There will be many takeaways from the midterm elections by people far more knowledgeable, and far more vested in the outcome, than mine. I couldn’t lose, because my ambivalence left me without a side. My views on Trump are no secret. Neither are my views on progressive social justice. Much as I couldn’t lose, I couldn’t win either.
So the outcome has happened, a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. Will it be congressional paralysis, as we endured for the last six years of the Obama administration, or will subpoenas start flying from a House of Representatives determined to destroy Darth Cheeto?
One would expect credit to be taken by the victors, who are entitled to their moment since they won. But even someone as mindlessly dedicated to her narrative as Jill Filipovic realizes the problem.
It is exhilarating and remarkable to see so many women succeed against long odds, and heartening to see so many take their place as “firsts” in what has never been a truly representational democracy.
But I am worried, too. The women are here, and the expectation is that they will do what women so often do: act as a cleanup crew.
Be careful what you wish for, Jill, for you might just get it. It’s well past time for women to be as embroiled in politics as men, although pundits like Filipovic care more about counting genitalia than quality. Freshman(?) congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, having ousted Democratic heir to the throne Joseph Crowley, will either be positioned for greatness or fade into obscurity. Spouting platitudes without having the slightest clue what she’s talking about can go either way in D.C.
But Filipovic’s “meteor strikes earth” argument has come to pass, her efforts have shifted from “women will fix America” to “do what women so often do: act as a cleanup crew.” That’s what insurgents do. They sought election to clean up the mess, so now they will be expected to clean up the mess. The “oppressed woman” excuse has run out, Jill.
The narratives around who lost and why will almost certainly touch on identity, questioning whether candidates were too “identity-focused” by virtue of recognizing that they were not white men, and their lives, experiences and priorities were different. This simplistic read seems destined to overshadow more nuanced takes on how sexism and racism shape our perceptions, preferences and behaviors. It also ignores a stunning reality: Women made the blue wave.
This is the narrative that I fear most, that it will embolden the most extreme voices on the side that isn’t Trump to believe that they have been ordained by the great female deity in the sky to recreate America. Ironically, Filipovic tries desperately to distance women from identity politics, perhaps coming to the recognition that it’s not as hot a selling point as it’s been in the past now that her tribe has a foothold in Congress. Then again, she just can’t let go of the “everything is sexism and racism” explanation for everything. It’s all she has.
The New York Times offers an agenda to the incoming Democrats that’s surprisingly thoughtful and moderate.
The trick will be finding the right balance in both tone and topic. Many Trump-hating Democrats might be in the mood for payback, but most Americans could easily be turned off by overt political games. And, let’s not forget, this is ultimately not about scoring points — Americans deserve better from their government.
The big question is whether a Democratic House will serve to do better for America, whether all of it or just those groups it favors at the moment, or use its power to exact revenge on Trump. The Times calls for the Dems to show their worth by governing better rather than attacking. It’s a wise admonition.
Much as I hoped the takeaway from this election would be that the Democrats should return from progressivism to liberalism, honoring constitutional rights for all, equality over equity, capitalism over socialism, and the end of promoting identitarian hatred, that wasn’t a likelihood no matter what.
But unlike when Trump was elected, and many in the “resistance” wished failure upon America, at the expense of Americans who needed and deserved better, I wish the newly elected Democratic majority in the House every success in serving the people, all the people regardless of race, gender or national origin, of the United States of America.