Many of us, even a majority of America’s voters, remain startled and depressed over what happened on Nov. 8th. How could we have possibly elected an egomaniac who shoots public policy from his Twitter account without taking careful aim, or even knowing about, the target? He claims that if we are to be great again, we must reinstitute the nuclear arms race and take over the world with the very “Strong Man” image we have been sacrificing thousands of our young people to dethrone.
If we progressives had boasted that the Republican Party was in shambles, we had better look at what is going on with the Democrats. Certainly the GOP, as we have known it, is no more. It has been confiscated by a buffoon who conned the neglected working class and America’s evangelicals, with the help of Russia, and will now attempt to deliver on his ill-advised promises. While a hearty section of the GOP despises Trump, party loyalty trumped deeply rooted policy, and these “never Trumpers” slowly came into line, saluting the inevitable. Few have had the courage to abandon the party, no matter how obnoxious its leader.
The Democratic Party is in even worse shape. I have been a lifelong member and financial supporter of this political organization, but what I have trusted now seems to be a collection of people my age who long to face backward, as if the vision held by Bill Clinton could make it in the 21st century. Whether I am talking about the local Democratic organization or the national leadership, we are terribly dated and are mostly a collection of the already retired, while much of the new generation is looking in the opposite direction. Hillary, our candidate for president, was 69. Bernie Sanders is 75 and Elizabeth Warren is 67. In four years, they will be that much older, so as vital as it has been in influencing my political life, for me the Democratic Party is no longer the polar star of national hope.
The other dynamic force which has shaped my vision of a better world has been the progressive American church and its conviction that to be faithful is to follow Jesus, not just to believe things about him. But the National Council of Churches is a skeleton, and most of the churches which have been part of it are now half-filled with gray-haired worshippers who long for the good old days. “Christian” now seems to mean “evangelical” or even “fundamentalist,” and much of what those groups stand for is the opposite of what Jesus called us to be and do. These days I cringe at anything in our culture that is called “Christian.” And that, for me, is a very depressing reality.
So if the Democratic Party and the mainline church no longer have the energy to shape a responsible future, where do we turn? My guess is no better than yours, but here is what I’ve come up with at the moment.
Even though the Democratic Party and the mainline churches can no longer be counted on to do any of the heavy lifting, there are persons and groups within each of them that still have enough energy to fire the engines of change. Sooner or later, however — hopefully sooner — the discontent with what these dated bodies can produce will generate a new dynamic, progressive movement that will replace these aging organizations. This dynamic may result in another, or reshaped, political party. Is it the right time for the emergence of a new progressive movement? My hope is that one will shortly arise. Bernie can stimulate the movement, and maybe the women’s marches on Jan. 21 will kick-start it, but what is needed is a young charismatic person or persons to lead the way. Any suggestions as to who may be ready to break out of the progressive incubator?