Prac­ti­cal is­sues like health and pot­holes helped Democrats take the House, writes Su­san Dalgety

The Scotsman - - Scottish Perspective -

Jackie picked up her stick, her um­brella and her shop­ping bag. “I have to go for my bus now. If I miss this one, it’s an hour’s wait for the next,” she said in her soft North Carolina drawl.

“I will see you in 2020,” I laughed, giv­ing her a big hug.

“If I last that long,” she laughed back. “I’m al­ready 83!” And with that cheery re­tort, she went out into the dark, wet November night. I am sure I will see her again.

Jackie was just one of the many, many lovely peo­ple we met on the cam­paign to elect Demo­crat Su­san Wild to Con­gress.

There were a hand­ful of full-time, paid staff who took care of strat­egy and press, but it was the vol­un­teers who won the elec­tion.

Some were full time, like Ryan, who works in in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment, but had taken un­paid leave to help his party win back Penn­syl­va­nia; oth­ers popped in for a two-hour can­vass shift, keen to do their bit.

Many had never worked in an elec­tion be­fore, but af­ter a short train­ing ses­sion from Ed, ably as­sisted by Piper, his West High­land ter­rier, they were ready to hit the streets.

There was a mo­ment on elec­tion day, when I was an­kle deep in the wa­ter run­ning down both sides of the road, my can­vass sheets dis­in­te­grat­ing in the tor­ren­tial rain, that I thought of giv­ing up. But a cup of hot cof­fee and a cin­na­mon roll in a neigh­bour­hood deli restored my mood, and out I went again.

Was it worth spend­ing two weeks vol­un­teer­ing full-time for a can­di­date we did not know, for a party we were not mem­bers of, and in a coun­try that is not ours?

Of course it was. Quite apart from meet­ing up with old friends, and mak­ing new ones, we made a very mod­est con­tri­bu­tion to Su­san Wild’s ten-point vic­tory over her Repub­li­can op­po­nent. She now joins a record num­ber of women in the House, with 102 women serv­ing in the new ses­sion, beat­ing the pre­vi­ous record of 85 fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Amer­i­can pol­i­tics is fi­nally start­ing to look like Amer­ica. And the Democrats’ House vic­tory has helped re­store equi­lib­rium to the United States of Amer­ica, and so the world.

“One-party rule ends” was the blunt mes­sage scrolling along the news bar of MSNBC show Morn­ing Joe on Thurs­day morn­ing.

Trump may still be in the White House, scream­ing into the night about witch-hunts and en­e­mies of the peo­ple, but fi­nally, af­ter two years of un­fet­tered chaos, bor­der­ing on dem­a­goguery, there will now be a for­mal check on his be­hav­iour.

And not be­fore time. The Repub­li­cans, the party of Abra­ham Lin­coln, have de­based them­selves for Trump. They have turned a blind eye to his worst ex­cesses in ex­change for tax cuts for the rich. They may wince at his crude na­tion­al­ism, but se­cretly they ad­mire his tawdry ap­peal to white, ru­ral vot­ers.

He has be­come the poster boy for an Amer­ica that only ever ex­isted in Hollywood Westerns. One where every man car­ries a gun, every woman wears an apron, and ev­ery­one is white, prefer­ably An­glo Saxon and most def­i­nitely Protes­tant.

“There is no Repub­li­can Party any more, it’s gone. We have the Trumpian Party now,” said a com­men­ta­tor this week.

No-one, least of all Donald Trump, knows how the story of the Trumpian Party will end. Will his new ‘act­ing’ At­tor­ney Gen­eral and place­man, Matt Whi­taker, sack spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tor Robert Mueller?

If he does, will it spark a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis, just as Nixon’s Satur­day Night Mas­sacre did back in 1973?

How will Trump re­act if his old­est son, and big­gest cheer­leader, Donald Trump Jr, is charged with per­jury, as now seems likely.

And even if he suc­ceeds in bat­ting away the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged col­lu­sion be­tween his elec­tion cam­paign and Rus­sia – as he did pre­vi­ously with se­rial bank­rupt­cies and scan­dals that would have felled more nor­mal men – will he ac­tu­ally run in 2020?

Or will he take the easy way out and head back to Trump Tower to cap­i­talise on his sta­tus as the 45th Pres­i­dent of the United States? The next two years, like the last two, are go­ing to be tu­mul­tuous.

The new class of women politi­cians who are go­ing to help shape the fu­ture have more prac­ti­cal, down to earth, mat­ters on their mind.

Like Su­san Wild, most of them see fix­ing Amer­ica’s bro­ken health care sys­tem as their pri­or­ity. Lit­tle won­der, as an exit poll on Tues­day night showed that 70 per cent of vot­ers want ma­jor changes to health.

“We have had a taste of what af­ford­able, uni­ver­sal health care could be like un­der Oba­macare,” ex­plained Ryan dur­ing a lull on elec­tion day. “We want to make it even bet­ter.” Demo­crat Gretchen Whit­mer, the new Gover­nor of Michi­gan, is one of the nine women who won gu­ber­na­to­rial races on Tues­day.

Her slo­gan “fix the damn roads” caught the imag­i­na­tion of vot­ers fed-up of a fail­ing in­fra­struc­ture that saw chil­dren poi­soned by lead in Flint’s wa­ter sup­ply and roads so bad they cost the aver­age driver more than $540 a year.

New Mex­i­can Deb Haa­land, one of the first two Na­tive Amer­i­can women to win a seat in Con­gress, is go­ing to use her new po­si­tion to win in­vest­ment for re­new­able en­ergy. “If we don’t have our Earth, we don’t have any­thing,” she said re­cently, “I am al­ways go­ing to talk about that.”

And Il­han Omar, who made his­tory on Tues­day night with Rashid

Tlaib as the first Mus­lim women con­gress­women, says her pri­or­ity is a $15 min­i­mum wage and sub­si­dis­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion for low­in­come stu­dents.

Bet­ter roads, safe drink­ing wa­ter, a liv­ing wage and so­lar en­ergy are hardly is­sues that keep Donald Trump awake at night.

Power, sex and money are what drives this Pres­i­dent. But th­ese are not the things most Amer­i­cans dis­cuss round the din­ner ta­ble, with their work­mates, with friends af­ter church.

They worry about sav­ing for their kids’ col­lege fees, about pay­ing for the fam­ily’s health­care, about be­ing able to af­ford their weekly gro­ceries. They don’t want gold toi­lets or pri­vate jets. They just want to be able to pay their way with­out worry and bring their chil­dren up with­out fear or prej­u­dice. They want their grand­chil­dren to have a bet­ter fu­ture.

That is why mil­lions of peo­ple queued for hours on Tues­day to vote. It is why women like Ge­or­gia’s Stacy Abrams ran for of­fice. It is why 83-year-old Jackie vol­un­teered on Su­san Wild’s cam­paign.

It is the very pur­pose of democ­racy, the found­ing prin­ci­ple of Amer­ica: to or­gan­ise so­ci­ety for the ben­e­fit of all the peo­ple, not just a 72-year-old dem­a­gogue and his syco­phants.

And on Tues­day, democ­racy started to re-as­sert it­self.

Donald Trump is driven by power, sex and money rather than the real is­sues af­fect­ing or­di­nary Amer­i­cans, says Su­san Dalgety (Pic­ture: Al Drag/getty)

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