Processing what happened, planning what’s next

(‘76 Contributor) After the bitter disappointment of election night, I had to leave Aspen next morning for a journey to NYC where I had meetings this week. After no sleep on Tuesday night, I set out early on Wednesday for a day of travel hell. I finally made it to NYC on Thursday, and I found it surreal being amidst so many people who are so happy with the election result, while I’ve been despairing. It’s a by-product, I believe, of the Democrats’ divisiveness — the fissures in our polity are so deep.

I am a fighter, but in my little part of the fight, I’ve often felt like the tree in the woods — if it falls and no one is there to hear it, did it make a noise? So we need to figure out ways to speak beyond the choir and to persuade and inform people beyond our insular networks. That means better candidates for office, but it also means strategizing about ways to reach the voters in the ways the Democrats have done more recently to energize and get out the vote for their candidates. We have the arguments on our side and when well articulated, they can be persuasive.

I saw that first hand in Aspen. I swayed several people toward the end who came to me to understand the issues better. I’m not talking about wealthy types but the middle class moms of kids in my son’s third grade class at the public school who were concerned about Obama and the direction of the country and didn’t understand why Republicans would put forward a candidate that wanted to raise taxes on them to give tax breaks to the wealthy or who wanted to take us back to the policies that caused the 2008 economic crisis.

They helped me figure out what to write in my last few Aspen Times columns, actually. Honestly, I’m not so excited about getting back to work on the column, but I know I have to, especially as the opportunities in the midterms are likely significant, as they usually are in president’s second terms, and because the challenge is to inform the voters.

Jefferson said “when the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their government.” That quote is top of mind for me, and the motto on my website. Alas, this election confirms that the people are ill-informed and hence, the government can’t be trusted. The key will be to inform the people. Centennial Institute is clearly involved in doing that, I hope to do the same. We who think alike need to huddle and strategize. It’s important to feel the support of allies. Standing together, we can fulfill Churchill’s admonition to “never, never, never surrender.”

Melanie Sturm is active in Republican politics and writes the “Think Again” column for the Aspen Times

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