There is not a lot of joy this election season. Everyone knows that we probably won’t live to see another ridiculously upbeat campaign season like 2008, when it was literally "cool" to go out and vote for then-Sen. Barack Obama, but 2016 has been an emotional letdown nonetheless.
The choice between Hillary Clinton, with her flawed and evolving racial politics, and Donald Trump and his attempt to create an American Third Reich has left a lot of people wondering if there is any good coming out of this election other than the occasional hot meme. Believe it or not, amid sex tapes, Russian leaks and over-the-top misogyny, a few spots of goodness have flourished like roses in concrete. When you think about it, perhaps the 2016 election season won’t be all bad. Below are five things to look forward to:
While Donald Trump spent the town hall debate telling black people that we live in hell, two African-American women were apparently making their way out of Dante’s inferno. In California, all signs point to Kamala Harris winning a Senate seat, despite her opponent Loretta Sanchez’s post-debate dabbing skills.
And in Delaware, Lisa Blunt Rochester is all but guaranteed to win a seat in Congress, making her the first woman and the first African American to represent the state of Delaware in Washington.
A convenient narrative for the 2016 election has been that millennials and Generation X are disconnected from the election; no Bernie, no Rand Paul, no under-40 crowd. But nothing could be further from the truth.
I spent time at Washington University for the second debate, and it had to be one of the most active and excited campuses I’ve seen in the last two campaign seasons. Students of all colors flooded the quad—Trump supporters and Clinton supporters—laughing, cheering and participating together in harmony. The excitement didn’t just extend to the politics students. The engineering school put together a “Rock ’em, Sock ’em” robot game for the candidates; random students would walk up to television crews offering themselves to be interviewed; and "Black Lives Matter" signs existed peacefully with "Make America Great Again" hats.
Washington University looked more like the site of an ESPN College Game Day than a presidential debate; those students were enthusiastic, funny, respectful and engaged, and it gave me hope about the future of our democracy.
Sexism. Police brutality. Islamophobia. These aren’t the issues you want to be talking to somebody about on the subway from U Street to Union Station. However, the very thorny issues of this presidential campaign have, for the first time, put a spotlight on all the miscreants, bigots and fools who populate our politics and media.
Thanks to Trump, we now know which Republicans are willing to back an unrepentant sexual predator and which Republicans will not (shoutout to Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham). Thanks to Clinton’s desperate need for across-the-board support, African Americans have extracted more policy promises from her than from almost any other Democratic candidate in the last 40 years (that includes then-Sen. Obama).
Even Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest put all of those closeted bigots and Uncle Ruckuses in sports journalism on blast as they revealed their real biases to television, radio and social media (looking at you, Ray Lewis). It’s nice to know that out of this election, we’ve all been able to learn who’s hiding underneath the white hoods.
President Obama is getting the Mike Jones treatment this election as Americans find themselves having to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. (A vote for Gary Johnson is just foolish, and a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Trump. That’s the harsh reality.)
If you are a long-term Obama supporter, this election season is a validation of what you’ve known all along. You can fairly criticize the president on some of his policy decisions, but as a husband, father and man, he’s been an exceptional role model for all Americans. He is enjoying some of the highest approval numbers of his presidency this election season, and more than half the voters in swing states like Ohio and North Carolina would rather have four more years of Obama than support either Clinton or Trump. So for those who love Obama, this election is your political schadenfreude. Enjoy it while it lasts.
I don’t know if it’s the end of the Obama era, a pushback to election-season vileness or just some long-term plans coming to fruition, but 2016 is ending on a cultural high note. If you’re feeling let down by the candidates, if you’re disgusted by Trump or holding your nose for Clinton, consider the level of distractions we have this campaign season.
There's Issa Rae’s excellent Insecure on HBO. Donald Glover’s Atlanta on FX is the funniest thing since season 1 of Louie. Queen Sugar, Greenleaf, The Birth of a Nation, Solange’s new album, Ava DuVernay’s 13th on Netflix and Luke Cage, which actually broke Netflix. To top it off, we got the "Blacksonian Museum," which is an amazing spectacle of African-American excellence—not to mention, there's a very good restaurant. This has been the blackest, most diverse and healthiest two months of entertainment in American history.
Jason Johnson, political editor at The Root, is a professor of political science at Morgan State’s School of Global Journalism and Communication and is a frequent guest on MSNBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera International, Fox Business News and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Follow him on Twitter.