… there will be too many people motivated by prejudice and fear. They accept stereotypes of immigrants while turning a blind eye to the violence of people whose families have been for generations. They will ignore the industries and farms that need immigrants to do their work because white people find such work beneath them and demand handouts. They have no problem with voter suppression, sometimes rooted in an unfair judicial system.
… there will be too many people with no concern for the future. They put their head in the sand over climate change or massive deficits — the latter being useful when we need a boost but ridiculous when the economy has been humming along for several years. They will favor short-term tokens — hey, more jobs in coal — over investment that will keep people employed.
… there will be too many people who are afraid of change. They long for an impossible return to a time of high-paid manufacturing jobs, which are being automated, or fossil-fuel jobs, which devastate the planet. (The irony is that journalists, a particular punching bag for such people, have had to deal with the slow death of their industry, but you don’t hear them demanding a return to the good ol’ days.) Some of them long for a time in which people of color, different faiths or different gender identities knew their places.
… there will be too many outright racists who feel empowered. The shooting in Pittsburgh was not some isolated incident of harassment and violence against Jews. White supremacists are walking hand-in-hand with elected officials.
All of the above will be true even if a “Blue Wave” takes the House along with some key gubernatorial races that may help overturn the gerrymandering that has allowed Republicans to control national politics with a minority of the votes and an overwhelming minority of support within academia, the media and other people who pay close attention and understand context.
But here’s the good news.
… there will be a majority of people, especially among younger generations, who reject the racism, religious intolerance and homophobia of their elders. (I’m not sure about the sexism, unfortunately.)
… there will be public pressure on governments and businesses to do the right thing. The same businesses that act irresponsibly with their lobbying efforts know they have to find ways to sell their products to better-educated consumers.
… there will be people who do great work through charity.
… there will be cities and states that respect all their residents and even put their own environmental regulations in place.
… there will be scientists who find advancements in health care and environmental solutions.
A decade and a half ago, I was entranced by the History of Britain miniseries. In each episode, we saw how British rulers were robber barons at best and genocidal maniacs at worst.
And yet, Britain progressed. British people made incredible strides in science, literature, economics and every field of academic inquiry. They even invented soccer.
We’re not going to get rid of horrible politicians and the people who reflexively vote for them. And it’s not going to be easy to make progress as long as such people exist in significant numbers. But the arc of history does indeed bend toward justice.
One site worth watching is The World in Data. Follow their leader Max Roser on Twitter. They have statistics that should depress us, but they have plenty of statistics that show just how much progress we’re making on extreme poverty, child mortality and other measures.
That progress often happened despite government. Not because of it.
None of this means you shouldn’t vote or that it doesn’t matter. We need a bulkhead against hate and short-sighted policies that will make progress more difficult for us and much more difficult for future generations. If you haven’t gotten the message yet, read this. Then get reluctant young people to get out and vote. We’ve had too many years of neglect that have allowed negative forces to gain control — too little watchdog work, too many midterms in which people stay home and allow the gerrymanderers to gain power.
We have a lot of progress to make. Too many people still in poverty. Too many people who see life as a dead-end. Too many people living with a constant threat of violence.
We’ll use many tools to do this work. Voting is the easiest. Do it. And then embrace the good people around you and get back to work with them.