No period of progress in America has ever come without devastating push-back from the forces of conservatism
The most popular person in American politics was out campaigning for Hillary Clinton this week – and so was her husband.
“Elections aren’t just about who votes,” First Lady Michelle Obama told a crowd at La Salle University’s Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia. “It’s also about who doesn’t vote.”
This echoes a message her husband offered on the Steve Harvey Show.
“If you don’t vote, that’s a vote for Trump,” Obama told the radio host. “If you vote for a third-party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump.”
The Obama’s attempt to sharpen the choice of the election seems seems to have the same goal as Clinton’s honing in on a the more populist elements of economic message during the first debate — namely, energizing Democrats.
Yes, Democrats are less eager to vote this year than Republicans. This was also true in 2012 and we know how that worked out. But the stakes are infinitely higher this time.
“This was not a bad performance,” The New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik wrote about Trump’s performance in Monday night’s debate. “This is a bad man.”
That should have been obvious before Trump bragged about about not paying taxes, congratulated himself for not discriminating against black people anymore and defended calling a 20-year old woman “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” — a slur that revealed his true contempt for the working class, as Harold Pollack explains.
But there is a frisson in this election that make a Trump much more possible than many of us would like to admit. A slight Trump win or a vast Clinton electoral college landslide seem the most likely outcomes, given the closeness of this race and the way the presidential map favors Democrats.
Obviously, the Obamas share my fear that Trump can win — and given the “old fashioned racism” they’ve faced in office, it’s not hard to see why.
America has a fetish for “outsiders” almost equal to the adulation conservatives have nurtured for the rich and the unabashedly “old-fashioned.” And the right also has the physics of progress on its side.
No period of advancement of human rights in America has ever come without a devastating push-back from the forces of conservatism.
The jubilation of abolishing slavery was followed by the maiming of Reconstruction and the terror that followed. The rise of women’s suffrage just happened to occur as Birth of a Nation prompted a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. And the civil rights victories of the 1960s were followed by a conservative reaction of intentional “positive polarization” that used “dog whistles” to divide the nation, creating a new majority through savvy redistricting and gerrymandering.
In the last seven years, we’ve seen revolutions in LGBTQ rights, clean energy and the radical expansion of health coverage. All of this is prologue to us seeking to elect the first woman president the face of the greatest demographic transformation the United States has ever seen.
Those who were born into privileges guaranteed by race and gender sense a threat greater than any economic anxiety — the fear of something lost that cannot ever be regained.
All the has been accomplished with the Obamas in the White House is at stake in 2016 — along with our reproductive rights and everything the government does to fight inequality, possibly even including federal child labor laws, Social Security and Medicare.
[Image of President Obama and the First Lady at the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma via the White House | Flickr]