That’s how many people voted for Donald Trump on November 8, 2016, believing him to be either better, safer, or more disruptive to our corrupt political culture than Hillary Clinton.
That’s how many people voted for Hillary Clinton, believing her to be either better, safer, or more conducive to our political progress than Donald Trump.
That’s the number of voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin who put Trump over the top in the electoral college and into office.
That’s the number of U.S. citizens who decided not to vote at all.
And all of them—236,838,342 Americans—are watching what’s happening right now, making their assessments about how we will govern, deciding whether there will be a place for them in what will inevitably be, no matter who wins, a new America. Which means the election is happening already.
If you believe that November 3, 2020 will bring an end to our national nightmare of toxicity and polarization, guess what?
But it might just have a chance of being the beginning of the end.
If we can get there, after inauguration day on January 20, 2021, the curtain will rise on the opening act of the hard and unglamorous business of governing again.
Which means both parties will have to own their part in contributing to forty years of declining economic mobility, an unconscionably racist prison-industrial complex, 1 in 5 children living in poverty, a stock market economy wholly unhooked from the workers who drive it, and so much corruption and money in politics that the percentage of Americans who support a given law has literally 0% bearing on whether that law will pass.
By allowing this national period of staggering selfishness, corruption, and duplicity, we have all failed. Now we have to fix it. And a little humility won’t hurt that process a bit.
To have even a prayer of addressing these issues and the host of others that await us, we need to show that we will not answer the egregious excesses of the past four years with egregious excesses of our own: groupthink, pointing fingers, bowing to the terrors of the Twitter mob. We must find the grace to welcome others into our big tent, including those with whom we have disagreed in the past, if we want to build the future.
Is this a call for appeasement or betraying our demands for justice, transparency, and accountability? No, it’s an awareness that ours are not the only passions out there. The media would have us believe there are only two cultures in America right now: Red and Blue. But in fact, our country comprises more cultures than any of us can possibly be aware of. After these past four years, no one should be so arrogant as to think that the America we see in our respective circles grants us an understanding—moral or otherwise—of all of those communities.
If we get so narrow-minded in our anger and pain and resentment and righteousness so as to lose those same 77,744 voters, then all our protests and rallies and efforts will have been for naught. We cannot honestly seek solutions to the underlying injustices in American society without allowing differences of opinion, and looking at our own failures.
We have to allow room for mistakes and offer a roadmap for redemption.
We cannot have reconciliation without truth.
We need our experts, yes, but we must acknowledge that many of them are indeed embarrassingly out of touch. We need our politicians, as disappointing as some of them may be. We need our most passionate voices, as short-sighted as some of them may be. We need our moderates, as infuriatingly circumspect as many of them may be. And we need our conservatives, not only because electoral math and the future of any meaningful governance requires us to find the way forward with them, but because aspects of America are fundamentally conservative in ways progressives want to wish away, but will never be able to.
We either start getting there together.
Or we won’t get anywhere at all.
The Framers designed a government that barely works and only works at all when nobody gets everything they want. The reason they did that is because every other form of government is worse, and ends up as tyranny. So quit pretending there’s ever going to be consensus on anything, quit complaining how bad everything is, and quit living in a magical reality that somehow you’re going to get precisely what you think is the best path for our country and for all the communities that imperfectly unite it.
If you’re not willing to be part of the flawed but ever-evolving, ever-disappointing solution, then you’re part of the problem. And if you’re part of the problem, nobody’s going to care about your stated ideals anyway.
Just tell us how you’re going to help make it better.