I’ve lost a lot. I’ve been very disappointed on election night. There have been times when I was absolutely sure people were seeing what I saw and feeling what I felt about a candidate and a moment and the country. And they didn’t. What was hardest about a few of those times was that it seemed just as many people agreed with me as disagreed with me. The margin of victory was so small – just a few percentage points – it felt like losing on a last second field goal in the Super Bowl. In other words it didn’t feel like I lost, it felt like I’d had victory ripped out of my hands. It didn’t feel like my team or my ideas or my side should leave the field in shame. We should get our props. The other team should not take a victory lap before they come and acknowledge that we belong on the same field and that it could just as easily been us raising the trophy. Nobody likes to be shown up when they lose, especially when they lose a close one.
There is also the idea of being a “good loser.” I know what that is supposed to mean and all the soccer moms out there make sure their little snowflakes slap hands with the other team after their games where supposedly no one is keeping score but everyone knows who won and who lost. Losing with dignity is a good thing; losing your dignity because you lost is one of the worst. But losing and then being treated as if you never belonged on the field in the first place, well that makes people indignant. Losing and then accepting losing as if it was noble and accepting whatever the other team does with their victory…that is just unacceptable. If you compete hard and keep your head up in defeat you have every right to have a say in what happens after the game
So if you are hurting in the aftermath of Tuesday, I know how you feel. I’ve known it for the past 8 years. But Obama didn’t give props. He didn’t act like it was a close game. He acted as if it was an absolute blow out with a mandate to do whatever he wanted to do. He famously said, in a meeting with Republican leaders after his first win, “I won,” when challenged about his economic plan, as if that settled everything. He then went on to ram Obamacare down the throat of the country, politicized every instance of gun violence to advance his agenda, demagogued any racially charged event and called any opponent any convenient name he could think of that would effectively make them shut up (racist, bigot, homophobe, hayseed, redneck, uneducated, bitter, clinger, religious nut case…) So yes, I understand how it feels to lose. I’ve been reminded daily by Obama, Pelosi, and maybe my favorite reminder Harry Reid who admitted he made up the story that Mitt Romney didn’t pay his taxes in order to destroy his changes of getting elected. What did Reid say when called on his lie? “It worked, didn’t it? We won.” Yeah, I understand how you feel.
But here is the thing now. I do know how you feel and I don’t like that you feel that way. It sucks. I told a lot of you who gloated and went along with the tactics employed by your team that they would not always be in charge and one day it would flip. The nuclear option to overcome filibusters; the parliamentary procedures of budget reconciliation employed to rewrite laws that were not duly passed in the House; the urgent votes in the middle of the night to pass huge pieces of legislation no one had even read, the shutting down debate in order to force votes; stonewalling appointments of judges when you want to and then calling the people who do the same thing traitors to their offices, the threat of shutting down the government demagogued to the press at endless press conferences…I KNOW HOW THAT FEELS. And even though you were happy with all the things your team did and not sympathetic to my side at all, I still don’t want you to feel like this. I don’t think you have to feel it.
This next four years could be a good experience for most of us. I know you don’t believe it but it is true. Trump is an opportunity. That’s all he’s ever been. He is a tool our nation can use to answer some critical questions and we can all participate in getting the answers right. He is not going to have the power of Obama’s presence to protect him. No one is going to be afraid to oppose him. He is going to have to make his case and work with all kinds of people who disagree with him to get anything done. He will try to run the government like a business. He will be pragmatic. Some things you think are important won’t be addressed at all. If bathrooms are high on your list you’ll need to work on that locally because Trump won’t care. You may think that is tragic, but it is actually the way things are meant to get done in America and it is good for our government to be as close to local as possible. It is an issue of accountability and politicians and leaders you can get to because they live in your neighborhood are much easier to influence and keep clean than ones living in a high tower far away. You don’t need to feel your issues are unimportant, you’ll just need to take a more active role in seeing them through.
Really, the things you are probably most upset about happening in a prospective Trump administration are not going to happen. You may lose some, but you’ll win some too. There were wins in the last 8 years that felt good. There will be some of those for you too. Mostly I think you are going to find that your “opponents” are not so opposed to you as you think, and 8 years worth of feeling the way you feel today has tempered their reaction to all that is happening this week. There will be gloaters for sure. There always are even on the classiest teams. But I think you’ll find a lot of sympathetic folks who don’t want to gloat and who just want what you want – a fair and even handed government that stays out of our way and doesn’t make us think about it every day whether it is our team or the other. Aaron Rodgers said it a few years back when the Packers were struggling to right the ship; relax.
And if you’re a Christian, for Pete’s sake stop acting like either one of these teams is your team. Start acting like you’ve read the end of the story and you know how it turns out…People NEED us right now to have real equanimity and wisdom and patience and kindness. Try being Jesus just by being calm and reassuring to those who have no equanimity other than what they can produce by winning. Jesus and Aaron agree: Do not worry about tomorrow. Your Father knows what you need. He feeds the sparrows and you are much more valuable than they. Relax.