What do you have to Lose

Barack Obama said in his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in April 2004:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

Barack Obama was a Senator from Illinois when he said these words, I think he might have still been idealistic and hopeful. It is a very different world today than it was in 2004. I hate to think just how different it really is.

Several years ago, on a stump speech in Dimondale, Michigan, Donald J. Trump stood in front of a crowd and appealed to Black voters specifically with these words, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

Well, now we know, everything.

Justice, Peace, Equality start there though these are more ideals than truth, we have to start somewhere.

The Constitution, The Republic, Voting Rights, The Right to Gather Peacefully in Protest. These are real and necessary if we have even one single hope or prayer in the world of rebuilding a tattered nation.

Finally, let’s add the simple things that we have taken for granted, even if they were at times spotty for some of us; economic security, health security, freedom of movement.

Everything, and if all that isn’t enough, let’s add some things that many of us never thought about until we realized they mattered: human kindness, manners, compassion, morality, ethics, values.

What did we have to lose? Every single thing that made us a great nation and sometimes great people has been stripped from us and we have left a smoldering wasteland. We are exposed to our very core. We are stripped bare for who and what we are. Now we have a choice, at once terrible and perhaps telling. Is this who we truly are? Is this what we truly are? Or instead, do we desire something more, something better? Do we finally demand what was promised to us in the Declaration of Independence in 1776;

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Scholars have long debated the source of Thomas Jefferson’s philosophical roots. Many believe them to be found within the writing of John Locke, specifically Two Treatises of Government and Essay Concerning Human Understanding. When reading the original text of the Declaration, it is easy to see Locke’s influence on Jefferson, both philosophically and later, in how he governed.

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.” 

This, though, gets us back to our dilemma of the here and now, the dilemma of 2020 and Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America; con man, shyster, dilettante, liar and thief. The Founders of this nation, imperfect though they were, attempted to place safeguards into the Constitution to prevent a Donald Trump from ever rising up to the position of President. They created the two houses of Congress and gave them specific powers, the check and balance against Administrative overreach. They created The Judiciary, with powers of their own and not beholden to any other branch of government with power extending over all controversies, whether between branches of government, states or persons.

Finally, in 1804 they created the Electoral College. Love it or hate it; this was an attempt to create a more balanced means of electing the President and Vice President separately, ensuring those in more rural parts of this new country had a voice. It wasn’t until the Civil War under Lincoln that it became common practice to run a single-party ticket, thus preventing the President and Vice President from being from different parties, creating divided administrative branches.

Yet, despite all the safeguards, here we are today with Donald J. Trump as the 45th POTUS and a Senate so firmly in his pocket it is hard to tell where he ends and they begin. With an Attorney General so deeply corrupted, those of us with any sense of history or love of country are so profoundly outraged we are finally and wholly at a loss for words. With a Federal Judiciary overrun with lifetime far-right appointments carefully chosen by the unholy partnership of Mitch McConnel and Don McGahn. With a Congress at a bi-partisan standstill, doing no business for the people and close to another government shutdown.

What do we have to lose he asked, do we know now? Everything, we have the soul of a nation to lose. This election isn’t just about whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins; it is about whether we remain a Free Democratic Republic or a Fascist state under a Dictator and his sycophantic minions. The issue we have today? It is the same one we had in 2016, understanding how the system works and how to win. For four long years, I have heard the same whine from those on the left, Hilary Clinton won the popular vote she should be our President. My answer is always the same; that isn’t how it works. She isn’t our President because she and the DNC failed and they did so miserably. Nothing is guaranteed, but one thing is damned near certain in Presidential elections and that is whoever wins the swing states wins the Presidency. Kellyanne Conway, in her role campaign manager, knew this and focused all her attention on those states; it is how she drove Trump into the White House. The fact of the matter is Clinton lost the election on her own, Clinton lost Michigan along with several other Battleground states and thus she lost the election.

