Silver Linings In The Worst Presidential Election Ever

The 2016 presidential race, as satirist John Oliver said recently, has not only hit rock bottom, but has gone "through the core of the earth, and we've come bursting out the other side."

A search for nuggets of good news in this election will leave you feeling like a forensic detective looking for signs of hope after Armageddon.

But there is good news to be found -- if you know where to look. It's in the conviction and courage of everyday people stepping up to move our country to higher ground. The actions these people have taken are silver linings in an election that has tested our belief in America and, at times, humanity.

As you go to the polls today, here are eight reasons to keep the faith.

1. True Patriotism in the Face of Hate
Political conventions are usually predictable affairs. But a speech by Khizar Khan at the Democratic National Convention offered a poignant moment that Americans will not soon forget. More than any speech given at either convention, Khan's questioning of Republican candidate Donald Trump's patriotism and sacrifice transcended the partisan divide and struck a moral chord with Americans. In ways big and small, incredible numbers of people have said Trump's hate and division have no home here. Some did so by challenging Trump directly at his rallies, most famously the student-led shutdown of Trump's planned visit to the University of Illinois at Chicago. More recently, women quickly organized to confront sexual assault, harassment and sexism following the release of a tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault. These brave people and the thousands of others who have stood up to Trump showed what love for America really looks like.

2. The Strongest Ever Democratic Platform for Racial Justice
Activists from the Movement for Black Lives challenged Democratic presidential hopefuls to take explicit positions on policing, incarceration, and race. Black activists and organizers have shifted the political conversation, moving race and racism from a too-often-ignored backdrop to a central focus of our political life. Rarely, if ever, in American history have presidential candidates been pushed so directly to clarify where they stand on the issue of racial justice.

3. More Women Running for the Highest Offices in the Land
Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, her election would represent a historic and long-overdue breakthrough for women in American politics. Plus, down-the-ballot women candidates are poised to become the next progressive champions. Led by congressional candidates including Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, Pramila Jayapal in Washington and Zephyr Teachout in New York, powerful progressive women are on the verge of reshaping American politics.

4. Small-Dollar Fundraising Kept Pace with Big Money Donors
The millions of people that donated to Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign showed us what democracy looks like. The Sanders campaign raised over $200 million, with the majority coming from small donors. Almost 2.5 million people contributed to his campaign, including hundreds of thousands who had never before contributed to a political candidate, with the average contribution in the ballpark of $27. In the Citizens United era, that's something to smile about.

5. Organizing to Retire the Country's Worst Sheriff
Donald Trump has nothing on Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who terrorizes the immigrant community in Phoenix and humiliates inmates in his custody. After more than 23 years, many are sure that he's politically invincible. But the groups working under the banner of "Bazta Arpaio" (from the Spanish "basta," meaning "enough") are working tirelessly to bring him down and change the face of politics in Arizona. And they're doing it by mobilizing tens of thousands of new people, largely Latinos, to vote for the first time.

6. Native People Leading The Fight for the Planet
To find the true moral center of this land, start with the people that were here first. Hundreds of Native American tribes have united with the Standing Rock Sioux in a historic struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Often described as an act of protest, tribal elders see the encampment as an act of protection: protection of sacred sites, protection of the land, protection of the water, and ultimately protection from a changing climate. This silver lining will shine brighter when pipelines are not only rerouted, but replaced by wind and solar.

7. Change Coming From the Bottom Up
In communities across the country, ordinary people are turning righteous protest into real power. Here's one example: After 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot by a Chicago police officer, and a video of the shooting was hidden for more than a year, community groups throughout Cook County helped Kim Foxx unseat Anita Alvarez as district attorney. On November 9, in partnership with those who elected her, she will begin turning the tide on police violence and incarceration. Foxx, who grew up in Cabrini Green as the daughter of a single mother, is just one of the many inspiring first-time candidates running for office this year.

8. States and Localities Raising the Minimum Wage
Once considered outrageous and unattainable, cities like Seattle have raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In the last 12 months, 17 states and the District of Columbia have raised the minimum wage. On Tuesday, four states, including Washington, Arizona, Colorado, and Maine will vote on ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage statewide. None of this would have been possible without the countless workers who have fearlessly fought for $15 an hour and a union. All this sets the stage for the next president (and, ahem, Congress) to raise the wage nationwide.

The takeaway is that in the midst of the darkest and most dispiriting election in recent American history, the passion of everyday people to move the country toward where it should be has been its saving grace. The courage, leadership and patriotism of people fighting for change from the bottom up is forging a brighter future.