Like everyone else in this sector of the solar system, I’ve been obsessed with the national elections for the past year, and the results have made me wonder what I believe.
My heart is certain that I’m a radical, a fire-breathing lefty who’s ready to tear down “The System” and face down “The Man.” My heart is ready for an “Up Against the Wall” reckoning of bad people, so we can launch a utopian ideal of sister-and-brother-hood, where no one wants and no one worries.
Then, my head reminds me that (in a way) I’m The Man and I’m fully embedded in The System. I stay out of debt, I service my car on time, I buy a new iPhone every two years, I give to well-documented good causes, I tip well, I iron my shirts and I watch frivolous movies (I’m so domesticated that I don’t even call them films).
I find myself surprisingly comforted by the thought of bland Joe Biden in the White House, chipping away gradually at modest achievements and charming everyone into going along with him. I guess that’s part of the message I’ve taken away from the election — the idea of taking it slow, of dialing down the drama.
I read progressive authors and pundits, I worried for weeks about Trump rigging the election, and I fantasized about a Democratic landslide, but I have also begun to wonder if there’s wisdom in a not-so-unified federal government.
I understand the opinion that the election reveals that we’re hopelessly divided, that both “sides” hate and fear each other, that “those people” wish I was dead and they hate my non-white, non-conforming, non-heteronormative friends … but, do they? My Trump-voting family and friends aren’t haters, and my Biden-voting family and friends aren’t either.
Maybe the electorate is wise in its collective decision. Maybe a moderate president and a congress where slim majorities force Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi to bargain and become more centrist, and where Justice Brett Kavanaugh defends health care — maybe that’s what we want.
Don’t get me wrong: I think Trump is living proof that “fake it till you make it” is not a good approach to being a national leader, but I recognize that millions of people want a different kind of government than I do, and are willing to put up with his ridiculous antics to get it.
If we accept that the worst things Trump did by executive order — pulling out of the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organization, discriminating against LGBTQ people, the Muslim travel ban and more — can be undone by a Biden executive order, and we instead focus our national debate on the size and scope of government, maybe we can make progress and relearn to talk to each other.
We see a preference for moderation locally as well. Our local city councils and school boards are a rainbow of experiences, ages, orientations, outlooks and abilities. That’s clearly what the voters want, and on a local basis, it seems to turn out for the best.
It’s too soon to tell if a kind, sensible, centrist government will emerge in DC. If the Supreme Court guts human, civil and reproductive rights I’ll eat these words, but I hope that, given a chance to slow down and breathe, that we can all get along and take better care of our fellow travelers and our planet.
Maybe we can rise together.
Ray Holley is uncharacteristically hopeful. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.