About a month ago, I declared that nothing short of a direct massive meteor impact could prevent a Clinton presidency. So much for that prediction.
I just watched Hillary Clinton give her concession speech. Now, I was still in shock — still am, really — but something she said reached through that shell and touched me, and I want to share it. Here’s a quote:
“Our campaign was never about one person, or even one election. It was about the country we love and building an America that is hopeful, inclusive, and big-hearted. We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead…
Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear…”
She said a lot more than this, and if you go to the link above you can read a transcript. It’s worth the time; it’s a great speech. But this is the part I want to talk about.
Last night, CNN reported on a poll. Regardless of who won the election, 21% of the population said they’d be “Concerned”, and 37% “Scared”. Those people are concerned and scared today. They’re us, you and me.
But I’m still optimistic. Want to know why? Because, as she said, democracy isn’t something we practice once every four years. It’s something we get out and do every day.
America is wonderful because here we have the very real opportunity to get involved in government — not by voting every now and then, but constantly. Every single day we can make a difference in how things are run.
Most government isn’t done at the Federal level, but locally. We all live somewhere, and that place has some sort of representation. I grew up in a place with town councilors and town meetings, and now I live where there’s a local community administration board. The school board meets regularly, and their deliberations are open to the public. Even our charities and churches have meetings — and most of us don’t bother to go. We should. What’s more, if we have strong opinions, we should stand for office.
Whatever your state, it has a legislature of some sort. It’s peopled by locals, everyday folks, just like you and me, most often drawn from the ranks of those who served on school boards and went to the town meetings. And these legislatures pass most of the laws that control how we live, including how that state chooses and directs its electors. This is the most fundamental control on the way our president is elected.
Think about that for a moment: If you want to have an influence on the next election, the state legislature is the best way to do it.
The newly elected congress will convene in January, and it will consider new laws and measures. Everything from tax rates to the new healthcare laws will be debated in seemingly endless committee meetings. And, while that’s happening, you have a recourse: You can write letters to your representative, expressing your opinion. These people live and die by public opinion; their future employment prospects rely on your approval. So if you feel strongly, write your congressman — send an email, a letter, a telegram. They read them all, and today is not too soon to start.
If there’s anything that really concerns you, you’ve got the same right to protest as anyone else. You can get out there and march and carry a sign and hand out leaflets; your local party headquarters can direct you if you don’t know where to go. Spend an evening after work, or a Saturday, or actually take a day off. It’s a good gauge of your feeling; if you don’t care enough to protest, you don’t really care all that much.
But all this is policy, and that’s not what makes our country great. Whenever there’s a big election or a public outcry, we lose sight of what we can do where we live to improve life for ourselves and for our neighbors, for the people around us. There’s a mess on the sidewalk? Don’t wait for the city to send someone; go out and clean it yourself. Broken streetlights they never fix? Install some security lighting. Go volunteer at a community center, or get involved at your local church or Kiwanis or Rotary or Elks Club. Find a way to do your part.
Bottom line is, if you don’t like the way things are, fix them.
This election is not the end. Congress will still need replacing in two years, and the president perhaps in four. And in the mean while, we can still make a difference.
So we will help our neighbors, we’ll work to promote the rule of law, and when we don’t like that law we’ll write those letters and emails and telegrams to our representatives. We can volunteer, and serve on boards, and work to improve our world wherever we can. And every year, when there’s a ballot, we learn about it in advance and then we vote in November.
And, because I know you’re going to do all this, I’m optimistic about the future of our country. It’s great, and it’ll continue to be great because we’ll work to keep it that way.