The Present Crisis

The Present Crisis

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often quoted the 19th century poet and diplomat James Russell Lowell whose noted work, The Present Crisis, included the following, “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide. In the strife of truth and falsehood, for the good or evil side . . .” 

For many Americans like me, this year’s midterm was indicative of just such a moment in this nation’s history. Encouragingly, based on the unprecedented level of participation, millions of my fellow Americans felt the same. 

Young and old, male and female, gay and straight, Americans of all ethnicities and religious persuasions were invested in a collective quest for change. Democrats, Independents and even some Republicans who strayed from loyalty to their party and voted for what they believed is “right” against the “right” leaning, nationalist inclinations of the nation’s Republican leadership.    

To say this year’s election was a fight for the soul of America was an understatement for many of us. So, when reports showed the remarkable increase in voter registration nationwide, I was hopeful. More recently as reports of an increase in early voting—both by mail and in person—began to blow through historical norms, I was buoyed and even more encouraged. 

Across the country young people registered and voted in numbers that raised expectations of the most hopeful among us. Minority voters of all colors appeared to step-up and voted in numbers beyond traditional expectations. 

This election many Americans took a stand against vitriol and hatred, against separation and discrimination, against homophobia, xenophobia and nationalism. They voted for the future of this country, for their futures and the futures of their progeny—they voted for the best in a nation still striving to become that “more perfect union.” 

Across the country, whether faced with voter suppression, long lines, bad weather or all the above, voters came out in unprecedented numbers determined to make a difference. They were resolute and, in many instances, waited willingly, patiently and enthusiastically to cast their ballots, to exercise the sacred ritual for which so many through the centuries fought, bled and died to secure—a privilege we make worthy of their sacrifice by voting.  

Successful maneuvering by Republicans when they took control in many states in 2010, and then gerrymandered house districts in the wake of that year’s census, helped secure Republican control of the U. S. House of Representatives for most of this decade—that changed on Tuesday. 

However, the election also bought disappointment. Despite heroic campaigns by Democratic Senate candidates, Republicans maintained control of the Senate. The Democrats’ overwhelming turnout this election was met with equal turnout by Republicans. As a result, efforts to shift the paradigm in several gubernatorial races and some senate races fell short of expectations.   

Since taking office, President Trump has fed Americans a constant diet of dangerous and unmitigated lies. Americans, fed-up with the lies, race baiting and misogyny, fought hard to change course. 

As polls closed across the country Tuesday evening and results rolled slowly in, it became clear the president’s penchant for lying would be marginally tempered as a result of Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives. Under Democratic leadership, the House can truly begin an earnest investigation into what happened in the 2016 election and everything associated with it.   

Also, in a repudiation of the president’s demonstrated misogyny, it was also a victorious night for women, as more than 100 were elected across the country.  

In addition, Democrats gained control of several state houses. This bodes well for potentially correcting some of the gerrymandering that occurred in 2010, when the new census is taken in 2020 and districts are redrawn. 

However, the election also proved an unnerving reality. Trump is not influencing the hearts and minds of those who support his nationalist agenda—instead, Trump actually reflects the attitudes and beliefs of those who put him in power and helped him sustain much of it on Tuesday. Many of the candidates the president campaigned for with words dripping in hatred and white supremacy, won. As a result, it is easy to predict the racism and intolerance he professed on the campaign trail will continue and possibly escalate. 

The election was just the beginning. The journey to a more perfect union in the age of Trump will continue to be a long and arduous trek, fraught with challenges for most and tinged with dangers for far too many. Yet, I must choose to look at the election results as a glass half-full.    

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real. 

S.E. Williams

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