Today, Day One after election day

The views expressed in the following article are the opinion of the writer and do not reflect the opinions of the Newswire staff as a whole.

By now, the midterm elections are over. The confetti has fallen, concession speeches have been made and tears of joy or anguish have been shed while the nation breathes a collective sigh of relief as campaign ads cease to flood our airwaves.

Now, the real work begins.

It’s on days like today that words from the perpetually discontented historian Howard Zinn come to mind, particularly his reverberating declaration that “Gossip is the opium of the American public.”

After a bruising midterm season replete with gossip — from false flag conspiracy theories to ridiculous claims about Democrats hacking an election in Georgia to Ted Cruz’s peculiar strategy of shaming Beto O’Rourke for playing in a punk rock band during his younger years (as if that’s anything to be ashamed of) — Zinn’s words feel especially poignant.

“Our most cherished moment of democratic citizenship,” he wrote on the Fourth of July in 1976, “comes when we leave the house once in four years to choose between two mediocre white Anglo-Saxon males who have been trundled out by political caucuses, million dollar primaries and managed conventions for the rigged multiple choice test we call an election.”

Zinn’s scalding assessment of our distinctly American pastime endures today. While this year’s election featured perhaps the most diverse field of candidates in American history — and that is a very good thing — the midterms were dominated by high-inducing gossip that distracts us from the era-making challenges we face today, Day One after election day.

No matter who won last night, wealth inequality in the United States still stands at Gilded Age magnitudes this morning — our leaders seemingly impotent in the face of accumulated capital, the likes of which humankind has never seen before.

No matter who won last night, this morning global temperatures continue to rise, and sea levels alongside them, as we begin to experience the first rounds of ever-intensifying environmental catastrophes in the fulfillment of the anthropocene.

These defining challenges of our time require a radical rethinking of our current state of affairs. A two-party stalemate that continues to embrace unchecked corporate capitalism, the perpetuation of a vestigial elite class insulated from the slings and arrows of life and political lethargy disguised as “repeal and replace” or “RESIST” simply won’t cut it.

Rather, the troubles we now face on this, Day One after election day, ask us to challenge the very foundations of our society — to question the intellectual and policy consensus that has dominated public life since the great upheavals of the second World War and the 1980s. It requires a new radicalism in the spirit of the word’s origin, an uprooting of the systems by which we unquestionably live our lives.

Our politics, impoverished as communities dissolve and robust civic discourse falters, appear incapable of providing our establishment leaders with the sort of mandate necessary to embrace bold visions in the face of insurmountable odds. If our leaders can’t, we must.

While elections are a nice dog and pony show, our incomprehensible focus on the electoral system has lulled us into the false sense that our responsibilities to self-governance end at the ballot box. We have allowed political and economic elites to convince us that participation happens once every four years, maybe twice in that time if we really mean it.

Not so. If we are to answer the overwhelming issues we face today, Day One after election day, the spirit of self-government requires each of us to reclaim our responsibilities as citizens, to find pathways through which to channel our voices in solidarity against the void. Whether we find it in the direct action of boycotts and protests or the infrastructure of local school board meetings and town halls, only through rebuilding our lost commitment to participatory self-government can we do what our elected leaders lack the will or the way to do.

It starts today, the first day after election day, and continues every day afterward.

Today, Day One after election dayRyan Kambich is a first-year Private Interest and the Public Good masters student. He is the Opinions & Editorials Editor for the Newswire from Deerfield, Ill.