By Bill Mefford
Well, thank God it’s over. As is fitting a nation that is deeply split with no hope for unity anywhere in sight, the feelings following last night’s mid-terms are mixed; almost ambivalence in many ways.
More women were elected than ever before. An openly gay Native American women from Kansas is coming to Congress, a Muslim woman who came to the United States as a refugee was elected, for the first time, an openly gay man will be Governor in Colorado, and the House will have more women and more people of color than any time in it’s history. A number of powerful Republicans, including at least three committee chairmen were defeated and control of the House was flipped from red to blue. One incoming committee chair already has announced their intention to subpoena trump’s tax returns. Accountability is a good thing. Even more, Democrats will likely end up with a nine or ten point lead in the overall count, though they will lost seats in the Senate and only gain a relatively small amount of seats in the House. That is due to the radically gerrymandered House districts.
More good news is that in Florida a proposition passed that will restore voting rights for returning citizens in Florida, which means that 1.5 million returning citizens will be added to the rolls. Also, Arkansas and Missouri passed ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage. And, last I checked, Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah all passed referendums to increase access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. So, even though Republicans won big in all of these states, they do not always reflect the desires of their constituents. Referendums are always important votes to watch.
But saddest of all, some of the biggest names - Andrew Gillum and Beto with Stacy Abrams’ race still too close to call - both went down to defeat, as the Senate went from bad to worse. One thing we saw from Florida, that I think is emblematic of the country at large, is that there is a deep split between urban/suburban areas and rural/exurban areas. Hidden inside of this is also a deep racial split between whites that live in the rural/exurban areas and more culturally and racially diverse urban areas. It is incredibly sad to me not just that Gillum and Beto lost, but who they lost to: two candidates who, following their leader (trump), openly trafficked in racism and the dehumanization of people of color (particularly immigrants and refugees) in order to gin up their rural base.
So, in moving forward, I want to suggest that our greatest hope in continuing to effectively RESIST donald trump and all that he embodies is not the investigative power of the new Democrat-controlled House. And while we want them to go after trump, they will also be able to investigate and hold accountable trump’s cabinet which makes up one of the most corrupt administrations in history. It looks like Betsy DeVos will have to learn what the word subpoena means. But although the new House will have their hands full holding this reckless and outlaw administration accountable, they will not be able to fully stop them. Thus, our need to build movements for justice continues.
One intriguing takeaway I am left with the morning after this momentous election is that when Democrats ran to the middle they mostly lost badly (looking at you Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly). When they ran more progressively they had mixed results, but, as in the case of Abrams, Gillum, and Beto among others, they did historically better than anyone would have imagined.
But let’s talk about more than just political realities. Winning one chamber does not a revolution make. And let’s also realize who we just elected. We did not put into power in the House an entirely new governing body. Yes, what is truly exciting is the number of people who were elected who are new to elected office. We put into office more women and more people of color than ever before. Change is most often gradual and this can only portend good things for the future of this country and the world. We have every right to feel excited about a great number of things.
But we must also realize who is actually in charge. Don’t get me wrong, Nancy Pelosi will probably go down as one of the most effective Speakers of the House in US history. She is good and she has really good staff. But she is part of the Democratic Party establishment and while they are certainly a better alternative than the increasingly Fascist Republican Party, which has become a white nationalist party, the Democrats do not share the goals of so many progressives and liberationists who want to see universal healthcare for ALL people, citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, a foreign policy emphasizing human rights for all people, and an end to mass incarceration, gerrymandering, and all forms of voter suppression.
I am saying, as clearly as I can, our hopes will not be realized in a blue wave, no matter the size. Our hope rests in our ability to build movements for the things I mentioned above that are built among people directly impacted by injustice and groups of people who share the same vision of change. Democrats, while better than Republicans at the current time, are not seeking what we as liberationists are seeking, and that is the manifestation of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom is one where the dignity and rights of all people - ALL PEOPLE - are protected and preserved. It is a place where oppression and racism are not minimized; they are nonexistent. It is a place where no one studies war any longer and where all are given their own fig tree that will provide for all their needs. One might even call this a Fig Tree Revolution!
How do we begin? Better yet, how do we continue the work we are engaged in? We immerse ourselves in incarnational relationships among people directly impacted by injustice and brokenness until their hurts, dreams, fears, and passions are our hurts, dreams, fears, and passions is the first step. And that is a helluva step too.
But if we really want to experience a blue wave, let’s dream of the waves of justice and the mightiness of a stream of righteousness to flow over us and to flood this land. That is what we strive for, even the morning after an exhausting election.
Let’s continue to work for revolution.