“You see, we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are.” — Dr. Maya Angelou, American Author & Civil Rights Activist, Psychology Today Interview, February 17, 2009
by Marc Morial
Without any fear of exaggeration, it can be said, and has been—repeatedly—that the final result of the 2016 presidential election came as a devastating blow to many Americans. The numbers bear out this truth. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, but in the end, failed to secure the win. So as the reality of an American future under Trump began to sink in, many anticipated the worst and lost hope. But as this year comes to a close and many of us are preoccupied with giving or getting gifts, it occurred to me that the election outcome has awakened and energized millions of Americans.
Each unprecedented challenge to everything from immigration policy to the freedom and relevancy of the press, has nurtured a common sense of purpose among Americans from all walks of life. From sea to shining sea, those committed to building and sustaining a better and more equitable America, conclusively demonstrate an often-repeated truth: democracy is no spectator sport.
To be clear, there was never—and never will be—a right time to sit and watch from the comfort of the sidelines. A democracy deprived of the active, vocal and voting engagement of its citizens is a democracy in name only. Rather than stand by complacently as the current administration volleys direct assaults on our nation’s most vulnerable and attempts to wipe out the incremental civil and economic and social gains we have made with the casual stroke of a heartlessly wielded pen or the decrees of uninstructed policies, we have traded hopelessness for the engagement, despair for activism, and defeat for victory.
The results speak for themselves. Doug Jones’s win in deep-red Alabama will send to Congress the state’s first senator elected by a multi-racial coalition. Voters of color also were largely responsible for Ralph Northam victory in the Virginia governor’s race, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to be elected to the state’s legislature, and Justin Fairfax won the lieutenant governor’s race, becoming the second African American to win the post. And there are more victories where those came from. Black women—who are substantially showing up and showing out at the polls—are also getting elected into many of these offices. African American women stand at the helm of the cities of Charlotte, Atlanta, New Orleans, and more, as their mayors. And the wins don’t stop at the ballot box.
Despite the best and dogged efforts of Congress and president, everyday Americans, enraged that their healthcare would be taken away or used as bargaining chip to make the math work for the GOP’s tax reform bill, rallied, flooded phone lines and protested in congressional offices to keep the Trump administration from dismantling the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s travel bans consistently met with immediate resistance. Thousands gathered at airports around the country to protest the ban’s obvious unfairness, and courts of law continue to legally challenge the ban. Today, the third iteration of the ban has been allowed to go into effect by the Supreme Court, but the legal challenges remain alive and well.
We cannot—and must not—lose our momentum.
The National Urban League will remain at the forefront of the battle to protect our hard-fought-for rights and progress. Especially now, when the all-out assault on American ideals and values is the norm, you can become a key part of our mission-driven work by getting involved, volunteering, or supporting our movement. You have a critical role to play in the resistance and should never doubt or become complacent about the power of your call, your vote, your signature, or your voice. Give yourself and our nation the gift that keeps giving pass the next critical election, past the next protest, and past the current administration: your indispensible engagement.
Happy New Year — and stay woke.