American liberals in despair over the presidential election would do well to look at Israel, where setbacks at the ballot box brought left-wingers together and drove them to think bigger.
By Matt Duss and Dahlia Scheindlin
As the initial shock of the presidential election fades, American progressives are left struggling with disturbing implications beyond the mere fact of being on the losing side. We ponder the apparent declaration that America rejects its religious and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ community, the immigrants who have made this country great, its independent women, and even its equality-supporting men. What looked like a historic march toward greater equality and inclusiveness seems to have ground to an angry halt. Our thinking, activism, and writing apparently reached only “ourselves,” insufficiently at that, and failed to win over enough of “them.” Despair is a looming option.
Sadly for the world, but luckily for us, this isn’t our first time around. The two of us are both deeply involved in Israel, professionally and personally. For Israeli progressives, Netanyahu’s fourth re-election in March 2015 also felt like a local version of a grand-scale collapse. Just over a year later, with the Brexit vote, a slim majority of British voters said to hell with that massive structure symbolizing the values of the interconnected world we desire.
So why are we lucky to have lived this bitter reality before? Because we have one distinct advantage in facing America’s new reality: experience. We’ve had time to absorb the blow and think about what to do next. And these experiences can only lead in one direction: More commitment to the values of openness, more progressive engagement, more assertive leveraging of the tools necessary for those of us who have been kicked out of the ring and into the back rows of opposition.
This brings us back to 2009 in Israel, long before Benjamin Netanyahu’s infamous 2015 statement about Israel’s Arabs “voting in droves.” In 2009, Netanyahu made his great “comeback,” returning to the political scene and becoming prime minister a decade after he was first routed by voters with no small amount of disgust in 1999. Netanyahu’s return was seen by many as a deathblow to the progressive, outward- and forward-looking vision of peace and equality already eroded by the violence of the aughts. Many were left shattered — and scared.
But, then, a strange thing happened. The election, along with the Gaza...Read More