More Like a Storm Surge: This news has been out for a bit, but we haven’t had the chance to really dissect it yet. The long and short of it is that there’s a record number of Democrats signing up to challenge incumbents in 2018. Like, a ridiculously large amount. As in, there are 267% more Democrats officially running for office now than there were Republicans running in 2009, which is the best year the Republicans have had in recent memory. On average, Democrats field 43-or-so candidates for federal office each cycle. They’ve currently got two hundred and nine.
Numbers like these keep my spirit afloat. Seriously, they do. It makes me think of an immune response, to be honest; a body’s white blood cells rising to fight an infection. Between the number of candidates who’ve signed up thus far, and the amount of civic activism with groups like Indivisible, Black Lives Matter, and the Democratic Socialists of America, just to name a few- it makes me believe that the people in this nation are finally politically engaged en masse, and that this engagement will ultimately defeat the nationalist forces currently set against us.
The Flotilla and the Yacht: If you’ll suffer through my water-themed metaphors a little longer, I think its important to point out that in order for the Left to successfully push back against the Alt-Right, we have to draw our strength from the masses that make up our movement (the Flotilla) and not from a handful of high-profile individuals (the Yachts). If those high-profile people champion our causes, all the better, but we have to remember that our power is our own, not theirs; change will come from us, not them. I think this is a key point to make, because its so easy to get caught up in cults of personality and descend into pointless tribal bickering. This is human nature to begin with, but its even easier than normal now- its easy to look for a singular hero to save us from (what we often see as) a singular villain.
But Trump isn’t the “final boss” of this fight. Even if he’s impeached and thrown in jail, the conditions that brought him into power still remain.
Only We Can Save Us: As we look for heroes, we tend to look for battles to stage them in. Recently this drive has revolved around the 2020 Presidential election, and who will be running against Trump*. Big Democratic names like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have been tossed about, and Bernie Sanders himself has refused to rule out a run. Like clockwork, you can already see the Sanders/Harris camps tearing each other apart, each side claiming moral superiority and hegemony of the Soul of the True Left.
Both groups are missing the point entirely.
First of all, why are we even having this fight in 2017? Its something like 13% of the way through Trump’s term. We have more pressing concerns than who’s going to be who’s candidate in three years. Secondly, when we do pick someone as our nominee, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to a paltry selection of two or three sitting Senators. Sure, having previous elected experience would help a nominee understand the workings of government, but I would never say that this is the most important qualification that a potential President has. What should matter more is vision, strength of character and past works- even if a candidate has no previous governmental experience, I’d be willing to hit the pavement for them if they’ve spent years working to improve the lives of others.
Chrissakes, Bernie’s freakin’ motto was Not Me, Us! Yes, he’s an inspiring individual! Yes, he is a central figure in our current chapter of history! But the greatest thing he was able to accomplish was to get more of us involved, and the things we will do will be greater still than anything he alone could do.
(*: Yes, we should fully expect Trump to still be President in 2020.)
Don’t Fall For It: There are many forces seeking to play up our disagreements. And this isn’t to say that there aren’t extremely valid criticisms of the Big Names currently being tossed about; there are, but by getting into these arguments now we detract from the fights that need to be fought today and tomorrow.
There will be plenty of time to kick one another’s ass over this stuff in two years. By then, hopefully we’ll see more leadership and candidacy from our groundswell of civic activists, instead of relying on one or two famous people to carry our banner forward. But if we want that better future, we have to make the choices that help bring it about.