Good countries sometimes make bad mistakes. Great nations correct their mistakes quickly.
Tuesday’s election night results in Virginia, New Jersey, Washington State, New Hampshire and Maryland are the strongest evidence yet that America is returning its true self.
Like shoots of green sprouting up after a devastating forest fire, Democrats running for state and local offices have been winning elections all over the United States. Ever since that fateful day Trump succeeded in capturing the White House — in special election after special election — Democrats have been winning singularly unnoticed contests in states as far away from each other as Delaware, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and Iowa.
Those singular elections never made it above the fold in national newspapers, but each of these candidates shared a common message. These successful candidates had the courage to call forward the goodness within their neighbors as Americans. Against the dark canvas of Trumpism, they offered a more generous, connected, inclusive message of opportunity for all, and emphasized the importance of work, family, and the dignity of every individual.
In sharp contrast to a parade of horrible that is the daily White House newsfeed, these candidates called on their neighbors to affirm the truth that we are all in this together, that we need each other, that we have to help each other and listen to each other.
And most of them won by much wider margins than anyone on the ground might have predicted the day before their elections.
On Tuesday, this subtle resurgence — once hidden from national view — became very apparent.
Almost one year to the date of our national detour into the gutter politics of white supremacy, scapegoating and worse, We The People turned out in record numbers to embrace the politics of a higher purpose.
In Virginia, Ralph Northam defeated a Republican opponent who showed no shame or decency when it came to fomenting white supremacist hate and ethnic fears. In New Jersey, Phil Murphy handily defeated his Republican opponent bringing an end to eight years of Chris Christie’s remarkably ineffective and mean-spirited governorship. And while these governor’s races were the big news of the night, there were other races, less noticed, but as a whole stunningly significant.
In state legislative races in both New Jersey and Virginia, Democrats flipped entrenched Republican seats to restore a real balance of power in state houses. In a special election in Washington State, Manka Dinghra overcame millions of dollars of scurrilous attack ads to not only win a State Senate race, but her single victory switched the Senate control from Republican to Democratic.
All politics is local. We must win back our states if we are going to restore trust in The United States. And cities have a vital role to play as well.
Democrats won Mayor’s races against incumbent (or former incumbent) Republican opponents in very different cities: Rick Kriseman’s mayoral victory in St. Petersburg, Florida; Joyce Craig’s mayoral victory in Manchester, New Hampshire; Mike O’Connor’s mayoral victory in Frederick, Maryland; and Gavin Buckley’s mayoral win in the Capital City of Annapolis, Maryland.
Over the course of this exhausting, and at times heartbreaking, year, many Americans have been looking forward, not back. Searching for the opportunity to do the next good thing we can for our country. For my part, I have traveled to 20 different states to support those men and women who have answered the sacred call of public service by running for office themselves. We need more good people to answer that call, and more good people to support them.
Last night I stood with my neighbors in Maryland listening to the words of our newly elected Mayor of Annapolis, Gavin Buckley. The citizens who had gathered after a long rainy day at the polls represented the diversity that is our strength as Americans. They were black, white, and Latino. Young and old. People of every Faith.
When Mayor-elect Buckley spoke, his thick Australian accent was strong and clear. The fact that he was a New American immigrant to our country, was something his opponents attacked. He never tried to hide it. In fact, he did radio ads in his own voice even as postcard mailers tried to mock him as ”Crocodile Dundee” — a foreigner, someone not like us.
His message was the message so many Americans are longing to hear: We are good people. We all want the same thing for our children and for this country we love. We must face our problems together with honesty, compassion and humility. We must repair the bonds between us. And we must heal the Earth upon which all of our grandchildren’s lives depend. We are not victims. We are Americans and “we make our own events, not time or chance.”
Gavin Buckley never mentioned Donald Trump. He didn’t have to. He talked about us. He talked about what we can achieve together. And he won.
You see, there is a goodness within us as Americans, and it cannot be eclipsed for long.
All over the country, new leaders are rising up to call that goodness forward.
Our challenges are new, the Constitutional crisis we face is unprecedented, but the timeless values that unite us are stronger than anything that divides us. Citizenship. Solidarity. Duty to one another and to the next generation. Love of family and country. Faith in our ideals. Truth about ourselves.
Next year, 36 governors offices and state legislatures are up for election all across our country.
Take heart, America. We are a nation of second chances. In our national story, there is always a “yet.”
And darkness makes a great canvas.