Hate Is Not A Family Value
We are three years into the current administration, there are 26 candidates on the Presidential campaign trail, we have lived in Trump’s America for a long time. Will Democrats field a nominee that can defeat him? Have we progressed to a more enlightened strategy to defeat Trump? Alas, it appears we have not. That we have engaged new groups and individuals in the political process seems obvious, but have we changed the discourse to a more reasoned level? Indivisible, which was nonexistent in the last Presidential election, has become a presence, with 5,900 chapters nationwide, meetings pretty much daily, and a website that has been viewed 18 million times. The Democrats have re-captured the House of Representatives, and Mrs. Pelosi is again Speaker. Yet, we also have some distressing numbers: political engagement, as measured by voter turnout, has only crept up, from 48% in the 2016 election to about 53% in the 2018 mid-terms. We have moved the needle on voter turnout, but only slightly.
Democrats, both individually, and as a group, have pretty much settled on one position, “Against Trump,” as their overarching strategy. Yet, will this be enough? I argue, pretty much daily, that it will not. That we have let the Trump era be defined by a reaction, “Against Trump,” won’t take Democrats very far. Yet, to try and change this discourse elicits howls of indignation from all quarters of the Democratic coalition. Sigh.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who sate next to and advised one of the 20th Centuries most successful politicians, was clear: “You win at politics by telling people what you are for.” If Democrats are busy being against Trump, what are they for? And, how will we know?
That we have arrived at this point in American democracy is somewhat surprising, as political discourse seem to have devolved into a slugfest, there is not a center, and we have all retreated to the left, the far left, and, the right, the far right. The center is pretty much gone.
Yet, although these positions, far left and far right seem reasonable, what we should really looking at is the REAL division, the one between top, the 1%, and everyone else. The numbers boggle the mind: 75% of American households don’t have $400 in cash for an emergency, student debt has surpassed credit card debt in its size, millenals are in debt, and comprise the worlds best educated barista work force in the world. That this group, millennials, have the numbers, 44 million to seize the levers of government, with their voting power, seems the best way out of the current mess, but will they recognize their power, and use it? We won’t know until we know.
In the 1990’s, the modern gay rights movement arrived. The miracle AIDS drug stopped gay men from dying, and gay men arose, seemingly Phoenix like, from the battlefield that had left millions dead, many of them recovered and embarked on a future that had seemed unlikely before the drugs saved them. Those of us who were there, who watched and participated were left bereaved, having survived, but having left friends and partners on that battlefield, dead. Yet, alive we were, and the gay rights movement set their sites on gay marriage: one final plunge to equality, and, in 2015, they did it.
But, it was not a straight line: There was one final act of death and dying, as the attacks on 9/11 left another 3,000 people dead, and always seemed to me to be the icing on the shit cake that was the end of the 20th century. Winston Churchill, writing from the perspective of the post war world, described the 20th century as the “Terrible 20th,” after 2 world wars, and nearly 100 million dead. That the end was a bad as the beginning was hardly a surprise.
Yet, gay rights advocates, the heroic bunch that set their sights on eliminating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and ultimately getting it, and, with seemingly no pause, never lost sight of their goal: equality, in the form of gay marriage. They pushed through. They fundraised, they set a strategy that used the courts to arrive at the goal. They did it.
So, my point finally: There was a slogan, “Hate Is Not A Family Value,” was written, and used, as an effective and successful slogan against right wing attacks on gays. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official, told us: “Come out, come out,” because he knew that when our presence was known, when everyone knew how many of us there were, we would arrive. He was right, and it all worked. But, the slogan that came so long after Harvey was mudered, “Hate is not a family value,” resonates today. Democrats have to move on from “Against Trump,” who have to cajole, to persuade, to convince the Trump supporter that we have a better way, need to adopt the meaning of the slogan, “Hate is not a family value,” give up “Against Trump,” and look for what will help EVERYONE. It is a tall order.
Yet, for someone like me, who watched 35 year olds, some of whom I loved, die, in agony, at unspeakably young ages, during the great AIDS Epidemic, anything is possible. Miracles happen. I have to believe. You should too. We can defeat what we don’t like, but not with hate. We have to do it with votes. Let’s try.