1. It’s Wednesday, November 8, 2017.
It’s the first anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history.
2. It’s the day after we started to undo it.
Actually, we is a little bit of an overstatement.
The good people of the commonwealth of Virginia started to undo it. They elected Ralph Northam governor by a pretty wide margin. One of the state’s legislative bodies is either going to be evenly split or very slightly Democratic.
The good people of New Jersey started to undo it. They ended the Chris Christie reign of petulance with a loud coda, electing Democrat Phil Murphy as governor and expanded Democratic majorities in the legislature.
The good people of Maine started to undo it. They told their blowhard minority-elected governor to stuff his five Medicaid expansion vetoes up his ample rear end. About 80,000 people in the state who didn’t have health care coverage can get it now.
Good people around the country started to undo it. In city, town, school board and state legislative elections, they went for the candidate who spoke a message aimed at trying to solve everyone’s problems. Women won all over the place. Transgendered people won. Religious minorities won. Asian-Americans won. African-Americans won. Latinos and Latinas won.
And, for the most part, the good people of my home of New York started to undo the darkness that descended a year ago.
Yeah, Democrats were going to pretty much sweep stuff in New York City. But a Democrat won the county executive’s race in Nassau County, a traditional Republican stronghold – a 1980 book by a former county exec compared the Nassau GOP machine to Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley.
A Democrat captured the county executive’s seat in Westchester, where one of the state party’s great hopefuls had his eyes on challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year. It wasn’t even close.
3. Notice, however, that three paragraphs up, I said “for the most part.”
I live in Rockland, across the Hudson from Westchester. Being on this side of the river, most myopic New York City types think I live in New Jersey.
In Rockland, the Democratic wave across the country failed to wash ashore. A really committed and talented woman, Maureen Porette, lost her race for county executive to the incumbent, a slug named Ed Day.
Day has been especially adept at playing the kind of identity politics that got Trump elected in the first place. And Rockland, which is somewhat isolated from the New York City area despite being only 25 miles away, falls for it like a toddler who thinks her uncle really has taken off her nose.
The big issue in Rockland is the impact of a surge of Hasidic Jews in the county. There are things that have happened, particularly the gutting of the East Ramapo school district, that scare the hell out of people here.
And so, there’s a line between trying to figure out a way to resolve the problem and just deciding that this is war. In Rockland, it’s war, and the hostility between the two sides is palpable.
Here’s the problem with that.
Rockland has other issues. The transportation system in this county is abysmal. The only reliable way to get to New York City is to drive – believe me, I’ve lived it – and the world knows how little New York City needs more automobiles.
This is no place for young people. Jobs here are mostly manufacturing, warehouse and retail – no tech companies are incubating here. There is little in the way of entertainment and activity except some sleazy bars in places like Nyack.
This county has some of the most beautiful public park land in the nation. It’s a plus – preserving it is essential to keep families here.
So a county executive should be focused on that stuff instead of identity politics.
And, like Trump a year ago, it plays into Ed Day’s hands. He manipulates that fear rather than address it. Add the orthodox Republican mantra that people who already have resources need tax cuts and you’ve got his formula for winning.
You might think that how to cut through that is Rockland’s problem. To some extent, that’s true – it’s clear that when people in Virginia, New Jersey and the rest of New York State focus on issues instead of fears, they make good choices.
But how do we get Rockland, how do we get the rest of the country, past being afraid of the challenges of the future? Whether they come from people of color, people with different gender orientations, people of different faiths and any other differences? Whether they come with environmental and technological complications?
Parts of the nation took a step toward breaking Trump last night. The trick will be to finally get places like Rockland to go along.