Columnist Joe Gannon: ‘We are all progressives now’

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, and D-N.Y., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., center, walk down the House steps to take a group photograph of the House Democratic women members of the 116th Congress on the East Front Capitol Plaza on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, as the 116th Congress begins. Also pictured is Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., right. AP PHOTO/Andrew Harnik

Published: 1/14/2019 9:16:49 AM

It’s been a long time coming, my friends, but a change is gonna come. Is coming.

And it is time to let optimism return triumphant.

America is on the brink of a new political era — not of its post-Trump era, but of its post-“Reagan Revolution” era. The last 40 years of the conservative juggernaut that sought to remake America in its image is coming to an end.

And this is happening now, not in spite of the Trump presidency, but because of it. Indeed, Trump may yet turn out to be good for America, the same way an emetic, or even a laxative, can clean out the poison. Trump may yet turn out to be the Rx that cures us of what has ailed us these many decades — a kind of existential apathy. 

We had become accustomed to merely voting for “our guy or gal” and going home. Politics in many ways had become a spectator sport for many. 

But no more! In the midst of Trump tempest battering our nation, we are more attuned to racist behavior, predatory patriarchs and lying politicians than ever! A full-scale, white-nationalist, xenophobic invasion was launched in 2016 — and look around. We not only withstood it, the nation has responded with a decided shift towards progressivism, and a casting off of any notion that we just want to go back to the way it was.

We can never go back there, and it is clear we are not surrendering to Trump’s dystopian vision.

It seems ages ago, but I recall well that night in November 2016 when all the optimism drained out me like I’d opened an artery in my soul. But no more! I enter 2019 full of optimism! And if you don’t, my friend, you maybe are not seeing the big picture.

A brief recap: Our current political crisis is  the direct result of the “Reagan Revolution,” which shifted this country from the center-left nation it had been since President Roosevelt and the Depression to a center-right one, increasingly dominated by the GOP right wing. A fact cemented by Trump’s election in 2016 — as Trump was not an aberration, but the inevitable outcome of the GOP experiment in extremist politics.

At the same time, the Dems pretty much folded their own hand and followed along as best they could while the GOP degraded our ability to govern and devoted our resources to tax cuts for the rich.

But it is time to feel optimistic again! The Democrats have taken back the House and are governing while Trump’s Crazy Train careens down the track. They have introduced HR 1, an anti-corruption bill that, among other things, seeks to establish nationwide automatic voter registration; promote online voter registration; end partisan gerrymandering; increase oversight of lobbyists; require the disclosure of presidential tax returns; and strengthen disclosure of campaign donations. The Dems also plan to introduce a bill repairing the Voting Rights Act.

Which is to say the Dems are hitting the ground running! On climate change, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her freshman class have made clear that the Dems will not simply be re-establishing a committee to “study” climate change, but rather are taking action to do something about it.

If the House Dems also pass a major infrastructure bill, the Dems will be accomplishing one of the two essential task they have to win in 2020 and beyond. First, govern: Pass the laws and changes people want. Second, let the committees joyously do their investigative work to further unravel and unnerve Trump with a storm of subpoenas.

I once thought those who saw salvation only in the president being impeached or perp-walked out of the White House were the pessimists. I was certain the only way to win was to beat Trump electorally. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter. Progressives have such a head of steam coming out of the midterms, I am now certain we can beat Trump/Pence or Pence/Whoever in 2020. (But what the country needs is for us to trounce Trump.)

The worm is turning, the snake shedding its skin, the great bird molting. So yes, yes! Look up! Look up from the scummy sidewalk of our political rhetoric, look up from the cracked accordioned, asphalt of our social contract. Look up! 

A change is coming. 

There is, of course, risk in this fight. We did lose in 2016, after all. But it is the fight this country needs, and the risk of losing outweighs the risk of not trying. The Dems and liberals did that in 2016, going with Hillary Clinton and the safe road. The establishment Dems may want to try that again, but the rest of us will not allow it. We are now the tail that wags the dog.

We are all progressives now, and the Biden/Booker/Clinton wing of the party had better be listening when we bark.

Joe Gannon, author and teacher, lives in Northampton. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.



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