LEONARD QUART: A momentous election
New York City — I spend too much time thinking about my stenosis, since it inhibits my capacity for walking the city streets, an activity that had always been central to my life. I am far from stoical, so there are times I internally rail against my fate. For I have turned into a melancholy hobbler rather than a walker, with walking becoming a self-conscious feat (cheering myself when I am able to stagger six blocks) rather than a natural, everyday act,
But despite my physical problems, I still obsess and inveigh against our Trump-dominated, continually perilous political situation. Doing that takes me out of myself and allows me to do more than indulge in self-pity. It permits me to think about a sullied public world and analyze its dynamics, which can be both a cause of despair and an odd kind of intellectual exhilaration.
So the night of the midterm elections I was filled with a mixture of hope and fear—anxiety because I find it hard to believe (after Trump’s election) that the pollsters may be right about the House. I watched the election results trickle in on MSNBC, the station that comes closest to my political perspective.
I am a political junkie, so I have read something about all the Senate races and about a fifth of the House races. My knowledge probably increases my tension, since I’m at times aware of the area in the states or the part of the Congressional district where the Democratic vote derives from.
My wife and I move around the dial a bit, but we mainly watched the very cool and professional Brian Williams and the intellectually formidable Rachel Maddow preside over the night’s coverage. They engaged in lot of talk about voter suppression in Georgia and whether Trump succeeded in making the threat of an invasion of immigrant hordes a winning political issue. But I have read and heard many discussions of these issues so, for that evening, I was more attuned to election results.
At about 9 p.m., I saw some Republican House seats falling, but no blue wave. As the hours passed, I felt less anxious as more House seats flipped and Democratic control was assured. But the Dems lost seats in the Senate, and possible new Democratic stars like O’Rourke, Gillum and Abrams, who at first raised our hopes, ultimately went down to defeat. One result of the election is that the country is even more divided between rural and suburban, big-city America—not so different than Europe where right wing parties have their support in small towns and rural areas outside cities like Warsaw, Berlin and Budapest.
However, Trump now has a significant institutional check on him in the House (including possible investigations), and the shift has ushered into a Congress a younger, more female and more racially diverse group of representatives. I would have liked the Senate to go Democratic, but geography made it impossible and Trump’s culture-war appeal to racist fears solidified the Republican vote in rural states.
Still, I’m satisfied; one can’t hope for too much politically. And I’m happy that, for one evening, I didn’t think about my stenosis.