I have been involved in politics a long time, knocking on doors as a kid in the first presidential race I was involved in for George McGovern back in 1972. I am also a student of American history, enough that I wrote a book about it. There have been a lot of strange and wild things in the history of American politics, but nothing even close to what happened last Friday with FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress about Hillary’s e-mails. His abuse of power defies Department of Justice policy and the Hatch Act, and threatens the integrity of this election by using the FBI as a political tool. It’s one of the more outrageous things I’ve ever seen in politics — and I just lived through more than a year of Donald Trump running for president!
But Comey’s gift-wrapped package to Trump and his Republican friends in Congress will likely be a gift that blows up in their faces. Democrats are no longer in any danger of taking anything for granted. We now have something to fire us up to win this election in a powerful rebuke to the good-old-boy politics of the powers that be. We need to tell Comey, Trump, Ryan, McConnell and all the other right-wing Republicans that we are not going to let them take this election away from us.
What we need to focus on this last week of the election is what we’ve always needed to focus on: getting out our voters. And this Comey BS is giving our ground troops renewed passion and focus.
Our mission must be to tell voters what this election is really about, which is: What kind of nation we want to be over the next four years? Do we want to move forward on real solutions to the country’s problems, or do we want to descend into racism, nativism, and the worst kind of trickle-down cronyism?
This election isn’t about Comey’s bizarre, inappropriate gamesmanship, or Trump’s demagogic bullying about locking Hillary up when she’s never been charged with a crime. What the 2016 election is about is our future. We are at a fundamental crossroads in American history.
Are we going to do something about climate change or pretend it is a hoax, as Trump claims? Are we going to make college free for most students, as Hillary and Bernie want to do, and help those with college debt reduce it, or turn the country over to a man who created the fraudulent Trump University to lure students deeper into debt? Are we going to raise the minimum wage and empower workers to be able to bargain fairly with their employers, or decide, in Trump’s words, that “the minimum wage is too high”?
Are we going to make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and close corporate tax loopholes or give the wealthy and big business the biggest tax cuts they have ever had, as Trump wants to do? Are we going to finally pass comprehensive immigration reform, or build Trump’s wall? Are we going to finally do something about criminal justice reform, or impose Trump’s authoritarian version of “law and order”?
Will Hillary appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Citizens United and preserve women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality, with a Democratic Senate there to confirm them? Or is Trump going to appoint the kind of people who will do the opposite, with a Republican Senate to confirm them?
Hillary’s transition team is already consulting with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders over who should be appointed if Hillary wins. Trump’s advisers include Chris “Bridge-gate” Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Roger Ailes, and Newt Gingrich. Who should progressives prefer?
Big questions here. Pretty important stuff. We are about to elect a president. And a Senate majority. And the House of Representatives. And Governors. We are about to go to the polls and elect state legislators, county commissioners, mayors, city council members, school board members, and water commission members. All of these elected officials, at all levels, are going to make a huge impact on our lives, and the lives of future generations.
We are at a unique moment in American history, making choices that matter more for our future than any election in our history except maybe 1932, in the worst days of the Great Depression, and 1860, on the verge of the Civil War. In the lead-up to that 1860 election, Abraham Lincoln quoted the book of Mark in the famous Lincoln-Douglass debates, saying, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln was right about his times and about ours.
Electing Donald Trump and his Republican allies would divide this country fundamentally, and not only stop any forward motion we’ve made in the last few years, but it would move us in reverse. Any chance at doing something significant on climate change, raising wages, student debt, getting tougher on Wall Street — poof, gone. And we would go profoundly backward in terms of economic fairness, civil rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, and criminal justice. But if Democrats, with the most progressive platform in the history of the Republic, sweep into office, we can begin to make some real progress.
So don’t get distracted, folks. This election is not about whether Hillary Clinton mishandled her emails several years ago. This election is about what direction we go as a nation. This election is about the biggest issues imaginable.
If you are angry about James Comey’s vague, innuendo-laden letter to Congress, don’t get distracted. Use that anger to turn out every vote you can. Knock on doors, make calls, talk to your friends, get on Facebook and Twitter and spread the word. I’ve said it before, I will say it again: it is progressives who hold the fate of this election, and the fate of this country, in their hands.
The swing voters in this election are the young people, people of color, women, and Bernie voters who are trying to decide — not between Hillary and Trump — but between voting and not voting. If progressive activists get those progressives out to vote, we will win this election going away. We have to persuade our friends that the stakes in this election could not be higher. That should be easy, because it is the truth, but it will take work. There are still good people who share your values who need convincing on how much it matters that they vote.
It’s up to us. Let’s get this done.