In 1948, General Dwight D. Eisenhower released an expansive memoir that transcribed his personal account as Supreme Allied commander in Europe during World War II, the single most important American military official in the war. He chronicled the travail of the war in its bitter totality: men sunk beneath waves of bullets and unbroken battle; the immeasurable sorrow levied as hundreds-of-thousands perished for their country; the fateful decisions he took in which he accepted complete responsibility—most importantly the decision for the D-Day invasion. At the same time, Eisenhower also wrote of what was indomitable about Americans, how the country overcame and rang freedom’s bell for a world enveloped by the forces of darkness.
Eisenhower titled the memoir Crusade in Europe. Now I acknowledge, the word crusade may hold conflicting definitions and interpretations, some of which may refresh stories of the medieval. But used as a verb, according to the most basic dictionary definition, to crusade is to “lead or take part in an energetic and organized campaign concerning a social, political, or religious issue.”
There is a reason Eisenhower did not title his book “War in Europe.” Beyond the bayonets, bloodshed, and carnage, Eisenhower declared to America that what they had just done—the stand they took together against evil, despite any internal divisions—was something much more elegant and profound than could be carried by the word “war.” It was something noble.
I know it’s difficult for so many of us to feel hope in this moment, which seems so incomprehensibly dark. We are a nation deeply wounded from a liberated virus. We’re struggling with systemic racism. And we’ve endured lashing mental abuse, time and again, from the president of the United States. But it is not a darker moment than what Ike saw when he looked across the English Channel on June 6, 1944 at the continent of Europe, dominated by the Nazis.
So I see a light ahead. Just days away, a unified and electrified coalition of Americans, coming together like our country did in World War II, standing united to send a message that will be heard around the world to all those who look with expectant hope to the America that led the crusade more than half a century ago: That America has not succumbed to a demagogue and would-be autocrat. That we have overcome. And that Donald J. Trump is not who we are.
In just a short time, America will go from its darkest hour to its finest hour.
Very seldom in American history have there been periods when people can nobly wage a crusade to create real and lasting change. But when these crusades do occur, when those moments arrive, what we do to vanquish the threat to freedom builds something everlasting into the framework of our society.
The American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II, Seneca Falls, Stonewall, and Selma, were all historical flashpoints where Americans displayed their patriotism against oppressive forces in a resounding way. These movements overthrew an empire, ended slavery, staved off totalitarianism, and paved the way for the establishment of fundamental civil rights and liberties for women, LGBTQ+ and black Americans.
We find ourselves again at such a turning point. Donald Trump’s authoritarian presence behind the Resolute Desk is amongst the gravest threats America has ever faced from within. And Americans have risen to meet this threat.
This resistance has created its own seismic shift. Look at the rallying cries for racial justice coming from Americans of all colors, who have joined in arms to speak out. Look at the willingness of voters to wait for hours in lines in Georgia to exercise their democratic right to the franchise. Look at the coalition that has been formed, from Republicans to Democrats to activists, who are determined to stand up to this threat.
We are constantly told that America is too divided, too hopelessly stricken by tribalism to come together anymore. Well, I’m here to proclaim that this received “wisdom” is just plain wrong. If you were to run a cable wire through the heart of America right now, you would see an image of an exceedingly diverse coalition of people who challenge that assumption at its core. You’d see a suburban woman from a once-Republican stronghold in Maricopa County, Arizona, standing alongside a retired grandfather in Florida, a college student in Brooklyn, a Latina mom in Raleigh, a Black computer programmer in Houston, and yes, standing alongside even a former Trump voter in Wisconsin who has now changed his mind. This coalition is exactly why an incumbent president is on the precipice of a catastrophic defeat.
Because this is more than a campaign. This is a crusade for America.
Long after Trump has gone, this unity forged in his opposition should be remembered.
My participation on this site, which is operated by many of my former Republican rivals, is evidence of this unity in and of itself.
This article, posted right here, is evidence that this is a moment that carries extraordinary consequences much more profound than victory or defeat for a candidate.
Like the majority of people that read this news site, I am white and affluent and—you know what else?—I love my country. Collectively, what I know to be true among so many like us, is that we understand we have existed on an advantaged and privileged perch in our slice of America.
But if you’re like me, you have been haunted by the fact that because of this privilege, many of us have never, in the late John Lewis’s words, made enough “good trouble,” or fought hard enough in the good fight.
Now, maybe that’s because, quite frankly, many of our own backs have never really been against the wall. What this moment has done for all of us—for all those who have sat on the sidelines of history or never were presented with something that held as much gravitas—is that it has given us, for one fleeting moment—the moment we’re living right now—a sense of common purpose. Common purpose of which we will be able to recall forever: that when our country and our Republic were on the brink of collapse, when our fellow Americans needed us, we took a blow torch to our past differences, our former conflicts and our old rivalries, and we fought together.
In less than two weeks, I will be 76 years old. I was a boy raised near some of the poorest banks of the Mississippi River and I’ve now had the overwhelming honor to help elect senators, governors, and my dear friend Bill Clinton as president of the United States. I’ve seen my face flash across the silver screen too many times and have flown around the world twice over practicing the profession I love.
All of this was wildly unimaginable to that little boy skipping rocks in Louisiana 70 years ago. But as I sit here, wonderstruck in retrograde, I can say with certainty that in all my years, joining in this crusade to take America back from the brink of destruction is the greatest thing I have ever been a part of in my life.
This crusade is something noble.