Hope is important, now more than ever. I don’t suggest that we
can or should be blindly optimistic. Far from it. Our very democracy and our
ability to solve the problems all our people face is in grave danger. But defeat is
not inevitable. We need the hope that the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard defined
as “a passion for what is possible.” Never has it been more important to
recognize and aggressively believe in the possibility we have as a people to save
our democracy, if we are willing.

To many, this will sound out of touch with the news cycle and
disconnected from our current reality. Sixty-four million women and girls of childbearing
age just watched the Senate fail to pass legislation, the Women’s Health
Protection Act, to protect their ability to control their bodies and
reproductive choices. For too many low-income people, particularly Black and
Native American and Native Alaskan women, who are far more likely
to die of pregnancy-related complications, this sends the clear message that
their lives are not of sufficient concern. For the LGBTQ community, who deserve the right to identify as they are and receive the health care they need, this is also a major blow. Roughly half of us who need protection of our
fundamental right to make decisions about our bodies live in states that will
try to take that away from us.

And yes, it gets worse. The possible consequences of Justice Samuel
Alito’s draft opinion that would wreak havoc on all of our fundamental rights are
clear. If a fundamental right has to be named and protected explicitly in the
Constitution, as the draft opinion says, then why would we believe marriage
equality, contraception access, and racial justice won’t be next?

This is an ideological court driven by the very political
gerrymandering that has also undermined our ability to protect people against
the suppression of their votes, from harsh identification laws, closing of
polling sites, and elimination of early voting in some states. Violence in the
context of democratic practices and debate was not only on display at the
Capitol on January 6, 2021. It has been on display in school board meetings and
at statehouses. This in turn has all made all predictions about the midterm
elections dire.

However, three things are true that should make us passionate
enough to fight hard and collectively against all these forces. First, those of
us who care about making this country a better place to live; who agree on key issues from abortion rights to increased minimum
wages and tax increases on the wealthy and more, including democracy and our
constitutional rights, are the clear majority of this country. That is a huge
opportunity to build will and engagement around winning policies to protect our
rights and improve all of our lives, including for those of low income and communities of color.

Second, we have built up significant relationships and work in
the hardest of contexts that helped us withstand some key attacks on democracy
and push back. Most recently, we worked to confirm Justice Ketanji Brown
Jackson, the first public defender and Black woman to be elevated to a seat on
the Supreme Court. That victory came despite a concerted effort from the right
of the country and from most Republicans to distort her record and lie about
her humanity. But there is another pro-democracy victory we should celebrate
and build upon. In the 2020 census, the Trump administration did everything in its
power to undermine an accurate count of our people, a task explicitly required
by the Constitution and critical to electoral power and ensuring federal funding dollars for communities. Despite the attempt to drive immigrants away from the count and to
underfund it, through the efforts of community members, elected officials, and all kinds
of civic-minded groups, we held the line and even, in places like New York
City, improved on previous counts. That was a win in the face of real
adversity, but it also built a set of relationships and strategies that can
serve us now and into the future to build community education and engagement to
save our democracy.

Third, by recognizing we have some wins and that we have been
building the capacity to win in tough times, we can now focus on the midterms
and beyond in a passionately possible way. I know it is a steep climb. In every
midterm election since 1934, the sitting president’s party lost seats in the
House and Senate. Only Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1934 Democrats and George
W. Bush’s 2002 Republicans
gained seats. In each case, a major catastrophe—the Great Depression for FDR and
the 9/11 terror attacks for Bush—probably explained the anomalous outcome.

There are some objective reasons to lean into hope. This may not
be a Great Depression or post-9/11 moment, but we are not in normal times by
any stretch. As Mathew Dowd points out, Biden’s negative approval rating is
incongruously countered by the Democrats’ plus-five-point advantage over
Republicans in a generic poll. The economy is a huge challenge, because food
and gas prices make it a difficult environment in which to hold the House and Senate.
But there is also a great desire from people to fix these problems, and we must
point, much more aggressively than we do, to how much our participation and
fighting for things like health care and stimulus benefits have helped families
in every community. The problem isn’t that we haven’t had real and meaningful
victories. It is that we aren’t telling people their stories. 

Here is an example. We need Black voters and young people to
turn out to vote. Even with the strong and bipartisan support among voters for
abortion access, the right’s attack on Roe v. Wade does not, alone, solve the
enthusiasm gap for these key voters. Enthusiasm is low because many are
understandably disappointed that we didn’t see legislative victories we fought
for, such as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. People want to be safe from
violent crime, and they also want to be safe from police violence. But telling
the story of how far we got, that we passed it in the House, gives us a better
way to encourage voting  in the midterm
elections. We motivate based on success,
not by complaining about failures. We take for granted that most voters are
paying attention as closely as we are. That is a huge mistake, but it is also
easily corrected. Talking about what we have been able to
achieve because we participate in elections and what we can do with the power
we build by participating should give us hope. If we allow the major narrative
to be complaints about all we’ve lost, we’re only telling people to give up.
Let’s be passionate about our possibilities. Let’s fight hopefully.

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