White House of horrors: Power, progress and phlegmatism


Claudia Hanover

The morning after Election Day, Nov. 9, 2016, was a bleak one. I stayed up late the night prior watching the polls close and votes get counted, in denial as each state projection was broadcasted. And yet, the pit in my stomach didn’t fully form until the morning after. Days, weeks, even years later, the pit remained.

On this post-election morning, though, there is no new pit. The wave of hopelessness and denial I felt wash over me in 2016 was replaced by an unknown emotion. It was similar to the feeling of standing out in the cold for hours, watching your favorite football team take on its rival, only to result in a tie.

The closest word I could find to my emotion on a decently time-consuming Google hunt was phlegmatic. Am I really going to go around telling people this was an election night plagued with a feeling of phlegmatism?

For those of you who, like me, chose to take the ACT standardized test instead of having to deal with the mindless word-memorization of the SAT, phlegmatic is defined as the presence of an unemotional and stolidly calm disposition. Democrats failed to win the Senate — an expected loss, especially with all of Trump’s recent campaigning efforts — but won the House by a relatively large margin. One disappointing missed-opportunity and one big gain later, and yet I’m not convinced a feeling of stolid calmness sums up the night’s results.

As a gay, Jewish woman (surprise!), every day under the rule of a sexual-assault-admitting, Nazi-sympathizing, right-wing authoritarian feels like a battle of existence. Last night, we saw the first Native American women and Muslim women elected to Congress, the first openly gay man elected governor and a record number of women winning seats in the House.

America proved that it wants diverse representation, and that is nothing to feel phlegmatic about.

While progressives hang their heads over heroes Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum coming up just short against established Republicans Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis, respectfully, they fail to see the much larger picture. The excitement to vote for progressive Senate and Gubernatorial candidates enticed herds of people to the polls, many for the first time ever. Both Texas and Florida Democrats took two seats each from incumbent Republicans, in nail-bitingly close races. I feel confident in saying these results would be impossible without the efforts of O’Rourke and Gillum.

While a blue House and Senate would have been much more devastating for President Trump and his party, the control of the House is the first real check of his power we’ve seen thus far, and is something to be celebrated. For the past two years, Trump has enjoyed a Republican House, Senate and a conservative court. The only opposition he had were small courts trying to poke holes in his travel bans.

First and foremost, Democrats will now have subpoena power to investigate Trump’s tax returns, business conflicts of interests and documents that may aid in the Russia investigation. This is hugely important in making sure we have a legitimate and legal leader.

Next, there will be no more bills passed without Democratic support. This means tax breaks, healthcare repeal, Medicare and food stamp cuts are pretty much off the table.

Finally, the “i” word. All it takes to impeach President Trump is a simple House majority. If new information comes out in the Russia investigation, or an indicted Trump associate accuses him of a high crime, impeachment seems more than possible. While it would be nearly impossible to actually remove Trump from office, as it takes 67 senators, a minimum of 18 Republicans, to do so, impeachment wouldn’t look great for a re-election bid.

All-in-all, American progressives shouldn’t be phlegmatic. While the blue wave might not have been the tsunami some had hoped for, there is plenty to be content with.

More than ever, our representatives are beginning to represent the diversity of our nation. Slowly but surely, the Democratic Party is rising from the dead. If the House can actually hold Trump accountable, and Democrats double-down on diverse, young, progressive candidates in 2020, the wave will not die down. We refuse to be phlegmatic.

Claudia Hanover, ’21, is a columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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  1. current student on

    “All it takes to impeach President Trump is a simple House majority. If new information comes out in the Russia investigation, or an indicted Trump associate accuses him of a high crime, impeachment seems more than possible.”

    That is a very big “if.” I have to believe that if no one closely tried to the campaign has gotten in trouble yet, nothing is going to happen. Keep drinking the kool-aid, but remember: falling for the dreams of MSM is exactly how you lost 2016. If the dems want to win, they need to be realistic with themselves.

    Now excuse me while the right gets another SCOTUS confirmation.

    • Robert F Davenport Jr on

      MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is an organic sulfur compound that’s naturally derived during the earth’s rain cycle.
      Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM).

      I give up, what does MSM mean in the context of politics. Oh that people would define mnemonics upon initial usage. AS info: Scotus or SCOTUS may refer to:

      Supreme Court of the United States (I vote for this one)
      Scotus Academy, Edinburgh, Scotland
      Scotus Central Catholic High School, Nebraska
      Scotus College, Glasgow, Scotland

      • current student on

        Mainstream Media. It’s a term people usually on the right use to describe MSNBC, CNN, Fox, etc. The news sources that people consider to be “trustworthy” only because they’re popular. Usually filled with lefties or antiquated neocons.

