On Betsy Devos’ Confirmation, McConnell’s Censorship of Elizabeth Warren, and a Week Where Otherwise Terrible Things Have Happened

Didn’t we know this was going to happen? Or at least that something terrible, and in fact many terrible, disappointing things, would happen, no matter how hard we tried to stop them? Didn’t we know, back in June, when he became the Republican nominee— something many of us thought was impossible? Surely we must have known then. Or, if not by then, then on Nov. 9th? We must have, by then, known that these trees of disruption and hatred would certainly bear the fruit of terrible things? Or when he issued the executive orders and Republican lawmakers were silent, didn’t we see it by then?

I know that many of us are incredibly disappointed about DeVos’ appointment, and shocked that McConnell would censor Elizabeth Warren. It is unjust, it is absurd and it was not supposed to happen, especially because, on the count of Devos, we did what we were supposed to do. We called, we sent letters, we showed up and we were razor-close to having what we needed. But it happened anyway.

If we are shocked by this, I think we need to take a second look. From the primaries to now, we have entered a new era, one where we the outrageous and implausible will become reality before we have even envisioned it.

I know this sounds pessimistic, or like an accusation of naivety but it is not. It is a plea and a strategy. I think we need to know this right now. I think we need to get real about how bad it can be, the terrible things our government can do. We need to let our imaginations run wild and grapple realistically with the awful images it turns up. We need abandon any hope of anything saving us besides ourselves— no deux de machina, no acts of god. We cannot expect that he will be impeached (although he might), or that the courts or congress will check his power (although they might), although we can and should mobilize to make all of these things more likely.

If we are continuously shocked we will be continuously unprepared, always thinking that surely they would not do that, but in the meantime they already have. We need to be ready and vigilant. I have never been in a fight, but I am told that it is key to size up your opponent, understanding them and anticipating their moves. Trump, Bannon and now McConnell have been clear about who they are and what they want: They are okay with censorship, white supremacy, hypocrisy and violence. So let us not be shocked when these things happen, but instead unsurprised, anticipating and ready to resist them.

We also have to be to fight, and ready to be in this for the long-haul. This is going to be a multi-year battle and we will lose many fights in it. So yes, I am frustrated that DeVos got confirmed by a razor-thin vote, and outraged that McConnell would ban Warren from debate. I feel that too. But, I also know that this nonsense is going to go on for many years to come and it is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

And, it will eventually get better, of that I am sure.

Just look at what happened to Mitch McConnell. His words to Elizabeth Warren were perfect: “She was warned. She was giving an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” I words are already haunting him, and it is our job to make sure they continue to echo for decades.

They are powerful, because they tell the story of progress. There are always obstacles. There are always people like McConnell who are trenchant and enforce the status quo and there are always people like Elizabeth Warren, like us. We have all been warned before. We have all been given explanations. We have all been told to go home and that it will not work out and often it does not, but we persist. We persist and persist and build the framework we need, focus on the big picture, build the movement, gather the people, gather momentum and then, somewhere in all that time, we find the right moment, the tiny opening, the little in where, after all this work, the field is finally soft enough and we have built what we need and we can finally reach escape velocity, we can finally fly out and crack the ceiling and change the nature of the world as it once stood.

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