had to fear a Trump presidency and failed to give voters a reason to vote for her. However, I didn’t see why I need to have “radical empathy” for Trump’s voters.

To me, empathy is something that isn’t that hard to feel. I understand exactly why people in the Rust Belt feel they have been left behind and voted for change. They have been left behind in this spotty recovery. But, the people in inner city Detroit have been left behind as well. I know that there are large swaths of America that have not recovered from global capitalism and the Great Recession, but that’s not unique to Trump voters. The problems that led people to vote for a change, no matter how frightening, also caused them to overlook dangerous signals in the Trump campaign that caused some of us to cringe at the thought of what Trump and his minions could do to the nation in four years, with a compliant Congress and the ability for Trump to nominate Supreme Court justices.

I can’t feel “radical empathy” for people willing to overlook the failings of a man who bragged about getting away with sexual assault against women. I can’t empathize with those willing to overlook the fact that a man of 70 would ridicule a reporter with disabilities because the reporter had upset him by what he wrote. I can’t empathize with those who knowingly voted for someone who will put a person in charge of the Justice Department who will persecute my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I can’t empathize with those who could vote for a man who is only interested in himself and his immediate family.

I empathize with those who have been left out as our economy has changed from an industrial one to a knowledge one. I empathize with those Bernie supporters who tried to drag the Democratic Party back to its roots as the party of the working class, not the party of Wall Street. However, I believe those on the winning side need to give to us – whose candidate won the popular vote by almost 2 million votes – some empathy for our loss, too. Trump is a minority president. Why should I behave like he won a landslide?

  • Virginia Lady

    Maybe he’s planning to become a Republican. In the Virginia legislature, that might be a career-boosting move. If he does, will he have the decency to resign in favor of a special election? I’d doubt it.

  • 1) Dems DID have a positive message – Hillary Clinton’s website has excellent plans on almost every issue, from mental health to energy to immigration to revitalizing rural America to…you name it. 2) There is no equivalency here; Trump spewed out hate, ignorance, fear, etc., while Democrats urged voters to reject that hate and fear. 3) Hillary Clinton will end up winning the popular vote by 2.5 million, so clearly something worked. 4) Turnout was fine for Dems; the problem is that Clinton did better – but not good enough to win – in some red states like TX and AZ, worse – enough to BARELY lose – in a few Rust Belt states (WI, MI, PA).. 5) I still can’t figure out what Sam Rasoul is saying or what he’s suggesting.

  • …However, I believe those on the winning side need to give to us – whose candidate won the popular vote by almost 2 million votes – some empathy for our loss, too. Trump is a minority president. Why should I behave like he won a landslide?

    Because that’s what we’ve always done in America and it’s what makes us great (and yes, we’ve always been great). You’d have expected the same coalescence if the results had been opposite, so it’s the right thing to expect from everybody. I detested Donald Trump. I supported Jane Dittmar. But it’s time to work with the people who won the elections… and not be bitter about the results.

    • First off, Trump is going to end up losing the popular vote by as many as 2.5 million votes while winning the electoral vote. That is unprecedented – by far! – in American history. Second, Trump is uniquely unqualified, corrupt, despicable, and potentially disastrous as president. The Electoral College needs to think long and hard before making this pathological f***tard president.

      • And that “as many as 2.5 million votes” is less than 1% of the American population (and less than 2% of the number of total voters).

        Trump is everything you said and more. But we can’t change the rules of the game just because we lost.

        • Tell that to Trump et al., ,who are – as I type these words – planning to change the rules of the game BIG TIME.

          • I’ll have no problem doing that. You & I don’t disagree on things all the time.