  2. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    America does not want diverse representation, it wants solutions to problems. America is divided, solutions desired by the left are not the ones desired by the right and vice versa.

    If Mr.Trump can be believed, in this case it may be so, the Republicans he backed generally won and the ones who repudiated his aid generally lost. A Democratic victory in the House may provide impetus for another (ugh) four years of Trump. The “I’ word is another loser for the Democrats that may play into the hands of Republicans. The hate of the left for Mr. Trump is out of proportion to his performance as President, even if appropriate for his character. That fight will probably not succeed and will undoubtedly be as wasteful as the Republican attempt to impeach President Clinton.

    It might be good to learn the lesson of former US Representative from Georgia Cynthia McKinney. Republican voters choose a different Democrat in the primary to rid themselves of a politician they thought they could not live with. Hank Johnson continues to hold that seat and won last Tuesday’s election with 70% of the vote in a district that guarantees a Democrats victory. There is much to be said for open primaries in order to prevent radical nominees from succeeding. Work for open primaries to vote against Mr. Trump in the nomination process.

    Might it be possible to “kill” President Trump with kindness, the opposite does not seem to bother him. Ignoring him may also be an alternative.

  3. Amy Charles '89 on

    1. Robert – Actually quite a lot of America wants diverse representation, because while you were sleeping, a lot of America got to be quite diverse, and wants to be represented. The fact that it is not is itself a problem that needs a solution.

    2. Current Student, you’re usually sharper than that. Though I’d be very happy to see Trump go on perverting the Justice Dept and sticking obvious crooks at the tops of the other agencies, and having the Senate help him go on playing these transparent games for another two years. Short of another economic implosion, which nobody wants, there’s no better way of ensuring that this guy’s a one-term president.

    3. Claudia – Every two years brings more kids online as voters, and more old people off, and I think the changeover — which has already started, but will be down the middle in six-eight years — won’t be all that noisy when it arrives. We’ll just be in it. And that’s a good thing. Revolution’s exciting, but it’s always the vulnerable who pay for it. Anyway, then you guys will have to figure out how to run the machinery, so I hope like hell you’re studying it now, because you’re going to find you don’t have a lot of experienced mentors when you get there. I think you’re going to be inclined to question the legitimacy of every institution’s architecture, which is great, but it’s still got to run while you’re busy arguing over these things. And, really, six years is not a lot of time for you guys and your somewhat older cousins to figure out what’s even there, let alone how it works and why.

    • Robert F Davenport Jr on

      Diversity for the sake of diversity means nothing in politics. I would think that politics is about getting something done. The goal of electing a diverse representation supposedly forwards the agenda of those who assume that the elected will advance issues related to their diverseness.

      From The Brown and White B&W) editorial “A United Wave” dated 11-11-2018: “Now, with more diversity, there are more specific issues and tasks that certain representatives will aim to tackle.” I will call those issues and tasks “problems”

      Further: “More women in Congress could mean more attention to women’s rights, and more people of Native American descent may mean more attention toward the preservation of reservations. The decision table will have many more perspectives than previous years…” This indicates that the diversity is intent on making decisions which implies action.

      Lack of diversity is not a problem; the problem is that many see a lack of action on matters that concern them. The diversity existing is a problem due to the inability of the center to accommodate the radicals on both ends (and at this time the inability of the right to relate to others with humanity). Diversity is generally a major problem with multi-party governments.

      True diversity also includes the radical right. They did not think their concerns were being addressed so they sought and obtained political power. How has that worked out? Power to the radical left will probably be different but not really better.

      I was happy to see demise of the smoke filled rooms that often determined the candidates for the leadership of our country. Seeing the results of the process that gave us Mr. Trump I wish we could have a way to determine true leadership.

  4. “As a gay, Jewish woman (surprise!), every day under the rule of a sexual-assault-admitting, Nazi-sympathizing, right-wing authoritarian feels like a battle of existence. Last night, we saw the first Native American women and Muslim women elected to Congress, the first openly gay man elected governor and a record number of women winning seats in the House.”

    It took less than a week for Ilhan Omar to come out in support of the BDS movement. Will you still celebrate her victory when she comes out in support of cliterectomies? Instead of voting (or celebrating) for someone because of their intersectionality checklist maybe you should find out who and what they stand for first.

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