By Adrian Flynn
For many Americans, the 2016 Presidential election was a cause for despair. Many saw it as a response to a changing country, a challenge of political correctness or even a “whitelash.” But we must remember that the majority of the voters rejected Donald Trump — almost 3 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton, not including the nearly 7 million others who voted for third party candidates — and the challenge now is to move forward despite the asterisks that have become attached to the election of 2016.
We must start by acknowledging that many lower and middle-class Americans do not feel that their economic situation has improved in the last eight years. Also, we must concede that Hillary Clinton’s message did not truly reach this group of Americans. These people — some down on their luck, others battered by a rapidly changing economy — demanded an end to the status quo, even if that meant sending a candidate with limited experience and troubling personal characteristics to the White House. So, for many voters, as in 2008, change was the answer. Donald Trump was that change candidate, and the palpable desire for change is one of the messages — maybe the message — of the 2016 election.
However, as we have seen in the months since November 2016, while the election may be over, the country is not over the election. Widespread protests, political engagement, and President Trump’s dismal approval ratings all speak to national divisions. In addition, these developments speak to the lingering question of where the Democratic Party can and should go from here.
It seems clear that the Democratic Party must become a party of the people once more. The fact that the Democratic Party nominated a fundamentally flawed candidate tainted by corruption and elitism as its standard bearer in 2016, a change election, was astounding. Fellow Democrats, we need to rebrand our party by nominating candidates that can better relate to the people. We are fortunate to have progressive Democratic senators like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and, of course, Bernie Sanders.
With the White House and Congress both under their control, Republicans now have the ball in their court, and they are poised to dismantle as much of the Obama legacy as they possibly can. But if the American people, millions more of whom voted against Trump than for him, are willing to raise their voices and fight for what they believe in — affordable health care, action on Climate Change, renewable energy investment, protecting social security and public education — it will be much harder for the Trump administration to move the country toward the far right.
We must never forget that as citizens, even if we are not yet eligible to vote, our values must not be swept aside. We have the ability, and the obligation, to organize, educate and rally ourselves. Make sure your representatives know what you think they should fight for by calling or emailing them. Exercise your right to protest, and meet with those who stand with you to gain a greater understanding of the challenges our fellow Americans’ experiences. In addition, donate to or volunteer for organizations that may need extra support in the next few years, such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. And of course, when the midterm elections and the next presidential election roll around, take the initiative to work on the campaigns of Democratic candidates who share our vision of a united America: one that believes in equal rights for all.
What truly makes America great is the immense level of influence the people can have on the federal government. Elections don’t just take place every four years; the political process is always at work, as is our ability to influence government decisions — and choosing not to be engaged or committed is to leave your rights and your vision of the nation vulnerable. For the next election, we must strive to be more educated on how our government operates and understand how to promote better strategies for electing the political leaders we want to represent us. We have a long way to go, but in the words of Barack Obama, “We don’t fear the future; we shape it. We embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own.”