You can’t always get what you want.
So said the philosopher Mick Jagger. He said it in 1969, so obviously, he didn’t intend it as a comment on the 2018 midterms. But progressives might be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
After all, they wanted Andrew Gillum to become Florida’s first African-American governor. They didn’t get it.
They wanted Stacey Abrams of Georgia to become the nation’s first female African-American governor. They didn’t get it, pending a possible runoff.
They wanted the inspiring Beto O’Rourke to unseat the depressing Ted Cruz as senator from Texas. They didn’t get it.
Most of all, progressives wanted a clear rebuke of the moral abomination that is Donald Trump. They didn’t get that, either. Instead, the midterms went a long way toward proving that Trump’s rise to power and the intolerance that fueled it were no aberration.
Consider that before the election, Trump declared himself a “nationalist” and issued an anti-immigrant commercial so racist it was even pulled by Fox “News.” And that Rep. Steve King of Iowa criticized diversity during an interview with an Austrian political party with actual ties to actual Nazis. And that the GOP trotted out one voter suppression scheme after another, each more odious than the last.
Then, consider that Republican voters were OK with all of it. As a synagogue in Pittsburgh was mourning victims of an anti-Semitic massacre, as a town near Louisville was laying to rest victims of a racist shooting, GOP voters gave thumbs-up to bare-knuckle bigotry and naked intolerance straight out of the 1940s. Of all the things progressives wanted but did not get Tuesday, a clear rejection of that hatred may be the most troubling.
But in mourning overmuch the things they did not get, progressives would risk failing to appreciate all the things they did. And that would be a mistake.
They wanted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. They got it.
They wanted to restore voting rights to more than a million former felons in Florida. They got it.
They wanted to win gubernatorial races. They got it.
They wanted to pass an initiative making it easier to vote in Michigan. They got it.
They wanted to make the political landscape more colorful, more female, more Muslim, more LGBTQ. They got it.
Most of all, they wanted to retake the House of Representatives. They got that, too.
Which means that, for the first time in his misbegotten presidency — likely the first time in his misbegotten life — Donald Trump now faces accountability. No more lying and lawbreaking while a bunch of invertebrates calling themselves a Congress look the other way. “Process server” is about to be a growth industry in Washington.
So any progressives dispirited by Jagger’s wisdom might do well to recall the rest of this lyric: “You can’t always get what you want,” he sang, “but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” And while progressives didn’t get all they wanted, they got enough to help ensure so-called conservatives and their so-called president cannot just walk all over us on the way to doing whatever godawful thing they want to do.
Yes, a better country would’ve reduced Trumpism to rubble. Unfortunately, here in this country, you and I must still deal with the forces of ignorance and intolerance Trump has unleashed. But here’s the thing:
Now they have to deal with us, too.
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172. Readers may write to him via email at email@example.com.