Actual good non-fake news has been hard to come by in the Trump I-try-to believe-six-impossible-things-before-breakfast era. The election on Tuesday provided some good news to those of us on this side of the facts vs. alternative facts divide.
Democratic governors won in Virginia and New Jersey. In the Virginia race, the Republican ran a textbook Trumpian racist, xenophobic, and homophobic campaign, complete with negative tweets against the Democratic candidate from Trump himself in the last days. This time the voters weren’t fooled.
People of color won elections, including seven who were the first black Americans to become mayor in their cities in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Minnesota. Helena’s Wilmot Collins was the first black mayor elected in the state of Montana, but not the first in Helena. Helena elected a black mayor in 1873 while Montana was still a territory. We had the rare privilege in this Helena mayoral election of choosing which good candidate was better, rather than facing the evil of two lessers. Jim Smith has been a fine mayor for many years, and the victor, Wilmot, is a former refugee from Liberia, a Naval reserve member, and a child protection specialist with great ideas about how to make Helena even better.
Members of other ethnic minorities made gains in state and city elections across the country, including the first Sikh-American elected mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey. That campaign featured last-minute racist flyers with a picture of Ravinder Bhalla in his turban and the message “Don’t let terrorism take over our town.” The Hoboken folks chose not to let racism and xenophobia take over their town.
Women won a number of significant races, including the first black mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina; the first female mayor of the biggest city in New Hampshire — Manchester; the first Latina and Asian American women in the Virginia legislature; and the first lesbian woman mayor of Seattle. She wasn’t first female Seattle mayor — that happened in 1926 and hasn’t been repeated until now. A long drought, especially for Seattle.
Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot of the people. Medicaid is important not just for the poor, but, in the words the Kaiser Foundation, “Medicaid is the primary payer for long-term care…Medicare only covers limited post-acute care, and few people can afford private coverage.”
Kyle Waterman, the son of Helena’s Ron and Mignon Waterman, won a city council seat in Kalispell, Montana. Kyle is following in his mother’s giant political footsteps and will be a terrific city councilman for the city that has been the home of some of the most virulent and potentially violent homophobia and racism in the state.
The first openly transgender woman won a seat in the Virginia legislature by beating the right-wing legislator who called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.”
Given how rich white men have been running our country, I welcome any tiny signs of cracks in the billionaires’ control of our country.
Here is my question: is this apparent “good news” merely a hiccup, a tiny and insignificant detour in our nation’s slide toward authoritarianism?
Or is this the start of the pendulum swinging back toward honesty, cleaning up corruption, and fixing problems rather than causing them –in short, toward making America great again by making America good again.
We shall see. And we better be working our butts off for the good while we are waiting to see.