PORTLAND, MAINE – The woman shrugs.
She doesn’t mention Donald Trump’s latest outrage – that he’s “the chosen one.” She doesn’t even utter his name.
She says she thinks she’s going to vote Democrat. Then she frowns a bit. “But I like Collins.”
She’s referring to Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican. Collins is the bane of every Democrat’s existence. She’s the one, more than any other Senator, who got Brett Kavanaugh onto the US Supreme Court.
She’s the one who generally supports all of Trump’s nominees. She’s the one who claims to be a moderate Republican – and then votes for Trump’s agenda.
The woman at the door of the bungalow on Hale Street has indicated she’s a Democrat. But she’s ready to vote – again – for a Republican. Susan Collins.
It wouldn’t be a big deal, but it happens again and again. As my daughter and I move from door to door in this older Portland neighbourhood, volunteering for the Democratic Party, we see it a lot: shrugs.
Down the street, Thomas, a man in his sixties, says he’ll vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress. Then he shrugs, too. “And maybe Collins for Senate,” he says.
What we encounter on Hale Street isn’t unique. It isn’t an aberration. Maine Democrats have encountered it so often, an entire section of the script we’ve been given deals with Democrats who are ready to vote Republican.
Right about now, Trump fans shouldn’t start breaking out the bubbly. It’s not that Americans have grown to love the guy. Polls clearly show they don’t, and in battleground states he won in 2016, too.
But there’s resignation, now. There’s familiarity. There’s…shrugs.
The day after my daughter and I knocked on dozens of doors for the Dems, a gifted New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, wrote about exactly what we experienced. “Donald Trump has worn us all out,” read the headline atop his column.
Wrote Bruni: “[Voters have] binged on Trump and now they’re overstuffed with Trump, and if Democratic candidates are smart, they’ll not dwell on his mess and madness, because voters have taken his measure and made their judgments, and what many of them want is release from the incessant drumbeat of that infernal syllable: Trump, Trump, Trump.”
And it’s true. As this writer said to someone down here, after reading Bruni’s words: “Do you get outraged about Trump anymore? Does he shock you anymore? Do you just change the channel, or flip the page, and move on to the next thing?”
Many of us do, on both sides of the border, I suspect. We simply have become used to Trump’s incendiary tweets, and his politics of division. He doesn’t shock us anymore. We shake our heads, or we shrug, and we move on.
That creates opportunity for the Democrats, Bruni opined, because he thinks Americans are sick of all the drama and the craziness, and they want stability and civility.
On Hale Street – and, in fact, on every other street we canvassed in Portland – we saw precious little evidence of that hopeful theory. Why we saw, instead, is that everyday Americans simply aren’t as exercised about Donald Trump as they used to be.
And that’s translating into expressions of support – from Democrats! – for one of Trump’s enablers, Susan Collins. And that’s opportunity, maybe, for Trump and the GOP.
Peter Jones, a retired man stands at his front door, and gives us hope. And a warning.
“I pay attention,” he says to us, finger wagging. “Two things. Point out Trump’s faults, sure. But tell us what you’re going to do, too!”
Have Democrats done that, nearly enough? Have they described the America they want to create?
Down on Hale Street, not really.
And not across America, either.
Well this is just downright adorable.
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 31, 2019
Your morning Joey: rough sea last night.
That seaweed sure tastes good, however.
The bar isn’t much to look at.
It’s on the tougher side of downtown, in a place where you cross the street when you see a couple guys coming your way.
There’s a big marquee out front, announcing its name, and a pair of weathered wooden doors that are open to all, but not all dare step inside.
No liquor licence. Envelopes stuffed with bills, handed over to the cops, are all that keep it open.
Whenever there’s a raid, the bar’s owners will sometimes get tipped off. Not always, but sometimes. The raids happen, ostensibly, because people gather there – people who dare not speak their name out loud.
Their sin? Dancing. The city doesn’t want them to dance together.
In the early morning hours of June 28, the cops raid the place again. There are uniformed officers outside, and some plainclothes officers inside, posing as patrons.
The cops go after one of the women in the bar, a regular. They push her and strike her. She gets mad and pushes back. They assault her some more.
A crowd has gathered out on the sidewalk, watching what the cops are doing to the woman. A cop brings his baton down on her head and she starts to bleed, a lot.
She’s mad, but not just at the cops, who are punching and kicking the bar’s patrons. As she’s being pushed into the back of a police van, the woman yells at the crowd: “Why don’t you guys do something?”
And they do. Just like that, just like a light being switched on, they do. Remembering, perhaps, all the years of bullying and beatings and actual murders, they erupt. They hit back.
By the end, they’ve trapped the cops inside the bar. And, later on, it’ll take dozens more cops to rescue them.
The bar isn’t in your town, but it could be. The raid, or something like it, doesn’t really happen in your town anymore – but it used to.
And the kind of people who would go there? They’re found in your town. Lots of them.
The bar really existed. Stonewall’s, in Lower Manhattan in New York City. Anyone could go there to dance and have a drink, but only one of kind person generally did so.
Homosexuals. Gays, lesbians. The ones who – in those days, and in these days, too – weren’t allowed to dance together. Or come together. Or even, you know, be.
The ones who would be denied jobs, or hotel rooms, because of the way they were. The ones who would be often beaten and sometimes killed for being who they were.
Their uprising that June night – that’s what that lesbian who the cops were beating called it, an uprising and not a riot – would later bear the name of the bar: Stonewall. Every year, bit by bit, in cities and towns all over, there would be a commemoration of what happened at Stonewall’s bar that night. Remembering.
In time, the remembrances bore another name. A name that described what they were really about.
Pride. Pride in being, at long last, in being who they are. Being how God made them.
Now, I don’t know Andrew Scheer all that well. He’s a family man, he goes to church. If he stayed that way, nobody would really care what he thinks about the various Pride events that happen across Canada every Summer. He’d just be another guy.
But he’s not just another guy. He’s not a nobody. He’s the leader of the Conservative Party, and he’s running to be Prime Minister.
When you’re a Prime Minister, you don’t get to pick and choose which Canadians you represent. You represent all of us, or you represent none of us.
So, I ask Andrew Scheer: are you going to be one of the guys on the sidewalk, watching and not doing anything about what you see? Or, are you going to step forward, and say: “I support you. I will help you. I will protect you. You are no better or no worse than me.”
That’s what the Pride stuff is about, really: equality. Support. Humanity.
Get off the damn sidewalk, Andrew.
People are starting to notice.
This is an effective political ad.
James Sears, the editor of the so-called newspaper called Your Ward News, was finally sentenced this afternoon in a Toronto courtroom to one year in jail. He’d been convicted in January of promoting hatred against Jews and women.
I just did an interview with some Toronto media, and noted that the case was important for two reasons.
One, the viciousness of the hate found in Your Ward News – against Jews, against women, against gays and lesbians, against nonwhites – was some of the worst hate I have ever seen.
Two, the conviction for promoting hatred against women has never happened before in Canadian history. That was a first, and – as I told reporters – it will mean that this judgement is studied for many years to come.
We are grateful to the Crown and to Justice Blouin – who is retiring this week – for their wisdom and hard work.
Now, onto the next battle.