We do not have the luxury of arrogance in 2020. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring the battlegrounds, nor do we have the luxury of believing the polls. This is war and if we are not careful, it will be bloody and long, not just a war of words shouted in the streets but a genuine conflict with lines drawn and innocents lost to ideology, classism and American against American once again. This America we are living in today, this is Trump’s America.

So what do we have to lose? Everything.

What do we have to gain? Not everything, but a start toward something new. Just like when you or I find ourselves cleaning out our garage, electing the Democratic ticket and the Blue down-ballot, we are saying to our government, we want a new start. We need a new conversation and a change to the old ways. Is Biden the perfect candidate? No, absolutely not, but we all know he is a transition candidate. He will be President for four years and then retire. Will Harris be the next President, maybe if she proves herself in her role as Vice President. Then perhaps this nation is still not ready; we will have to see. What I do know, the Biden/Harris ticket gives us the best opportunity to start having much needed and long overdue conversations about the things that have simmered under the surface and corrupted our national progress for four hundred years. It is time to rip that scab off and let it all out, time to begin to truly address what is going to burn us to the ground if Trump wins four more years.

What are you going to do? Stay home because Biden isn’t your guy, wasn’t your pick? Maybe you will throw your vote away on the Green candidate in a protest vote. Here is my only word for you in 2020:

Not Voting or throwing your vote away this year is not an act of Protest; it is an act of Surrender.


  1. Spot on, Val. All of it. I rarely make reference to political topics on my blog (last time was in tumultuous 2016) but these past 4 years have been so disturbing that even I made reference to the man-child-in-chief in my most recent post while trying to appeal to people’s better nature—the common ground of what we like to consider our humanity. Sept. 11 sparked the thoughts for me and how very far away we are now from our solidarity in this nation immediately post-9/11. I know we have it in us to come together as a people, politicians be damned, but then again, even back in 2001, though the then president had other underlying motivations, the rhetoric coming from him was one of unity. We are a far better, kinder nation when we are encouraged to be a better, kinder version of ourselves.

    • Sue, I hope we have it in us. I pray that nearly every single day. There are days though I wonder. It is so nice to see you. I am remiss in not responding sooner. ❤

      • I have my days too, which is why I will probably always keep the SwimmingInTheMud blog alive to write about those feelings that I simply have to get out of me and simply must share. I’m trying to lean more heavily and purposefully into the hopeful these past several months. Admittedly, it’s been challenging to get there and stay there, but I’ve been doing what I can—have given up social media outlets that feed the restlessness, other’isms, and general chaos in me and the world. Have minimized my news exposure to print versions only that don’t exaggerate, emote, or fan flames. Have been working on meditation, breathing and self-healing techniques to get a handle on how much I allow this all to trigger me… a constant state of fight or flight is not working well for me. Unsustainable. I’m aware of the issues. I know who I’m voting for, but I’ve stepped away from the impossible task of trying to save the world. I’m working on being a mentally healthier version of myself that responds to and handles these and similar challenges with less knee-jerk emotion and a bit more calm and level-headed intention. We’ve got to be good to ourselves and be better versions of ourselves so we can handle the long road we have to travel to be the united country our forefathers envisioned we should strive to be. I’m not sure we were ever there, but it’s always been possible that we can get there. As much shit that’s going on these past 4 years and easily the 8 years before it, there’s also a great awakening going on right now, forced, in part, by a pressure cooker pandemic that just might ultimately magnify our common human struggle more than our differences. Fingers crossed that’s where this will all go. Sending love to you, Val. ❤️

  2. “con man, shyster, dilettante, liar and thief” – one of the best descriptions of him that I have seen, and very civil! It seems many took a change on Trump in 2016 and we lost so much. No, Biden is not perfect but he gives me hope. This election is too important to throw away our votes! Excellent post, Val. Stay sane and well.

    • Hello my friend. I am trying to stay sane, this season of crazy is trying my nerves though. Thank you for your kind words, I had to edit several times to eliminate my venom.

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