Pardon My Absence

Been holding my breath for a little while…

Image for post

You know, the night before Election Day, I wrote a piece that was just kind of intended as a reminder that in elections, close doesn’t count, and wishes don’t count, and feelings don’t count. Only votes count. That was about the sum of it.

Yet when I opened Medium and went to publish, I was confronted with a cascade of stories about how President Trump was going to win. Which seemed to me like a desperate attempt by a bunch of people who were trying to get in under the wire and on record saying that, so if Trump did win, they could say they predicted it.

And that gave me a funny feeling. Like I didn’t even want to be on the fringes of that. So although I predicted nothing in my piece, I trashed it. Because I felt it was coming from a place that was too rooted in negativity. And started over.

And ended up with “Love Thy Neighbor”, which many of you have read by now. And I’m humbled by people picking up on the sentiment and sharing it. Even when they used it, and me, as an example of someone who had no idea what they were talking about.

In fact, I am humbled by, and grateful to you all. And proud that to cap the 1000 plus stories I’ve written in the past 4 years, I did that last minute switch and wound up presenting what I did on the day of this historic election.

You may remember my conviction that Trump would win in 2016 is what started all this. I discussed that in another piece, which I published about a week before Election Day, in which I did make a prediction. Several in fact. The day after I published it, one of my closest friends contacted me to lambaste me for being “too negative”. But to toot my own horn a little, my contentions turned out to be prescient.

But that’s never been my point. My only objective has always been and will always be to contribute to the conversation in the best way I know how.

As a writer and a journalist, I never take for granted how sacred the right to speak freely is in this country, when it’s so far from being a reality in so many other countries around the world.

Already plenty of things to talk about in the way the election went down. And where this country goes from here. I’m much more interested in talking about the future right now. And all the challenges and all the opportunities. And I’ll get to a lot of that in the coming days and weeks, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, I think the people who are already writing about how those who are feeling victorious, shouldn’t, because this is just the beginning of a fight, not the end—while they’re right—are just being a little mean. We all know that already. No matter how everything shakes out from here, it’s an uphill climb still. Yeah. OK? We can still take a minute or two to just feel good.

At the same time, there are not an insignificant number of people out there who still believe President Trump is the only person who listens to them; who hears them. Not just a few. Or a couple dozen. Or a few thousand. Tens of millions of Americans. Some of them our friends and beloved relatives. Should the people who are victorious this time around write them off as “lost causes” and “losers”? 

No! Doing that would be doing exactly what Trump’s done in the last 4 years, except in the exact opposite direction. And underestimating how angry and mobilized that would make people he dumped on, he just lost.

So how do you start healing that huge divide? So that we don’t keep just going back and forth. One way is to literally start healing. If President-Elect Biden can finally get a comprehensive national strategy together to fight COVID-19, and conquer it, that’d be a good start. Which might also be why that’s where he’s starting. Because people remember that kind of stuff. George W. Bush was re-elected at least in part because people remembered after 9/11, there were no more major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, though no shortage of highly-publicized attempts. Barack Obama was re-elected in part because he went out and got bin Laden, and people remembered that. So start with something that can echo that.

President-elect Biden has promised to work diligently with the Republican Party. But no one in the Republican Party has yet to make a reciprocal pledge. Interestingly, because of weird election laws in Georgia, we won’t know the composition of the U.S. Senate until January. Because two Senate seats were up for grabs there, and both appear to be going to runoffs. 

And already we’re being warned right and left that without a Democratic Party-controlled Senate, a lot of Biden’s agenda will be a lost cause. Especially if Republicans all of a sudden decide to become “fiscally responsible” again, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues his familiar M.O. of doing nothing that by chance might make a Democratic President look good, and instead wait for another Republican one to come along.

But, there are reasons to be optimistic anyway. First of all, having Kamala Harris as the President of the Senate, and thus the deciding vote in the event of a tie, makes a huge difference in itself.

And Democrats and Republicans have worked together in the not-so-distant past. For instance, “Veteran’s Choice”. Trump always falsely takes credit for that program, which was signed into law by President Obama. And each time Trump does, reporters make a point of correcting him, which they should. But what often gets lost is that legislation was originally promoted by John McCain and Bernie Sanders. Together.

Finally, there are Republican Senators like Susan Collins, who is wildly reviled by Democrats, mainly because she sometimes made a show of standing up to Trump, and then didn’t. And unless it was all an act, she also appeared to have been genuinely duped by his act. Several times. At the same time, she won re-election in Maine handily just now. Meaning she’s got the pulse of her constituents. And if there’s something she senses they want, maybe she will come through.

What could that be? Well, perhaps there won’t be the will to roll back Trump’s no-strings-attached tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, passed long before COVID-19. But maybe some Republican Senators could be convinced to require corporations to actually bring jobs back to the U.S. in order to continue to get those tax breaks. Which Trump said he was going to do, but then just didn’t. That’s just one example. Which we’ll have a lot more to say about soon.

For now, all I want to say is thank you.

Thank you for voting. Thank you for participating in a big, significant, moving part of what makes this country great, and provides the building blocks for what can make the U.S. even greater.

Thank you also for your support of this newsletter or blog, depending on how you choose to receive or consume it.

That goes for my friends, who were my main source of support initially, to the thousands of people who’ve joined on as followers since I started publishing my content on Medium. Back at the beginning, there were as many as 8 people working on this project. Now it’s just me. At the same time, I now frequently publish stories that are opened and read by many tens of thousands or sometimes even hundreds of thousands of people.

That also explains why sometimes I use “we” and “us” instead of “I” and “me”. Back when several people might be writing, we wanted to present as one voice, which is why we went with “we” no matter who was writing. More recently I’ve migrated to using “I” more, but sometimes I use “we” just out of habit, and I don’t bother correcting it. Partly because the only people who write to tell me they’re bothered by it are also always bothered by a lot of other things I write. And partly because it’s possible that one day there will again be other contributors…

Finally, I want to apologize for not being more engaged on a daily basis with the people who take the time to email me and comment on my commentaries. Now you know why: it’s just me. And this isn’t my only job. But I value your input, and I really enjoy when people who have left comments start debating each other in the comments section.

Also, I have to admit, there are some people I just like hearing from, who may be among the most supportive, or even some of those who like to tell me I’m full of sh*t. As long as they do it in a humorous way, or a thoughtful way that shows me another perspective.

And that reminds me of one thing I’ve been wondering a lot since the election: how do we get out from behind our hiding places on social media, and start having more in-person dialogue again? Obviously, with COVID-19 still raging, it’s something that can’t really happen now anyway in a big way, but it’s something to start thinking about for when it can.