In the weeks before the midterm elections, America was rocked by three separate acts of domestic terrorism. One, which took place in my hometown, was the deadliest act of anti-semitism in American history. Another was the biggest mass assassination attempt in American history. And then there was the killing of two black people in a grocery store in Kentucky—a hate crime that undoubtedly would have had an even larger death toll had the suspect been successful in attempting to enter a black church moments earlier.
Each of these terrorists are white men with politics aligned with the rhetoric and policies of the president, and at least two of them were directly influenced by the president and the president’s myriad satellites. Perhaps you can not blame Donald Trump for the evil committed by his most extreme supporters—you can and should, of course, but perhaps you can’t—but at the very least, you can say that his words and acts and status and position communicate a community to said extremists. They are, after all, very fine people, too.
And it’s because of this—well, this and 500 or so years worth of reasons too boundless and amorphous to list today—that I just can’t feel the optimism that I’ve been told I should feel about the Democrats winning back the House. Of course, I’m happy for all of the Ayanna Pressleys and Sharice Davids’ and the rest of the numerous firsts who’ll be representing us and fighting for us. For this I am thankful. For this I am grateful. Also, just because I don’t feel the optimism doesn’t mean I don’t see it. I do. It’s there. I can see, smell, and taste it, as much as you can see, smell, and taste something so intangible.
But I don’t feel it. Which means I don’t buy it. Which means I don’t believe it. Because what happened in Pittsburgh and in Kentucky and with the mail bombs should have torpedoed the entire Republican Party. It should have crashed Donald Trump’s entire foundation. It should have been a disaster for them, for Americans to be killed so close to an election by men merely following their leader. But it wasn’t. And if that didn’t convince the tens of millions of Americans who voted red last night—knowing that a red vote is a vote for terror and hate—to perhaps just reconsider, what would?
To be fair, I’m not devoid of optimism. The source of it exists in my home and in my family and in the people who’ve become my family and in God and in black people. (And by “black people” I mean “the black people who love and value black women and girls.”) But having political optimism, in America, means possessing an optimism that white people, collectively, will choose the rightest thing instead of the whitest thing. Which, these days, sounds less optimistic and more insane.