The final day of our 2016 Holland America Mediterranean cruise arrived. It was the Fourth of July, American Independence Day. Fellow countrymen made up about half the passenger manifest, and our celebration became the entire ship’s party over a barbeque dinner al fresco, complete with ribs, corn, baked beans and a sheet cake suitable to the celebration. And lots of red, white and blue.
We’d managed to stay away from the 2016 presidential election news cycle, mostly. Some things were hard to miss. Comey’s confusing non-findings on Hilary’s e-mail. Bernie v Hilary at convention. Trump closing impossibly. Russian meddling, maybe. It was getting ugly. Had we been able to see into the future of now, we might have just booked another cruise, and another, and another.
Instead, we went home and voted. In our married life, we’ve missed only one election, and the town official we supported won by less than five votes. We have not missed another opportunity to make our voices heard.
We were among the many Americans who were deeply disappointed by the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Trump was not our candidate, and his performance as president has only strengthened our resolve to be true to the American ideals that attracted my parents to spend twenty years in the Foreign Service: fairness, equality of opportunity, a free press, a government made accountable to the people. We shouted out in protest that November, joining thousands of others across the country in voicing our opposition: “This is what democracy looks like!”
We have continued to speak and write and engage. Senseless gun violence plagues our country. Schools are underfunded. Our waterways are filled with toxic algae. Low-lying Florida is witnessing the impact of sea level rise.
Citizens continue to fall through the health insurance cracks. Opiods and heroin overdoses are rising.
Two years later, America is approaching the mid-term elections, normally a ho-hum cycle that Americans sleep through. Not this year: the 2018 elections are a referendum on the Trump administration, presenting an opportunity for the Democrats to take over one house in Congress, and the issues that we care about also carry out to our interest in candidates for local and statewide offices: school boards, which decide to fund either bullets or teacher salaries; town councils, that determine how our beaches are maintained; local judgeships who could have an impact on the issues we hold dear. The primary also slims down the candidates who will be on the November ballot for statewide legislative and executive offices.
Floridians turned out for the August 28 primary in numbers that shattered those of any previous midterm primary. [Although the actual percentage is shockingly low: it was barely in the double digits during the last primary mid-term, so to achieve near 20% is news-making.] And the turnout has made a difference.
The Republicans’ candidate for governor is a Trump ally in the US House of Representatives: his name is Ron DeSantis. The Democrats’ choice is the young black liberal progressive mayor blessed by Bernie Sanders. His name is Andrew Gillum. You may have heard of them both, thanks to Mr. Trump.
It took less than a day for the Republicans to strike out with racist speech, foaming at the mouth. “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda …” DeSantis on Fox News , using a centuries-old racist slur. Even Fox had to step back on that one. And Trump tweeted “… a failed Socialist Mayor named Andrew Gillum who has allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city. This is not what Florida wants or needs!”
To which Gillum replied: “What our state and country needs is decency, hope, and leadership. If you agree, join us at AndrewGillum.com. Also, @ me next time, @realDonaldTrump.”
The kids whose classmates were gunned down just south of me did not accept the status quo. In the days and weeks after the shooting, they organized a national movement demanding gun control.This summer, they reminded us that is an act of patriotism and crossed the country in a Voter Registration Drive.
Andrew Gillum adds: “I honestly believe that the nature of this moment — what’s happening at the national level — is fueling and will fuel a whole new segment of people who really want to see more decency, more respect, more humanity and also a brand of politics that says, ‘I see you, I hear you and we have a plan to make your life better…Money doesn’t vote. People do. And if we show up, we win.”
We showed up on Tuesday, and we’ll keep showing up. This is what democracy looks like.