1. Trump looked a little ragged and unhinged at his press conference earlier this week. His mood was dark, his tone angry, his words laced with racism, nativism, misogyny, and bullying, his attachment to reality barely discernible. He spoke as if he was living in an alternate universe. In the face of a beat down of him and his party the night before, he refused to accept the fact that the Democrats had won a decisive victory. Indeed, in a flight from reality, Trump claimed that he and his Republican counterparts were the winners. He boasted of the successes of Republican Senate candidates in states that were heavily red to begin with.
But this ripple of red, most analysts agree, pales before the wave of Democratic gains across the country at the federal and state levels, including in unexpected places. Furthermore, as late results come in and as recounts take place in Arizona, Florida, and Georgia, the blue wave keeps getting bluer and bigger, while the red ripple loses its luster.
In the face of what should be a sobering reality one might think Trump would consider some changes in his tone, message, and policies, but nothing he said or did at the press conference suggested he would. And, as if to put a punctuation on his refusal to make any adjustments to new political realities, he announced an hour later the firing of Jeff Sessions.
His firing had been expected after the midterms, but I don’t know if anyone thought it would be so quick. Maybe even Trump didn’t. But in his desire to change the national conversation, show that he is still boss, and knee cap the Mueller investigation, sacking Sessions and replacing him with a complete lap dog became in his mind an opportunity to be seized.
This reckless action presents an immediate challenge to Democrats and the entire democratic coalition. It could trigger a constitutional crisis. In any event, stormy days are ahead. Stay tuned. And stay active.
2. When we take into account the gains in the House, approaching 40, the quantum leap in the representation of women in general and women of color in particular, the outstanding showings of Democrats at the state level, especially in the Midwest, the passage of many ballot initiatives, the contested and still top close to call results in FL, GA, and AZ. Beto O’Rourke’s near miss in TX, the tens of thousands of campaign volunteers, and the tidal like explosion of women onto the terrain of electoral politics, it was a very impressive night for Democrats and the broader democratic coalition, not to mention an affirmation of the decency and democratic values of a majority of the American people. It wasn’t a political realignment, but the landscape shifted in favor of Democrats and democratic renewal.
And it happened in the face of the most racist and nativist campaign in modern American history, on a gerrymandered electoral map favoring Republicans, and in an election scarred by significant voter suppression.
3. Everyone is saying that winning of control of the House is a big f…ing deal. And it is!
But I would add three other factors that are of great importance and will shape the political trajectory of the country in the next two years and beyond as well. One is the activity of a broad, diverse, and growing coalition of people and constituencies that left its imprint on and gained confidence in the course of the elections.
Another is the shift in the center of gravity in the Democratic Party in a progressive direction, not across the board and not on every issue, but unmistakable nonetheless.
Finally, across the Democratic Party and the broader democratic coalition, an appreciation of the imperative of unity was palpable in these elections. And that’s how it should be in these times when right wing populist authoritarianism is in a full court press to hijack our democracy and country.
4. Much of the Rust Belt became the Blue Belt on election night. This immensely complicates Trump’s reelection in 2020. If they remain blue, what is his path to a second term? Not easy to see.
5. The high profile candidacies of Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, and Beto O’Rourke, even if each ends in defeat, grabbed the national spotlight. What they did and where they did it is earth shaking and is cause for optimism now and in the future.
6. I still wonder if we yet fully appreciate the role of women as a central organizing and political force in this election and the struggle against Trump generally. Much of what they did was below the radar screen, outside of traditional organizational forms, and spontaneous in many ways. And of them, middle and older aged women, some seasoned by a lifetime of struggle, others new to politics, made an enormous contribution in a practical/organizational as well as a political sense.
7. Some strategic and tactical fine tuning is necessary in the wake of the election, but not much more than that. Trump and Trumpism remain the overriding danger to people’s well being and democracy. That doesn’t preempt lively conversations in the Democratic Party or democratic coalition over policies, priorities, pace of reform or long term vision, but the necessity of broad unity should frame those conversations.
8. Both the role of racism and anti-racism, set against the background of the elections and the new terrain of struggle that obtains as a result of them, has to be examined soberly and from many sides.
In the aftermath of the election of President Obama, we understandably celebrated his historic accomplishment, but in our moment of celebration, we missed the other side of the dialectic of Obama’s victory, that is, millions of white people felt that the social rug of white supremacy, on which they had organized their entire lives and worldview, had been pulled from underneath them. And out of this came a ferocious right wing, anti-democratic counteroffensive, animated by vile racism, that gave birth to the Tea Party and in time landed Trump in the White House.
A similar reaction that minimizes the danger of racism and an accompanying counteroffensive is much less likely today. The level of awareness of the outsized role of racism in shaping the dynamics and contours of the country’s history, politics, economics, culture, and discourse in general and the irredeemable white nationalist politics of Trump and his supporters in particular, is, ten years later, much more keenly appreciated by significant numbers of people.
9. When things started to turn against Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams in the early evening Tuesday, I couldn’t help but wonder ( or dread) if I would have to endure a reprise of 2016. That made me blue, but luckily the feeling of dread passed quickly as results in other states where Democratic candidates were victorious were announced. After a big sigh of relief, my spirits brightened considerably.
10. With the election in our rear view mirror, a challenge for the left is to avoid a return to old formulas such as the streets are the singular arena of mass struggle. Or the Democratic Party is the captive of neoliberalism. Or struggle within the Democratic Party and democratic coalition takes center stage in the elections’ aftermath. Or that militant minorities are a substitute for majoritarian movements. Or socialism or even radical reform, is on the immediate action agenda.