I had a dream the other night. It was the day after Election Day.
The sun rose in the East as it always had.
The American flag was still proudly flying over government buildings, schools, and on flag poles of ordinary citizens across this great land.
But on this day after the election, America was a changed nation. We had just elected the first woman to be President of the United States. There was great relief that disaster had been averted. It was hardly the start of a political revolution, but there was a sense of pride at America electing its first woman President. Her election, however, was made inevitable the moment the GOP nominated the only candidate who could not beat her – a complete ignoramus, a sociopath, a pathological liar, and a clown – Donald J. Trump. Hilary Clinton won because Trump was unelectable.
There is a good chance that even if Hillary Clinton is a political opportunist, she is likely to govern less from the center than Bill Clinton. If she does not, the Sanders political revolution will be there to protest and to try to keep her honest. Bernie Sanders and other progressive senators such as Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown will be there to object to corporatist policies.
So, in my dream here is what a Clinton presidency will look like – or perhaps I should say, what it will not look like.
Clinton will not nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia who would double down on Citizens United, thus giving billionaires the ability to buy elections; block voting rights; side with corporate rights against citizens’ rights and possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, sending thousands of women to back alley abortionists. Hillary Clinton will more than likely appoint liberal justices such as those appointed by Bill Clinton (Stephen Breyer and “The Notorious RBG” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg). With the help of a Democrat-controlled Senate and two or three choice picks, Hillary Clinton will reshape the court in a generally progressive direction for at least a generation.
Further, there will be no deportation force to quickly banish eleven million undocumented immigrants. There will be no special force of tens of thousands of armed agents to invade workplaces, homes, and schools, and to stop cars and pedestrians to check papers and round up those without proper documentation. Such actions would make America look like a police state!
There will be no expulsion of Dreamers, immigrants who were brought by their parents to America at a young age and have spent most of their lives in this country going to school and working. Dreamers will not be forced to hide in the shadows instead of contributing to American society.
People of the Muslim faith, and/or everyone from countries that have experienced terrorism, will not be banned from entering the United States. Such a ban would also include people from friendly Muslim countries, such as Indonesia, Turkey (a member of NATO), and the United Arab Emirates, as well as people from countries that have experienced terrorism, such as France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Considerable damage to the economy will be averted because travel, tourism, and commerce will not be harmed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be drinking champagne in celebration of a Donald Trump election. America’s NATO allies, particularly those close to Russia, will not have to worry or be uncertain if the United States will help defend them, regardless of whether they have paid their fair share as an ally. And Putin will feel less liberated to engage in dangerous foreign adventures.
The Iran nuclear arms treaty will not be torn up. Without such restraints, Iran would have the ability to develop a nuclear weapon in about a year, thereby threatening the stability of the Middle East and the security of Israel. And there is a good chance that Israel would pre-emptively bomb Iranian nuclear sites, setting off a regional war.
There will be no trade wars with China, Mexico and other countries, which would likely lead to a severe recession or depression.
The Affordable Care Act will not be repealed and millions of people will not be thrown off their health insurance. The Affordable Care Act needs fixing and Hillary Clinton has promised to fix it.
The wealthy will not have their taxes cut, an action that would have had the effect of ballooning the deficit.
Social Security and Medicare will not be privatized.
And, finally, for at least the next four to eight years, something will be done by the United States to combat climate change. Our commitments under the Paris Agreement will not be abrogated and the goal of reducing global warming will be taken seriously.
What might all of this mean?
During the campaign, Hillary Clinton said: “Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again. America has never stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers.”
Americans are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, our people live longer than ever, and they are healthier and better educated than ever. We are still the Number One destination for immigrants from around the world and for students seeking higher education. We still produce more patents than anyone, are home to more capital than anyone, foster creativity and entrepreneurship better than anyone. Those facts are American Exceptionalism at its best.
But this election reveals not only the greatness of American democracy, but also the greatness of the American people. American Democracy – messy, ugly, coaxing out of the shadows our inner demons – actually works. This dispiriting election has been dominated, thanks to Donald Trump and his supporters, by mean-spirited, even vile, rhetoric. But the American people have risen up to repudiate it, and that is encouraging and profoundly reassuring.
But there is more that is encouraging than either the objective facts of American vitality or the soundness and solidity of United States democracy: What is best in our leaders complements that which is best in our people. And there is the promise of our collective future – especially if we find a place for America that better recognizes our strengths, our place in a global community, and what still needs to be fixed.
What is broken in America requires that we do what we are supposed to after even this most divisive campaigns – and that is to reach out to one another.
Hillary Clinton must therefore do the thing that true leaders do: She must listen even to those who offer only criticism. She must find compromises, and she must rise above or work around those who seek only to impede. And in this promising moment, that is precisely what Clinton is promising to do.
What makes this a great moment to be an American is that our prospects are so good. At home, that means we enter this next chapter in our history having made extraordinary progress at healing old divisions. Our incoming president will for the first time in history be a member of our majority population – women! This fact should be profoundly moving to all who love the central idea of democracy or simply the best values of humanity. President Barack Obama was the first African-American chief executive in the nation’s history. Under his watch, among other things, the nation fully embraced the idea of marriage equality – the policy that the government would no longer seek to regulate love between people. And we are at the threshold of powerful changes that will build on this breakthrough. For the first time in United States history, children who once were thought of as members of minority groups – African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians – now make up the majority in our schools. Within roughly a quarter of a century, that fact will be true for the United States as a whole. We will be living the promise of being an open, diverse society, culturally richer than any other in the world, which provides benefits in our lives in countless ways, from offering a multitude of experiences and traditions to helping our workforce better compete in the global era.
We also are entering an era in which Hillary Clinton offers the promise of a different kind of American leadership – neither the rightwing neo-isolationistic policies of George W. Bush, nor even the political hesitancy of Barack Obama – but one that is both engaged and committed to strengthening alliances. Indeed, that type of leadership might be best characterized by her campaign slogan: “Stronger Together.” That should be our motto both at home and overseas, with allies and even with rivals.
The genius of the American system is that it is designed to reinvent itself. It is a system whose architects had great aspirations and realistic expectations, who had audacity and humility, and who had flaws but a desire to overcome them. In other words, it is a system that looks like the people it serves.
So, on November 9, the sun will rise in the East as it always has.
And, on November 9, the American flag will be proudly flying over government buildings, schools, and on flag poles of ordinary citizens across this great land.
But, on November 9, we will be a changed nation. When we awake, it will be the dawn of a new and better morning in America.
Or am I still dreaming?