If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a broad and diverse coalition of people and organizations to win an election. And that is what we are seeing in action in the final weeks and days of the campaign and what will take us across the finished line on Tuesday (or soon thereafter). At the center of this extensive alliance is an energized Democratic Party and its closest alliance partners.
Anyone with any sense of decency has to be enraged at the Trump administration’s admission that it cannot find the parents of 545 immigrant children who were forcibly separated from them and remain locked up in detention camps on the southern border for more than a year.
I was barely nine when my mother was taken from me. She died suddenly and unexpectedly. On the day of her death a family friend found me on a makeshift softball field in a neighbor’s backyard. She took my hand and walked me home. I don’t recall if she told me that my mother had died from a stroke that morning, but as I walked into the house I immediately knew that something bad had happened. The house was full of neighbors and relatives sobbing and grieving. In the living room I saw my mother, laying lifeless on the couch. My father, crying uncontrollably, was kneeling on the floor at my mother’s side. In the next room I heard a neighbor on our phone telling the person on the other end that Kay Webb had died.
In that moment I decided that I wanted no part of looking at my lifeless mother. Nor did I want to watch my father, so devastated that he had no time to comfort me. For me the house had become a dead zone and I wanted out. So I left and walked the neighborhood, refusing to believe that my mother, the emotional center and primary caregiver of our family, the person who read me stories and tucked me in at bedtime, cooked the most delicious cookies, taffy, and warm rolls, took me to the beach on summer days, and so much more, was dead. No longer in my life. I was in shock, unable to emotionally make any sense of this rupture in my universe.
A few days later when we said goodbye to her at a funeral mass with an open casket and then buried her in the town cemetery, everything was still a blur to me. It felt unreal. Not surprisingly, the shock and trauma soon gave way to profound grief and aching loneliness, awful nightmares and long-term low-grade depression, and, not least, guilt and anger. The world had lost some of its wonder and joy.
Which brings me to the 545 children locked up and alone in detention centers at the border. The trauma, loneliness, abandonment, and fear that they are experiencing has to be of a much higher order of magnitude than what I experienced on that awful day decades ago. Not only do they fear that they will never see both parents again, but their living ties to familiar faces, places, and rites of passage have been severed as well.
When my mother died, I had my father and two older brothers in my life. I could climb into my grandmother’s bed when I had a nightmare. I could sleep over at one of my uncles’ whenever I wanted, drop in for hamburgers on Saturday at my cousin’s house, meet up with my friends at school or on a sport’s field, attend church with my neighbors and relatives, and celebrate my birthday with my friends and family. I could also listen to my mother’s friends tell stories about her and how proud she would be of me.
The children in holding cells at the border have none of these grounding moments. They are by themselves, with no familiar faces or places or rituals to give them comfort, hope, and a sense of stability and place. They have no emotional or material anchor. Nothing to cling to. They are powerless and detached from everything that gave their life meaning and joy. They are alone, terribly alone. What could be worse? What could be more terrifying? This has to end.
Luckily, we can do something about this. And soon. We can vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on November 3, who have promised to end this nightmare and return the children to their families. Not a minute too soon. Let’s vote and get out the vote.
Biden has been damned with faint praise by too many on the left. And part of the explanation lies in the fact that its own political categories and abstract class methodology make it difficult for it to appreciate and acknowledge the actual political movement and positions of Biden in this election.
If elected, Biden would walk into the White House at a moment unprecedented in our history. He would find himself governing in a conjunctural crisis whose templates are a deadly pandemic, a crisis-ridden national and global economy, a racial reckoning, and a worldwide climate emergency that cry out for solution. Standing still isn’t an option. Nor is a return to the pre-Trump normal, whatever that was. And I believe he, Kamala Harris, and most Democrats realize this.
Moreover, like Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Johnson, he would feel the pulls, pressures, and desires of an electorate as well as a coalition that carried him over the finish line on Election Day. No doubt, both voters and activists would expect an agenda that includes immediate relief, a science-driven plan to attack the coronavirus, the enactment of progressive reforms in line with the crises gripping the country, a reckoning with policing and systemic racism, and, not least, the democratization of voting laws and the political system.
Such an agenda would not only resonate with tens of millions feeling the crushing weight of the present times, but it might well register with some of Trump’s base too. It’s progressive policies and legislation not clever turns of phrase that will begin to fracture that retrograde coalition.
Speaking of Trump, while he would be out of the White House and no longer able to employ the executive power of the office, his authoritarian movement and likely Trump himself would be squarely a part of the political landscape and up to no good. To believe otherwise would be naive. The defeated South didn’t roll over at the end of the Civil War. Nor did the anti-New-Dealers in the 1930s. And by the late 60s, a right wing backlash came quick on the heels of the civil rights revolution. In our time, the election of the first African American president triggered fierce opposition.
Thus, the democratic and progressive coalition that powered the victory would have to remain engaged and mobilized not only to bend the needle in a progressive and social democratic direction, but also to keep the right at bay. While differences over the scope and pace of reform would inevitably surface, the accent across the Democratic Party and democratic coalition should still remain on unity and united action. Any idea that the various currents in the Democratic Party and the democratic coalition should turn into warring factions on the day after the elections with each one vying for dominance over the other would amount to a self inflicted wound, while providing space for a revival of a defeated Republican Party and white nationalist authoritarianism.
Vote – Urge others to Vote – Make calls to Battleground States – Demand a full Count of the Vote – Be ready to March