Now that ‘80s nostalgia is in vogue again by virtue of the box-office success of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, it’s as good a time as any to note that this July marks the 35th anniversary of the release of Madonna’s debut album. If Donald Trump loses the 2020 election, then one can envision a certain track from that album enjoying renewed popularity on January 20, 2021.
Indeed there would be “a celebration/all across the world/in every nation” if a new, more forward-thinking President took the oath of office that day; the international joy of that moment would rival the worldwide wonder of January 20, 2009–the day the regime of George W. Bush officially ended. Of course, celebration would have to turn to resolve in short order, as the new President would have to undo the monumental damage Trump has inflicted.
It will take a miracle worker to repair what Trump has shattered; indeed, the sad reality is that some forms of damage, especially the damage done to our environment by Trump and his loathsome lackey Scott Pruitt, will never be undone. Fixing a broken country and a broken democracy will be a challenge arguably greater than the challenge Barack Obama faced when he walked into the White House nearly a decade ago. How, exactly, does one govern in an age of psychological and technological civil war? The enemies of progress, already naturally strong when Obama was sworn in, have now injected potent steroids into their veins—and will flex their muscles with new aggression and fervor in an effort to stop a progressive successor to Trump from actually making America great again.
The progressive passion of 2018 must remain strong post-Trump. If Trump loses the White House in 2020, right-wingers will be determined to avenge the bigoted billionaire’s defeat in the 2022 midterms. Those right-wingers must be met with equal political and cultural force.
When progressives are united, they can do the impossible; when progressives are divided, they experience the intolerable. A lack of progressive enthusiasm for Al Gore made the 2000 election close enough for George W. Bush to steal it; a decline in progressive passion for Barack Obama contributed to the grotesque outcome of the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections; and tepid progressive support for Hillary Clinton helped to give us the Covfefe-in-Chief. If the House and Senate change hands in 2018 only to return to wingnut control in 2022 because disappointed progressives stay home that year, this country could plunge into further chaos even with Trump out of the White House.
That fate, however, can be avoided. Progressives have it within their power to make the 2020s a decade in which the rightward slant of American politics–the rightward slant that began in the 1980s–is finally reversed, and at least some of the wounds inflicted by Reagan, the Bushes and Trump finally begin to heal. It will take tremendous resolve, tremendous focus, and tremendous courage, to accomplish this task, but it can be done–heck, it has to be done. Or, as Ms. Ciccone put it all those years ago:
Let love shine
And we will find
A way to come together
And make things better…