By Timothy Anderson
“Democratic Party files lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks…”
Finally opening Facebook in the late morning, these are the first words I see. An article title written by the Washington Post with a gigantic photo of Trump and Putin looking buddy-buddy. In many ways, this article summarizes much of what politics looks like post-2016. America, tackled by the reality of having a reality TV star play dictator in its highest political office, is perhaps at its weakest since the age of Watergate.
For myself, there’s something bittersweet about it. I graduated from university last year with a degree in political science and history, writing paper after paper about the American political system and its flaws. I wrote for an international newspaper as a leftist commentator advocating radical solutions for problems Americans took for granted during the Obama years.
Now with almost a year between myself and the intellectually exhausting environment of political academia, I suddenly find myself absent any formal position of analysis witnessing my country facing crisis after crisis, struggling to sustain any semblance left of its long-kindled image.
Many people from my former position take the I-told-you-so stance. Search any commentary today and you’ll find nothing but pessimism for America’s future. Trump has forever stained the direction of American democracy, forcing activist judges and in turn activist civilians into the streets and courtrooms scrambling to defend values and institutions we often thought secure. Democrats suing Russia fall as one drop in an ocean of headlines, ranging from the deportation of DREAMERS to imprisoning the President’s political opponents.
In spite of all the chaos, those who stood ready to critique America for how it was are now on the frontlines fighting for what America should be. Leftists, liberals, and an entire generation of young people of different political stripes have been organizing marches and demonstrations united in their opposition to Trump and his policies. And in the chaos of it all, there’s a Democratic Party building a blue wave for the midterms large enough to hopefully stifle the storm of authoritarianism raging in the White House once and for all.
From the ashes of Trumpism, hopefully, should rise an America rescued and revitalized, crafted in the image of the I-told-you-so’s who seized their moment and saved this country in their image.
Yet for myself, the bittersweet feeling remains.
Because the university student who reveled in fighting America’s woes with a righteous passion for progress is not the same person writing this article.
Most of my hesitation is born from my experience at the culpse of the election. Before I graduated, I took a position in a Congressional office in the few months before the 2016. When I entered that office, I entered as a skeptic of compromise and cooperation. However, I ended up sitting at the other end of the phone with people who depended on the level-headedness of their representatives to achieve very small solutions for various problems, which ranged from home eviction and deportation to needing their potholes paved.
The activist in me saw a need for immediate action. The solution to deportation is to provide a path to legalization. The solution to home eviction is to guarantee housing for every American. The solution to our crumbling infrastructure is to invest in jobs that repair roads and highways. Every problem, no matter how small, should have a major change to solve it. The path to solutions should be the path that has an end point.
Instead, the office pursued smaller solutions for their constituents. The solution to deportation was to intervene and contact Immigration Services. The solution to home eviction was to find them temporary housing and government assistance while we negotiate with that person’s landlord. The solution to a pothole was to just call their city hall and get someone down there to patch it up.
The solutions don’t always need to be paths paved in ideology or idealism. Sometimes, they are as simple and to-the-point as they need to be.
Coming almost two years since that experience, I find myself conflicted when I see the upsurge of anger turned activism in politics today. While the enigma of Trump remains a common and inevitable end goal to overthrow, whether it be by impeachment or by election defeat, I can only think of what happens beyond the fog of war. In the push to defeat Trump and to seek revenge for the sham of 2016, which includes the intrusion of Russian meddling and the awakening of a far right menace not seen since the 1930s, will we remember the little people caught in it all?
Time will certainly tell if this is the case. For now, the Democrats are polling incredibly well for the midterm elections. Recent special elections have seen Democratic candidates, from Doug Jones to Conor Lamb, triumph in Republican areas. The tide is turning against the beast that Republicans allowed in by giving Trump their nomination only two years ago.
In spite of all the chaos, those who stood ready to critique America for how it was are now on the frontlines fighting for what America should be. Leftists, liberals, and an entire generation of young people of different political stripes have been organizing marches and demonstrations united in their opposition to Trump and his policies. I only hope that, in this great age of change and opposition, that our politics doesn’t revolve around opposition to Trump alone, but also to addressing the problems of those same constituents who want fast solutions to real-time problems. When we fight for the very soul of American democracy, do we have room to remember that the burden of governance means taking the path least followed? That we can still compromise, can still take the least taken road, can still focus on the small things, and come full circle to focus on problems post-Trump?
Seeing that Facebook post in the morning, seeing that our politics has shifted so much from that which we knew before the rise of Trump, I only hope that the America I heard on the other side of a telephone call is the America we can still help after the era of Trumpism is over.