In the case of the 2018 Midterms, a sober and insightful approach shows that the nation is increasingly sick and tired of everything that the disgusting President Trump, and his GOP sycophants, represent. It marked a refreshing and hopeful desire and intent of millions of Americans, including a growing portion of its swelling ranks of the young and minorities, to turn this nation in a new direction, and to treat the menace in the White House now as a clarion call for a revival of core values.
The election, as Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine said during his victory speech Tuesday night, marked not just a “Blue Wave” of Democratic wins, but a new wave of compassion, character, caring, love, righteousness and justice, and a rejection of “the ugliness coming out of the Oval Office.” Referring to Virginia’s slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers,” he added that it is “for inclusion, for welcoming and not for judgers, doubters and haters.”
“America is great only when its leaders are good,” he said, and he began an extended riff on his own motivating spirituality. “We all have issues which motivate us. Mine calls us,” he said, quoting George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, “to walk cheerfully over the world answering that of God in everyone.” He then referred to this season’s Hindu celebration of Navaratri that he said was poignant for representing the triumph of light over darkness and understanding over ignorance. The correspondence of that celebration with this week’s electoral victory “is not an accident,” he said.
Kaine’s unique overarching approach of values to the campaign invigorated voters throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Not faced with a serious challenge this time (his opponent being an over-the-top right wing pro-Trump Republican) Kaine campaigned tirelessly for other Democratic candidates in the state, keying more and more on the issue of values as the election approached, and it worked beautifully, as three Democratic women running for Congress for the first time upended their Republican counterparts and combined with the comfortable wins for the state’s four incumbent Democrats to bring the state to a 7-4 majority for Democrats in Congress.
Kaine made it clear that his own spirituality, although Catholic in its roots, is not theologically or ideologically narrow. On the contrary, his serious reference to the Quakers and the Hindu holiday are evidence of his ecumenical sentiment, as was his missionary work at a Jesuit school and role as a fair housing advocate in his early adult years prior to running for the City Council in Richmond, becoming its mayor, and then winning difficult and close statewide elections for Virginia lieutenant governor, governor and U.S. Senator. As Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, he brought his solid, values-based approach to his campaign, earning a fatherly reputation, even a nerdy one, such as playing his harmonica on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
But in the context of the Year of the Woman profile of these midterm elections, and the record progress made for minority and LGBT candidates, it perhaps was the openly-articulated spirituality of this ecumenical candidate that certainly set the tone for Virginia’s significant triumphs, and maybe for more of the nation than recognized.
By contrast, the evangelical right wing, associated with Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, and other aging white men like former presidential candidate Pat Robertson, attached itself to Trump and stuck with him ferociously despite all the evidence of his unrepentant personal excesses. This crowd joyously aligned itself with Trump’s cruel approach to immigration and the plight of Central Americans and other women and children fleeing severe poverty and political repression.
Over time, these contrasting approaches to matters of the spirit will resonate deeply in the American psyche, one embracing humane universal values and the other grasping to a mindless ideology and obedience to authoritarian political leadership.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected].