Wednesday, November 5, 2014

we are not hedgehogs: progressive in a season of despair

Many of us are waking this morning to the news of the overwhelming victory by republican tea partiers in states and at local levels. This, their resurgence, after we have been promised that they were dying, a dinosaur interest group struggling one last time against pull of the tar pits. For those of us who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, this has become a season of despair, a Fall.

I will not lie to you, it is bad. In my own state, the governor who easily beat back a historic recall effort has won reelection by a wide margin. Regressive candidates won handily in a state whose watchwords not so long ago were "there is strength in a union." A congressman whose primary strength is his name recognition as a member of a reality show, won a third term.

On a national level, Wendy Davis, in whose campaign many of us saw a grassroots effort to turn around the deeply regressive state of Texas, lost in a landslide victory to a candidate who boasts of the two dozen lawsuits he's pushed against the federal government whose policies he must administer. Republicans not only held the House of Representatives, but won control of the Senate. A conservative friend has posted on Facebook, "[With Harry Reid no longer Senate leader,] America will see Obama is the real obstructionist." And I'm sure, from her perspective, this is true. If, as they've promised, the Tea Party members put forward impeachment proceedings against him, attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, draconian Mexican border rules like the infamous Arizona "Where are your papers?" law, and similar attempts, then yes, they will see that Obama is indeed obstructive.

There are, of course, small victories, most of which are the retention of incumbent Democrats, and the defeat of Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett. That's about it. I wish I could say these Tea Party victories (and they are Tea Party victories, despite the strenuous effort of Republicans to deny their influence) were the result of mass fraud, disappeared ballots, or deliberate intimidation. But I can't. The truth is that their supporters turned out in greater numbers than ours did. And while many Americans decry the complacent, worse-than-useless politician, it is always the other guy's representative who needs to go, not mine. While the numbers for voter turnout aren't available yet, the chances are that they will mirror previous midterm election years, when people show in smaller, more centralized numbers (although if anecdote is allowed, the turnout in my little corner of the hub had already reached number 107 when I voted at 9:45 a.m., a heavy showing in a township of about 500 voters.

It is a hard time. We will see advances rolled back, people who rely on the government for help more marginalized, if not fully scapegoated as under Reagan, the further erosion of the remains of the middle class and greater emphasis on what the upper classes want, more scandals, greater instances of hypocrisy, angrier turning inward on ourselves and villainizing the outer world. Progressives could be forgiven our cynicism, if we turn hedgehog, burrowing into our dens to hibernate until the sweet resurgence of spring.

But there is no such promise. Unlike spring, progressivism isn't a given, a season naturally following the winter of despair. It will not come on its own and all we need to do is duck our heads and wait. We are not hedgehogs. Spring is not guaranteed, we must bring it, bud by bud, thaw by thaw. We can no more give in to easy cynicism than we can dig a hole in the backyard and curl up in it. We will not survive in either case. We must call shit for what it is, and we must continue, despite the odds, despite how unseemly it may seem, despite how much we must ourselves pay for it in terms of public and personal condemnation, to fight and fight hard. When Barack Obama won the presidency nothing was settled, we knew we would have to continue working, sometimes in opposition to him. Nothing has changed. We must be underdogs victorious.

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