In these darkest of days, here’s what gives me hope:
First, Donald Trump has been a giant wake-up call that we can’t take democracy for granted. The young people of America get this. I’ve been teaching for 40 years and I don’t recall a generation as committed to social justice, reforming this country, and making it work for all and not just a few.
Look at those kids in Parkland, Florida. Or the millions more who are getting involved in their communities and in politics. They are America’s future, and they won’t give up.
The second thing that makes me optimistic is occurring at the grassroots of America, where there’s more activism than I remember in half a century. The #MeToo movement, Time’s Up, #BlackLivesMatter, #Neveragain, the Poor People’s Campaign, Indivisible.org, Swingleft.org.
They and thousands of other groups and millions of Americans are united by a commitment to end abuses of power—whether by sexual predators, the police, the National Rifle Association, or billionaires out to undermine our democracy.
Third, fueled by Trump’s election, more women are running for office than ever before. According to Emily’s List, more than 36,000 women are interested in running for office in 2018 and beyond. By comparison, 920 women contacted Emily’s List in the 2016 campaign.
Fourth, I’m optimistic because America’s history shows that every time we’ve gotten off track, Americans mobilize to get our country back on track. We did this after the Gilded Age of the 1880s and 1890s, when robber barons monopolized the economy; politics was poisoned by money; and poverty, and disease, and horrendous working conditions claimed thousands of lives each year.
We did it again in the Depression decade of the 1930s, after the economy collapsed because of Wall Street’s excesses. And again in the 1960s and 1970s, when we embraced civil rights and voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid, and environmental protection. If history teaches us anything, we will again reform this system.
Fifth, I’m also optimistic because these grueling years of the Trump presidency have made us all realize how fragile our democracy really is, and what we need to reform—from the Electoral College and super-delegates to gerrymandering, voter-ID laws, and hacker-proof voting machinery.
And most of us now know how important it is to vote.
Finally, I’m optimistic because I don’t like the alternative. We must have hope.
The fate of this nation depends on every one of us becoming an activist, joining with others, and reclaiming this land from those bent on destroying it.