Living in Society

Being an American

Lilac blooming on Oct. 24, 2020 after the hard frost.

Like many Americans I’m ready to move on from politics for a while. The almost four years of Donald J. Trump have been exhausting on so many levels. I find no comfort in saying I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“What truly matters is not which party controls our government,” Trump said at his inaugural address. “But whether our government is controlled by the people.”

It appears the people will take ownership of our government during voting that ends on Nov. 3. Having lived through 2016 I’m not ready to stop working to turn out Democrats. With the restrictions on gathering imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, none of my usual get out the vote behaviors are available this cycle. Instead I volunteered to be an election day poll observer in our precinct.

Trump referred to “American carnage” in the inaugural address. What we didn’t know or understand was he would devastate the economy, our government, and society more generally, thereby creating his own brand of carnage, the likes of which there is little living memory. The nation roils under Trump and not in a constructive way. It has been turbulence to little purpose, annoying and irritating. Republicans took advantage of our sense of fair play and did what they pleased with scant restraint.

The raw exercise of power by Republicans has been appalling no more so than during the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Justice. A final vote on her appointment is expected later today. The 30-day confirmation process from nomination to today’s certain appointment demonstrates Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can get things done if he wants. He doesn’t favor doing anything meaningful for regular Americans like me, so bills passed by the House of Representatives languish in the U.S. Senate. This has been McConnell’s MO since President Obama took office in 2009. He’s up for reelection this year and seems likely to be returned to office.

Like most Americans I’ll dig out of the cesspool created by Republicans since the 2000 election. It’s what Americans do. If Trump and Republicans win next Tuesday there will be one journey. If Biden and Democrats win, another. Yet the vehicle on which I’m traveling has many good, righteous and progressive ideas.

It’s the green bus of the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who died Oct. 25, 2002, and was eulogized by Senator Tom Harkin. Like Wellstone’s life, Harkin gave us hope. He encouraged us to work for a progressive society and never lose hope — to have the courage of our convictions.

“To me, the most important goal is to live a life consistent with the values I hold dear and to act on what I believe in,” Wellstone wrote in his book The Conscience of a Liberal. Americans have had values, some in darkness, others in light. A majority seems poised to act on them by voting for Joe Biden as president. If the results bear this out we will emerge scarred yet hopeful from recent years with the opportunity for a new American consensus.

What we make of this new opportunity will be up to us.

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