What If?

I’m fairly convinced that we will win the 2024 Presidential election. What’s more, I’m very nearly convinced that we will not only win back the House, but we will win back the Senate. In numbers that cannot be denied. Numbers that will very likely be able to pass Build Back Better, as it was originally intended. Maybe even better than that.

What if we do?

What if Trump is convicted and actually imprisoned? What if the MAGAs are soundly defeated at the ballot box? What if we ensure voting rights for everyone and civil rights for all LGBTQ+ folks? Wedding cakes, websites and all. Abortion rights? Health care? Immigrants of all stripes welcomed into the country?

What if we abolish the sale of AR15s? Will the rest of them come out to play?

I am wondering how a Democratic majority, a majority of liberals like me, will govern the one third of the country that has felt abandoned long enough to take up with a cartoon figure, the blowhard at the end of the bar, running his mouth about how he can fix everything. The one whose mugshot now hangs above their fireplaces where prints of Andy Jackson or Iwo Jima used to hang.

Will they go silent into the long good night of their cultural backwaters, where black people and queer people and even many women fear to tread? Will the rest of us live in fear that some of them will come down out of their hills and up from their swamps, to trouble our sleep?

There has been a lot of loose talk about civil war. But my imagination has yet to imagine how a civil war would come about. The far right has no standing army, nor has it the means to gather one. Those who nearly prevented the certification of a President in 2021 had no real numbers to speak of. No real organization. Where could a rebel army gather that would not bring a regular army to disband it. Some folks say they need their AR15s and other weapons to defend against the government. I say, if you don’t have a fleet of helicopter gunships, you’re got nuthin'.

I am not sanguine about the future, even the very best of futures. Even if we win it all, I am not certain that we have learned how to govern those who do not want to be governed. But how else can we help everyone through the next pandemic, the ongoing ravages of climate change? As Herbert Marcuse once said, “You cannot convince a free people that they are not free.” And none of us will be free until we learn not to fear the rest of us.

I’ve said that the times ahead will be interesting. What a prosaic thing to say. Interesting. But even if we nail the next election, what I really see ahead is heartbreaking. And if we don’t nail this one down, it will be heartbreaking in spades.