I’ve been feeling this strange sensation.
It started on Wednesday morning, and it is not at all unpleasant. I feel warmth for my fellow citizens to the south. And, weirdly, less dread about the future of the entire country. In place of leaden despair, there is something lighter.
Wait. Could this be . . . hope?
It’s been a while, but still, I’m pretty sure this is what it used to feel like: The sense that every single thing is not, in fact, going to hell. That, at least sometimes, basic standards of decency will prevail. That, even in the unlikeliest places, enough voters still exist to reject those who say and do awful things.
Can we start with Kentucky? In that deep red state, voters delivered a spectacular, if narrow, victory to Democrat Andy Beshear over incumbent governor and Donald Trump fanboy Matt Bevin on Tuesday. Bevin isn’t likely to concede any time soon, and it looks like Republican lawmakers will try to keep him in the corner office by whatever means they can conjure. But his loss has got to smart if you’re a Trump cultist in that part of the world.
The president, who won the state by 30 points in 2016, begged voters at a Monday rally to reelect Bevin, who had said and done so many offensive and nutty things that it was easy to see why he and Trump were buds.
“If you lose, they’re going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world,” Trump told rally-goers. “You can’t let that happen to me!”
Oof! They let it happen to him. Like being booed at a baseball game and at an UFC fight, that has got to sting. You have to think that Bevin’s loss — especially among suburban voters — will sow a little fear in Trumpland: Why, perhaps even soulless Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell — also of Kentucky — is rethinking his blind fealty to his president, or at least losing a little sleep.
Then again, nah. Mitch is a man without honor, and Bevin’s loss was mostly about Bevin.
For heartening change that will stick, look to Virginia, where voters delivered Democratic majorities in both chambers of state government, revealing a commonwealth that is now reliably blue, and good with women candidates, who made many of the gains.
With Democratic majorities, Virginia can now make serious progress: Legislators can undo Republican gerrymandering (imagine, the party that wins a majority of votes winning a majority of seats!), raise the minimum wage, enact gun safety laws, and even force a national discussion of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would enshrine equal protections for women in the US Constitution. Delightful!
Closer to home, where we’re spoiled for good news, there was plenty of it on Tuesday night. Jasiel Correia is leaving the mayor’s office in Fall River: It seems that enough voters there finally see that he didn’t have their best interests at heart. A truckload of federal indictments for fraud and corruption might have been the tip-off there.
And in Boston, voters elected a City Council dominated by women, progressives, and people of color — many of them big thinkers with powerful ambitions for themselves and the city. It’s no less than residents of this majority-minority city — and its pressing problems — deserve.
Such progress warms the heart. Why, it almost makes one optimistic about the future.
Until reality intrudes to crush the election’s sugar rush. Nobody with my inbox could stay hopeful for long, anyway. After all, Trump is still president, the man and his cruel policies enabled by a GOP that appears determined to look the other way, even as evidence piles up of impeachable offenses.
Worse, as a New York Times poll earlier this week revealed, he might yet win reelection because, though he trails in national polls, Trump is still formidable in the battleground states that carried him to Electoral College victory in 2016. And, worse still, there remain plenty of voters — even among those inclined to choose a Democrat for president — who are turned off by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren solely because she’s a woman. Female presidential candidates are “super unlikable,” one respondent said. In 2019.
Ah, there is that familiar leaden thing again.
Hello darkness, my old friend.