Practical issues like healthcare, the state of the roads, safe drinking water and a living wage helped the Democrats take the House of Representatives in the US midterm elections as Americans turned away from Donald Trump’s credo of power, sex and money, writes Susan Dalgety after campaigning for Susan Wild in Pennsylvania.
Jackie picked up her stick, her umbrella and her shopping bag.
“I have to go for my bus now. If I miss this one, it’s an hour’s wait for the next,” she said in her soft North Carolina drawl.
“I will see you in 2020,” I laughed, giving her a big hug.
“If I last that long,” she laughed back. “I’m already 83!” And with that cheery retort, she went out into the dark, wet November night. I am sure I will see her again.
Jackie was just one of the many, many lovely people we met on the campaign to elect Democrat Susan Wild to Congress.
There were a handful of full-time, paid staff who took care of strategy and press, but it was the volunteers who won the election.
Some were full time, like Ryan, who works in international development, but had taken unpaid leave to help his party win back Pennsylvania; others popped in for a two-hour canvass shift, keen to do their bit.
Many had never worked in an election before, but after a short training session from Ed, ably assisted by Piper, his West Highland terrier, they were ready to hit the streets.
There was a moment on election day, when I was ankle deep in the water running down both sides of the road, my canvass sheets disintegrating in the torrential rain, that I thought of giving up. But a cup of hot coffee and a cinnamon roll in a neighbourhood deli restored my mood, and out I went again.
Was it worth spending two weeks volunteering full-time for a candidate we did not know, for a party we were not members of, and in a country that is not ours?
Of course it was. Quite apart from meeting up with old friends, and making new ones, we made a very modest contribution to Susan Wild’s ten-point victory over her Republican opponent. She now joins a record number of women in the House, with 102 women serving in the new session, beating the previous record of 85 female representatives.
American politics is finally starting to look like America. And the Democrats’ House victory has helped restore equilibrium to the United States of America, and so the world.
“One-party rule ends” was the blunt message scrolling along the news bar of MSNBC show Morning Joe on Thursday morning.
Trump may still be in the White House, screaming into the night about witch-hunts and enemies of the people, but finally, after two years of unfettered chaos, bordering on demagoguery, there will now be a formal check on his behaviour.
And not before time. The Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln, have debased themselves for Trump. They have turned a blind eye to his worst excesses in exchange for tax cuts for the rich. They may wince at his crude nationalism, but secretly they admire his tawdry appeal to white, rural voters.
He has become the poster boy for an America that only ever existed in Hollywood Westerns. One where every man carries a gun, every woman wears an apron, and everyone is white, preferably Anglo Saxon and most definitely Protestant.
“There is no Republican Party any more, it’s gone. We have the Trumpian Party now,” said a commentator this week.
No-one, least of all Donald Trump, knows how the story of the Trumpian Party will end. Will his new ‘acting’ Attorney General and placeman, Matt Whitaker, sack special investigator Robert Mueller?
If he does, will it spark a constitutional crisis, just as Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre did back in 1973?
How will Trump react if his oldest son, and biggest cheerleader, Donald Trump Jr, is charged with perjury, as now seems likely.
And even if he succeeds in batting away the Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between his election campaign and Russia – as he did previously with serial bankruptcies and scandals that would have felled more normal men – will he actually run in 2020?
Or will he take the easy way out and head back to Trump Tower to capitalise on his status as the 45th President of the United States? The next two years, like the last two, are going to be tumultuous.
The new class of women politicians who are going to help shape the future have more practical, down to earth, matters on their mind.
Like Susan Wild, most of them see fixing America’s broken health care system as their priority. Little wonder, as an exit poll on Tuesday night showed that 70 per cent of voters want major changes to health.
“We have had a taste of what affordable, universal health care could be like under Obamacare,” explained Ryan during a lull on election day. “We want to make it even better.” Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, the new Governor of Michigan, is one of the nine women who won gubernatorial races on Tuesday.
Her slogan “fix the damn roads” caught the imagination of voters fed-up of a failing infrastructure that saw children poisioned by lead in Flint’s water supply and roads so bad they cost the average driver more than $540 a year.
New Mexican Deb Haaland, one of the first two Native American women to win a seat in Congress, is going to use her new position to win investment for renewable energy. “If we don’t have our Earth, we don’t have anything,” she said recently, “I am always going to talk about that.”
And Ilhan Omar, who made history on Tuesday night with Rashid Tlaib as the first Muslim women congresswomen, says her priority is a $15 minimum wage and subsidising higher education for low-income students.
Better roads, safe drinking water, a living wage and solar energy are hardly issues that keep Donald Trump awake at night.
Power, sex and money are what drives this President. But these are not the things most Americans discuss round the dinner table, with their workmates, with friends after church.
They worry about saving for their kids’ college fees, about paying for the family’s healthcare, about being able to afford their weekly groceries. They don’t want gold toilets or private jets. They just want to be able to pay their way without worry and bring their children up without fear or prejudice. They want their grandchildren to have a better future.
That is why millions of people queued for hours on Tuesday to vote. It is why women like Georgia’s Stacy Abrams ran for office. It is why 83-year-old Jackie volunteered on Susan Wild’s campaign.
It is the very purpose of democracy, the founding principle of America: to organise society for the benefit of all the people, not just a 72-year-old demagogue and his sycophants.
And on Tuesday, democracy started to re-assert itself.