Can we all rejoice that this insane, ridiculous election is almost over? I mean, I’m crossing my fingers and my toes and still working to get the right people elected and the right ballot initiatives passed or defeated. (Search “Broke-Ass Stuart Voter Guide” to see my endorsements.) But still, Nov. 8 can’t come soon enough.
I know you feel me, too. This rodeo clown parade of a presidential election has been going on for more than a year and a half, and the dirty game show of a local election has been moving for damn near a year. Come Nov. 9, we’ll all take a deep breath, count our wins and losses and then get back to life as normal, right?
No, not really. We are never going back to “normal” — and this only tangentially has anything to do with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
In last week’s column, I talked about how the 2016 election was the death of civility and how political strategists are now looking at what Trump did and trying to see how far future candidates can push ugliness without going over the edge. That’s a direct result of our current election cycle. But the most important thing that has happened in 2015 and 2016 is the beautiful and amazing eruption of grassroots movements. The past two years may be remembered for the fuckery of the presidential election, but the legacy of this era will be the things that regular citizens accomplished by banding together to fight for equity and justice.
We are living through the new Civil Rights Movement. If you’ve ever watched films and documentaries about the 1960s and ’70s and thought to yourself, “I would totally be involved with that if I was there,” it’s time to put your convictions where your mouth is. You are there, right now, and the grassroots movements organizing and protesting and using direct action are completely changing our country.
I’ve always been a loudmouth liberal, ready to run my jibs about my political beliefs. It wasn’t until I ran for mayor last year, though, that I really started to get involved with people and organizations actually putting in the work, instead of just running their mouths. I think that’s the case for a lot of people in San Francisco.
The “1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee” campaign that Amy Weiss, Francisco Herrera and I ran helped galvanize a lot of people who weren’t necessarily engaged before. That engagement, coupled with all the harrowing things that have been reaching us through social media, has helped bring more people to grassroots activism, especially white people. Once you start caring, it’s hard to stop. And once you realize that your whiteness affords you privileges that not everyone has, it’s hard not to want to work toward making the world more equitable.
From Black Lives Matter to Standing Rock to the Frisco 500, we are witnessing something amazing: People from all ethnic backgrounds and all socioeconomic groups standing together to fight for a better future for all of us. I’ve seen rich people at protests supporting The City’s homeless population. I’ve seen landlords at City Hall fighting to end evictions. I’ve seen people of all ethnicities helping shut down the freeway in support of Black Lives Matter. The chant, “The people united will never be defeated,” continues to ring in one’s ears for days after any direct action, simply because it’s true.
No matter who wins the presidential election on Nov. 8, there will be a lot of work to do. Breaking down the prison industrial complex, ending police violence, getting universal healthcare, making college tuition free, ending Citizens United, defending women’s reproductive rights … the list goes on and on. But none of these things will happen on their own. Those in power don’t just give it away because they are magnanimous. We have to make them give it to us by organizing and holding them accountable. There is a wonderful future ahead for all Americans, but it’s going to take some time to get there.
I can’t wait for Nov. 8 to be over. Nov. 9 is when the real work begins.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.