For me and millions of progressives, 11/9 was worse than 9/11, as we awoke—if we slept at all—with a crippling post-election hangover of bewilderment, disillusionment, anger, fear, and grief. While these emotions have continued to cycle through my heart, my mind has been scrambling to make sense of the situation, which by all reasonable estimates is dire.
But it’s not the end of the world … yet. At least, that’s what I need to believe in order to get out of bed in the morning. In fact, I need a reason—a host of reasons—to remain somewhat optimistic in the face of dystopia, so I set about looking for them.
Chances are, you’ve already seen many of these points made on Facebook and elsewhere, but I thought it might be helpful to compile them all into one list.
Final caveats: I began this exercise before we started learning about Trump’s cabinet appointees, who seem to confirm the worst fears about a Trump presidency. There are some legitimate causes for deep concern, and there is plenty of room for continued grief and anger. Meanwhile, it may help to bear the following things in mind:
1) Trump’s win is not a mandate. Nearly half of all eligible voters in the US did not vote in this election, and among those who did, less than half of those voted for the orange menace. Hillary won the popular vote by around 2 million votes and more than one percentage point. PS: Fuck the electoral college.
2) Trump was not elected dictator. As far as I know, we still have a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, checks and balances, and laws to prevent people from doing horrible things to each other. Trump can’t just wave his wand of hatred and suddenly eliminate America’s founding principles. There are processes to go through, and wherever our rights are in jeopardy, there will be fierce resistance, from both within the system and without.
3) The election wasn’t a total wash. Democrats, although still a minority in Congress, gained seats in the House and Senate. Recreational pot smoking is now legal in four more US states — Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and California — and four other states just legalized medical marijuana: Montana, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Florida. California and Maine voted to raise income tax rates for the wealthy, and stricter gun control laws were passed in Washington, Nevada, and California. Rock on, California!
4) Trump’s victory represents a rejection of Establishment politics. This may be the main point of agreement for those of us who supported Bernie in the primaries. Bigotry and sexism aside, Trump’s campaign was a big middle finger to politics-as-usual, Washington insiders, elitism, cronyism, corruption, and neoliberal trade deals. Whatever the eventual effects may be, the people voted for change.
5) Not all of Trump’s policies are horrible. Trump has been harshly critical of the Iraq War and of American interventionism in general. He is against NAFTA and the TPP, the latter of which may now be dead in the water. He has voiced support for easing student debt and helping single mothers. Politically, the guy is all over the place, and besides, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
6) The Left will be more mobilized under Trump. Under Democratic Presidents, progressives tend to settle into relative complacency. But with fascism breathing down our necks, we will be more organized, more vigilant, more active, more united. The protests that we’ve been seeing throughout the country will continue in different forms, while writers, musicians, and artists will likely feel inspired to step up their game.
7) America’s shadow is now on full display. From a psychological standpoint, healing cannot begin without first confronting the shadow in all its ugliness. Now there’s no denying—though some will persist—that the US has a long way to go toward eradicating the bigotry and sexism that runs through our history and our communities. For those who’ve known it all along, there is greater understanding of how deep and widespread these problems really are.
8) The USA is still getting more colorful. In the years ahead, we will continue to see more skin colors and more rainbow flags in America. People are coming in, people are coming out, and most of these folks are voting blue. There is no doubt that the now-alt-right GOP will try to stem the tide of immigration, deport people, and further curtail voting rights, but ultimately they are fighting a losing battle.
9) There are political bright spots on the horizon. Undoubtedly, progressives will be motivated to make a big showing in the 2018 mid-term elections. Meanwhile, progressives like Bernie Sanders (who hasn’t ruled out a Presidential run in 2020), Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, and others will be there in Congress to filibuster and raise a stink when the GOP tries to overstep its bounds.
10) No matter what happens, we still have love. And music. And art. And humor. And our spiritual practices. Nobody can take away the compassionate warrior spirit that will keep fighting for tolerance, inclusion, equality, justice, and for the preservation of life on this beautiful planet. As a Zen saying goes, “You can crush the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring.”