In this time when the news from Washington, DC seems to darken every day, each sign of hope is much more precious. Because, despite the heavy-handed and callous policies coming out of the White House, there are bright spots on the political landscape. These signs give us reason for hope, but they also point out ways that Democrats and others opposing Trump’s agenda must respond to the challenges we face. To effectively resist the forces that threaten our democracy, we must learn to reach across cultural, ethnic, and racial lines to work together toward common goals, respecting the differences that we have but also recognizing that these differences should not stop us from working together the common goal of constructing a society that is more fair, democratic, and open to all.
In the New York Times on May 14, for example, Wajahit Ali asked forthrightly, “Do Muslims Have to Be Democrats Now?” While Ali recognizes the value of the Democrats as allies of Muslims in this country, he also points out potential friction points. He perceives that Democrats often are identified as being uncomfortable with expressions of religious faith. And too many Democrats – like most Americans – are simply unfamiliar with Islam, and wary of Muslims. While Donald Trump effectively made political hay out of vilifying the entire religion of Islam, Democrats should stand clearly and unabashedly in defense of the freedom of worship for all Americans, recognizing the place of religion in so many people’s lives.
The next day, two other pieces caught my eye. In the Politico, a piece by Nolan D. McCaskill examined the results of a Gallup poll about marriage. The poll found that 64 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. This is a three percent increase over last year, the same year when the United States elected a president who, while his own personal beliefs were murky at best, was loudly backed by fundamentalist Christians who staunchly opposed same-sex marriage. So, while the forces of conservatism appeared to be successful at seizing power in both chambers of Congress and the White House, the ideology with which they are largely identified is becoming steadily less popular with the American people.
Finally, also on May 15, a New York Times article headlined “Young Black Democrats, Eager to Lead from the Left, Eye Runs in 2018” described the growing numbers of African-Americans who are jumping into the fray, challenging Republicans in difficult races. This is a wonderful sign, and it points to the way forward for the Democratic Party. One paragraph in the article summed up the situation perfectly:
“By moving swiftly into the most contentious midterm races, these candidates aim to cement their party in forceful opposition to Mr. Trump and to align it unswervingly with minority communities and young people. Rather than muting their differences with the Republican Party in order to compete in states Mr. Trump won, like Georgia and Florida, they aim to make those distinctions starker.”
Democrats should not be Republicans-lite. The Democratic Party must present a real choice, a real difference for voters. The Democratic Party should stand for civil liberties for individuals, religious freedom, racial justice, economic justice, and sound environmental policies. It should stand for transparent and fair election system that is not controlled by corporate donors. It should back candidates who refuse to take orders from Wall Street, Big Pharma, the insurance companies or any of the other big money lobbying groups that have come to dictate so much government policy nowadays. This is the way forward.
So while every new day seems to bring news of a fresh outrage committed by the people holding power in Capitol Hill and the White House, take heart. This period of Republican dominance may come to an end soon if Democrats work together, focus on common goals, and forge an agenda that serves the needs and aspirations of the American people rather than corporate power brokers.