Hope. It’s a hard thing to come by, for me, when it comes to the federal government.
The election of 2016 was traumatic. My wife and I watched, horrified, as the candidate we thought not even Republicans were crazy enough to pick won first the primary, and then the general election.
Well, “won.” He lost the popular vote by 3 million, and still walked away with the keys to the White House, because of our country’s old, undemocratic way of electing Presidents.
It was so unnerving, when it happened, that we decided not to go home.
We were living in Arkansas at the time, having moved to nurse my wife’s mother back to health after she suffered a cardiovascular incident. It was our first time living in my wife’s home state in seven years, and in that time, the state we remembered as slightly behind the times but neighborly had curdled into a paranoid, xenophobic place.
Bad enough having to live there at all. Living there while their white nationalist leader commanded the federal government? While they crowed about his “achievements” dismantling the legacy of eight years of Obama’s government? While they felt entitled to air out their racism and sexism with impunity, with pride, even, because their man was in the White House?
We couldn’t do it.
So we lived on the East Coast that winter, crashing with friends — amazing friends, to put up with us for so long — and moved back to California, renting an apartment sight unseen. We drove cross-country, stopped in Arkansas just long enough to pack, and then moved on.
Now, after four years of Trump’s chaos, his rage and his incompetence, we’ve another election looming. And that same fear is back, that he’ll win again, and our country, which has never been innocent, but has at times fought against its darker impulses, will instead succumb to them.
So Lichtman’s theory of presidential elections — that the campaign doesn’t matter, that the candidates themselves almost don’t matter, only the past four years of governing do — gives me hope. Because after four years in power, the GOP has lost seven (!) of his thirteen “keys” to the White House, and you only need to lose six to lose the election.
Which means I can ignore the polls. I can tune out — to some extent — the campaign itself. I can focus on voting, on helping others to vote, and preventing election fraud.
And I can hope.