To many Americans, the last few years have seemed dark and foreboding. But rays of light shine through. Here are two examples, small and large.
Last Tuesday, the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency held a final public hearing live and by telephone. City residents were invited to speak for and against the city’s Slow Streets program, which limits access to private vehicles. Most speakers commented about Lake Street, about which I wrote a year ago.
I asked SFMTA to re-open Lake. Designed after COVID struck, Slow Streets sought to give people more space for walking, running and biking while maintaining social distance. It has proved needless for at least two years. I walk across or along Lake two or three times daily. Only a handful of people use our ample sidewalks and bike lanes. Rare exceptions walk in the street—because they can.
Oh, and the Presidio National Park is one block north. Playgrounds abound.
Another “Oh:” Lake and adjacent residents drive. Vehicles reduced on Lake don’t disappear. They’re forced onto California Street.
Opening Lake seemed to have gotten underway before the meeting. A week ago, while Carolyn and I were in Los Angeles to see our son Yosi’s orchestral concert and celebrate Carolyn’s birthday, SFMTA removed barriers placed at Lake intersections. I went walking and saw few cars. They traveled slowly. I saw few walkers. No runners. I did see two bicyclists—folks who claimed the high road in the discussion. Both blew through stop signs, although pedestrians do cross the street.
Sadly—foolishly—SFMTA decided to maintain Slow Lake. But of great importance, the issue, while not on the ballot, gave San Franciscans opportunities to be heard. SFMTA had the right to make its decision, and it did. I don’t like it, but I accept it.
On a larger scale, Georgia ran its U.S. Senate run-off election last Tuesday. Democrat Raphael Warnock held onto his seat, defeating former football star Herschel Walker, 51.4% to 48.6%.
Warnock’s win gave Democrats an advantageous 51 seats—before Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema announced she’s leaving the party to serve as an independent.
I’m elated with Warnock’s victory. I’m also disheartened. Nearly 50% of Georgians who voted Walker chose a candidate as unfit as any I can recall. This speaks to democracy’s limits. Yet it marks democracy’s strengths. The people choose. What if Walker had won? Georgia voters would have spoken. That’s their right, although not everyone thinks so.
Take Donald Trump. He put Walker out there in Georgia’s Republican primary. In November’s election, many Trump-backed candidates ran in national and state contests. Almost all were 2020 presidential-election deniers. Most lost.
Republicans didn’t jump on the Democratic bandwagon. But many spurned Trump, who last Saturday claimed that due to “Massive Fraud,” elements of the Constitution should be “terminated,” so he can be declared president.
Hopefully, Republicans will send Trump kicking, screaming then sulking away from any meaningful role in American politics. Whether he’s packed off to prison remains to be seen. While the base still supports him, an increasing number of Republicans and independents seem to have had their fill.
American democracy, although imperfect, often proves sturdier and more supple than many people realize. Still, we’ll have to take our political situation a day at a time.
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