Can we please have the “politics of joy” back?


Can we please have the “politics of joy” back?

Or something close to it anyway? The nasty have been out in force these days. 

It’s been building for a while, but I started to really notice last week when in a private Facebook group of Democratic/liberal types (like me) someone volunteered for the firing squad when they suggested that we all say one positive thing about the candidates that we were not supporting. One guy refused to play along, because presumably he could not think of one nice thing to say, or he flat-out refused, and it devolved into an on-line food fight. 

Uh oh, I thought. The family is starting to show its dysfunction.

Also last week was the kerfuffle when Bernie and Liz engaged in a he-said/she-said about their conversation on whether a woman could be elected president. Usually in a he-said/she-said the she-said loses (ask Anita Hill), so I stopped listening to the constant chants of “Liar Liar Pants on Fire”. I did learn, however, that it was simply horrible that Bernie and Liz didn’t shake hands after the debate. Thank you very much, Mainstream Media.

Yesterday Hillary entered the fray and suggested that Bernie was not very likable (funny because it’s a term that usually applies to women), and that she might not support Bernie if he’s the nominee, though today she backed off.  Bernie doesn’t strike me as particularly likable either, as he tends to be rather emotional and shrill – he and Hillary are alike that way. Liz is super-hyper and kind of weird, Amy is stiff, Mayor Pete is too young and a bit of an egg-head, Joe is too old and says the wrong thing all the time, Michael Bloomberg is too rich, Andrew Yang only has one idea. OK then – I got all of that out of my system. And I’m thrilled to say that a flawed and probably unlikable person with multiple personality quirks will be our next President.

If you’re not from Minnesota you may not know about the “Politics of Joy”, the theme of Erin Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign in 2018. Politics doesn’t have to be nasty, it can be joy-filled, because it is about improving people’s lives, about all of us working together, about how “we all do better when we all do better.” Erin brought people on-board who had never been involved in politics before, and who were inspired by her positive energy and love of politics. It doesn’t have to be tense and awful. It can be fun. You can even meet nice people. Erin is now running for Minnesota State Senate, and I don’t know if she still is using the hashtag #politicsofjoy, but the sentiment remains regardless.

Even at it’s most functional, Democracy is messy, politics is a competition, and it can get ugly, but people, were we born in barns? Does your mother’s voice not echo in your head? Mine does. “Be nice, don’t tell your brother to shut up. You get more with honey than with vinegar.”

Is it possible to love Bernie and not hate Hillary? Is it possible to love Joe and not hate Liz? And if you have hate (or something close to it) in your heart for one of the candidates, does it really have to be expressed? Are we not all on the same “Defeat Trump” team? I thought we were, but I’m starting to wonder. (And not sure why we’re still talking about Hillary).

Woody Allen said “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.” Do people want to join your club, or are you scaring them away? 

Honestly, some of the Democratic-liberal-progressive-leftists-moderates-centrists scare me, and I’m one of them. Some of you scare me.

I’m definitely an idealist, and I may be naive, but I’m hanging onto joy.

If Bernie wins, I will be joyful that we have a president that has been consistently fighting injustice for his entire life. Contrast that to the guy in the White House whose only ideology is to serve himself.

If Joe wins, I will be joyful that we have a president that could bring us the comfort of familiarity. The sense that we are in good hands. Contrast that to the guy who has intentionally created a level of chaos in this country where we all live in a constant state of anxiety.

If Liz wins, I will be joyful that we have a president with plans, especially a plan to fight corruption, because the current occupant is the Godfather of Government and can’t plan his way out of a paper bag.

If Amy wins, I will be joyful that we have a president who is pragmatic, who focuses on getting shit done, because the only thing Trump knows how to do is the opposite of what Obama did.

If Pete wins, I will be joyful that we have a president who is smart, who thinks about things, who reads, who’s an intellectual, because the current occupant is not only not smart, but he is anti-smart. 

I’ll stop. You get the idea.

All of these people have flaws, because they are human, but all of them have really good qualities too, and all, every last one, is infinitely more qualified than Trump. The day will come when a decent and qualified human being once again occupies the White House. 

So now, please don’t tell me that if your candidate doesn’t get the nomination that you’re going to give up and that we’d be better off with another four years of Trump. I’ve heard this said. Nothing could be worse. Try telling the immigrant parents whose kids are in detention that 4 more years of Trump would be better than Joe Biden as President. Tell those who are dependent on the ACA (like I am), which could be repealed under Trump, that 4 more years would be better than President Bernie. Tell the soldiers who would have to fight Trump’s war with Iran or North Korea that 4 more years will just fly by and hopefully you’ll survive it! Tell the 65-plus bunch not to worry about cuts to Social Security and Medicare because at least Amy isn’t president. Tell your kids that with 4 more years of Trump we will make no progress on climate.

Even if you think your candidate has been appointed by the Good Lord Above, you’re wrong. There is not a Savior among them. Yours is not a Savior. It may not sound like the politics of joy to say it, but we all need to get over ourselves, and focus on the goal.

The goal is to defeat Trump (and as an extension, the whole GOP). Fight for your candidate, yes, then go to your caucus, vote in your primary, and after that, get on board. Prepare yourself now. You’re going to have to buy a ticket on the Bernie Bus or the Amy Train or the Caravan for Joe. Just get ready.

If you want to be cranky, take it out on Trump and the GOP. There’s plenty there to be cranky about.

I may have to hold my nose to support the eventual nominee, but I’ll do it because I only have two choices. I can vote for our flawed and floundering democracy, or I can vote for an incompetent, lawless and dangerous buffoon who is hell-bent on bringing us to a dictatorship. It’s that black and white, and it’s not a hard choice.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, it’s going to be hard, it’s scary, it’s going to take all of us, so please, can’t we try and make it a little bit joyful?



©Rebecca Larson 2020

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