I’ve been active politically for my entire adult life. I have voted in every Presidential election, usually for the Democratic candidate, and always for a candidate who reflected my hopes and aspirations for the country. Clinton in 1996. Nader in 2000 (in California, for what it’s worth). Kerry in 2004. Obama twice, and finally, in 2016, for Hillary Clinton.
Yet despite, or in part because of my strongly left-leaning political opinions, I have never been a member of the Democratic Party.
That changed today. I filed my change of voter registration with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a few minutes ago. For the first time in my life, I’m a Democrat.
I was, like so many Americans, utterly devastated not only by the election of Donald Trump, but by every disgusting, repugnant strike against moral and civil decency he exhibited along the way this past 16 months. Trump’s election strikes fear into the core of my being, causing me to question basic assumptions about the safety of myself, my family, and fellow citizens.
In the aftermath of his election I struggled to find optimism or meaning in anything. My mind raced to the inevitable worst possible conclusions. Among the consequences I’ve imagined, and in fact dwelled on longer than is healthy, are that we will engage in nuclear war, that we will become a police state, that myself and my family will be persecuted for refusing to support him. I indulged these worries, all the while feeling guilty that my concerns were ultimately selfish, and could not compare to the risks his presidency poses for example to women, religious and ethnic minorities, or members of the LGBTQ community.
In short: I was petrified and hopeless, resigned to allow the fate of our country to be worked out by people in power. “Hopefully the Democrats can do something about this,” I thought.
Today I am embracing optimism for the first time since I sat down to watch election returns on Tuesday evening. Will Trump’s presidency have unthinkable consequences? Is his election a challenge to the very moral fabric of our country? Is it the single worst political event that has ever happened to us? To be honest, I’m not as educated on American history as I wish I were, but I think it very well may be. Still, there is no merit to standing still or rolling over while he drags the nation through the sewage wasteland of his self-gratifying victory lap. I am determined to fight the Trump Presidency, and to remain enthusiastic about that, I need to relocate my lost optimism.
The upcoming event that inspires most hope is the 2018 mid-term election. Mid-term elections are generally considered to be beneficial for the party opposed to the President, and Democrats will find opposition against Trump to be rampant in this country at that time. I believe Trump will motivate liberal voters to put Democrats back in control of at least the Senate, possibly the House as well, and by much greater margins than they would have given another Republican President. Trump is the worst possible choice for President, but the best possible marketing tool for Democrats drumming up support for those races.
Another bit of forced optimism is that Hillary’s defeat, while heartbreaking, will force an internal restructuring of the Democratic party. The lower-than-expected turnout among Democrats, combined with the apparent phenomenon of many Obama voters opting this time to vote for Trump instead, reveals that the Democratic party has lost sight of its natural base. There are far too many “if only” scenarios when looking back at this race, and I won’t begin to claim to understand how things might have worked out if Clinton had not been the Democratic candidate. I will claim, however, that the political priorities of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders resonate with a huge swath of Democratic, or would-be Democratic voters, whose enthusiasm was missing in the 2016 general election, and whose enthusiasm must be rekindled and activated for 2018 and beyond.
That’s why I’m becoming a Democrat. Because the country that I love, and whose deepest values I hold sacred, is threatened both culturally and politically by an alliance of movements that strike at my moral core. The Democratic Party is the single organization most prepared to take on this threat and dispatch it. Until today, I had no authority to take pride in, or to be ashamed of the values of the Democratic Party. I celebrated their gains, and bemoaned their losses, but it wasn’t really my place to speak of how the party should be structured. Now it is, and I’m going to work where I can to ensure that it does reflect my values. And that it … I mean we, do everything possible to ultimately defeat Trump, and everything he stands for. For this country, for my kids, for my family, and for yours. Donald Trump, you’ve messed with the wrong country.