Fasten Your Seatbelts, Progressives, It's Going to Be a Bumpy Night

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Fasten Your Seatbelts, Progressives, It's Going to Be a Bumpy Night

At the end of this week, Donna Smith writes, "Are you with me?  Justice or bust."

After of a week like this one during which a sexist, racist, white, male 70-year-old was elevated to the presidency, progressives cannot shrink from our responsibility to rise loudly and clearly in opposition to this very real threat.  I have noticed this week that some of the white men around me seem emboldened to lecture me on the meaning of this week's election outcome.  Please spare me the benefit of your assessment of how I should see this moment in the life of my country.  Donald Trump's election does not give you my permission to devalue me, dishonor me or disrespect me or underestimate my intelligence or resolve.  My assessment of this election is valid.  And my assessment of its importance for my nation and the world is valid.  

I was not a Hillary Clinton supporter during the Democratic Primary season.  I supported Bernie Sanders.  And I did so because of Bernie stood with me and my organization, Progressive Democrats of America on the issues that matter to us -- the climate emergency, improved Medicare for all healthcare coverage, and beyond.  When Bernie told us that we needed to do all that we could do to prevent a right-wing, ultra conservative from winning the White House, and he saw Donald Trump as a dangerous man who needed to be blocked from ever becoming the president.  Because I knew and know Bernie Sanders to be an honorable, straight-shooting, intelligent United States Senator, I trusted his counsel. Many people opposed me because I continued to stand with Bernie.  

PDA had a pretty strong election night.  54% of our endorsed candidates won, including the incredible Nanette Barragan in California's 44th Congressional District.  PDA stood with Nanette in large part because she stood with us on the climate emergency and our other issues.  Many other Democrats backed her opponent, but we knew she was the most progressive candidate in the race so we were willing to challenge other Democrats.  I am proud to lead an organization that stands unafraid for what we believe.  Our other PDA endorsed candidates made us so proud, win or lose.  From Tulsi Gabbard in Hawaii to Barbara Lee in California, PDA has a track record of backing strong progressive women, and that will continue.  Because we now enjoy several brand new chapters of Young Progressives Demanding Action, YPDA, under the PDA banner on college campuses across the country, we expect an entirely new crop of progressive young women to rise boldly into their own.  So we had much to celebrate, as women and men who respect women, on November 8, 2016, and we will hold our elected endorsees to high standards in their offices.  

But this week was also one of terrible pain.  The election of Donald Trump marked one of the worst nights and day after in my life.  As a woman devoted to political engagement since I was a very young girl, only the day Bobby Kennedy was killed hit me with the same sweeping sense of gut-wrenching loss.  Donald Trump expressed so much hatred for people with his own words that it has been an embarrassment, but he has demonstrated over and over again that he is horribly, dangerously sexist.  And many millions of people like his view of this world and his view of women.  Knowing that, internalizing that was devastating to me.  When I woke up Wednesday morning, I was physically ill.  It was the same sort of feeling you have when you fall asleep after some awful life event or death close to you and then wake up and try hard to convince yourself it isn't really true -- that didn't really happen.  Then, in an awful moment of realization, you know the horror is real.  That was my Wednesday.  I cried off and on.  I sat in the shower and let the water run over me for half an hour while I sobbed.  I shook with fear and anger.  I gagged.  The news droned on in the background, I couldn't tolerate hearing one more moment of faux surprise from the mainstream media that elevated this horrific man (who hates me and millions of women like me so much) to the presidency.  I felt like I shouldn't go anywhere as I suddenly feared people around me were just like Trump.  That was so hurtful to ponder.

But once Thursday dawned, even though it still seemed surreal, I could feel my fight rising again.  Only my fight feels smarter, stronger now than it was on Monday, November 7, 2016.  I listened to a very ill-informed and insensitive person celebrate the impending demise of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare as a real victory.  That's nonsense and inhumane.  The ACA is flawed and terribly so, but there is no victory for any serious progressive in seeing millions and millions of people lose their health coverage, including people like me over 55 who will be unable to afford coverage under the Trump-Ryan plan. We will now need to fully mobilize that strong majority of the American people who support an improved Medicare for all system as the only viable replacement, and we will need to stop the Trump regime from repealing the ACA until seamless transition into that Medicare for all program can be guaranteed.  It is unacceptable to experiment with the health and the lives of millions of people.  And if that happens by way of the crazy, complex, sexist plans Trump and his puppeteer Paul Ryan are setting in place, we must stand ready to resist. To do otherwise would be un-American.  Resist or die.  Some of the changes coming through the fascist Trump-Pence regime are that immediately life-threatening.

So, it is the weekend of an awful and historic week.  I will work diligently to demand that other Progressives do what Bernie charged us to do all the way along -- think big.  And the biggest thing I can think about tonight is to believe in my country and myself enough to know I am a part of history unfolding again as I was as that vulnerable, young girl in June 1968, who couldn't believe so many people hated so deeply that they would kill Bobby Kennedy to extinguish his human and civil rights agenda.  And by today I had come to embrace the words that carried me through dark days in 1968.  This slogan that Kennedy used during his 1968 presidential campaign authored by George Bernard Shaw was written on a poster next to my bed , "Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why.'  Other men dream things that never were and ask, 'Why not'."  Well, fast forward to 2016, and this woman still dreams and intend to demand to know, "Why not."  Are you with me?  Justice or bust.

Donna Smith

Donna Smith
Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.  PDA's mission is to strengthen the voice of progressive ideas inside and outside the Democratic Party by using "inside/outside" and "grassroots fusion" models of working both in the Democratic Party as well as working with other progressive organizations both inside and outside the Party.

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