Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 4, 2018
Well, we’re finally within a couple of days of the Election that has taken over all waking concerns.
The idea of resolving some of our constant national in-fighting of should make me excited, though, in truth, the end of this horrible campaign, most noteworthy for the recent violence in the name of political teams, consistently negative and inaccurate advertising and overstatement at every turn, has left me overly consumed, nervous about the outcome and with a bittersweet taste regardless of the results.
Yes, it’s an important chance for American voters to rebuke the excesses of this administration, to reject the message of fear and to say straightforwardly that we are not meant to function as an autocracy with power of all Washington institutions in the hands of one political party. I’d hope it all would go further, to underscore the need for truth-telling, for example, or to underscore our American values.
As Dana Milbank argues in The Washington Post, our eyes are fully open this time around. There is no guessing about what a non-presidential Donald Trump might pursue as policy.
The closing arguments for Trump on behalf of Republicans centered on fear — from “invading” hordes of refugees from Central American violence and hunger; he came up with an ad of the “Willie Horton” variety that broadly and wrongly assigns blame for a murder to everyone marching in line, stirring anti-(illegal) immigrant, anti-nonwhite feelings. The closing argument for Democrats seemed best captured by Oprah Winfrey rather than a more traditional politician, calling for voter participation first, and a Democratic candidate second.
Still, I fear that the message will get lost amid the avalanche of self-promoting political braggadocio, from the president and others. And, almost regardless of the results, substantial portions of the public are hyped to a point of possibly permanent division. This has been a campaign of winning, not persuading. It all depends on who turns out to vote.
And, Tuesday’s election will prove only a hiccup in the endless cycle of political money-seeking and advertising with the official launch the next morning of 2020 presidential campaigns.
This particular set of Congressional and state elections has become a national contest; President Trump has so inserted himself into the fray that it will come off as a referendum on his performance in office and his governing style.
If enough Trump forces win, the president will know no bounds and become personally and politically insufferable in pursuing an agenda that portends the movement towards autocracy. If enough Republicans falter to the so-called Blue Wave, I’m sure we’ll hear the president hold the individual candidates to blame, rather than himself. Politico reported that if the House falls to Democrats, the White House was preparing to promote Trump as protector of the Senate, as an example.
Then again, the Democrats, who have leaned over so far as to have a party that agrees on little other than opposing Trump, are already crowing, in effect counting chickens before the eggs are hatched. Still, the Democrats continue to send me serial emails daily asking for yet more money just to match some late big donor on the other side.
Voter engagement is said to be running higher than normal, with 30 million people, including me, already having voted. It remains a head-scratcher as to why more people do not vote, even as they do continue to carp about their misgivings about whichever government is in office.
Meanwhile, there is a whiff of desperation that has taken hold on all sides. For the president, it is this constant introduction of new, unthought-through policy ideas days before the vote just to bait his followers, and the insistence on using fear at the border as a lure. For the Democrats, it is plain old uncertainty over whether they can pull together the mechanical aspects of electioneering to win the day.
There are a lot of us voters — not all Democrats — who have been looking to this day for no other reason than it is our chance to deliver a message that the White House needs to stop its excessive insults, its “dog-whistles” on racial, ethnic and misogynistic topics, and to pay attention to health care, the environment and consumer protection along with business opportunity.
I do have some hope-for winners in mind for Tuesday — Stacy Abrams to become the nation’s first woman black governor, for example, Beto O’Rourke over the ever-unpopular Sen. Ted Cruz and Andrew Gillum for Florida governor over an avowedly racist foe, and for more women in Congress.
But overall, the more advertising I see, the more it all is making me feel as if I am being manipulated by unreliable messaging, lied to over position changes, and frustrated that we Americans are never discussing the same realities. What we all do realize is that we have been assigned to teams, and that the teams are in a fight to the death with no compromise, no resolution, no insistence on civility.
While I am entirely engaged by the daily details of the election, I cannot help but feel that we are being treated as pawns rather than the owners of the enterprise. If I could sit with these people, I’d remind them that they work for us, not the other way around. And just as in any workplace, I’d feel a lot better if I believed that we were all pulling in the same direction.
We’re not. Clearly, that’s what makes it a contest.
The president seems to be using the powers of government in an attempt to load the dice. I’m not sure there is any other way to explain why now he is talking about deploying up to 15,000 armed military troops to face down a walking, column of Central American refugees heading north to seek asylum or permission to enter the United States or to stay in Mexico. It is a sop to base voters.
Here’s what my fear is: This is not going to end on Tuesday. First, of course, there are enough very close races that it will take weeks to sort out the voting results. More importantly, each side is going to dig in, and from here, the fight is going to turn into a siege for the remainder of the Trump presidency. And, then, there is the matter of 2020.
Even if the Senate remains in Republican hands, an energized Democratic majority in the House is going to launch a ceaseless number of investigations of the Trump policies, the Trump Cabinet and possibly Trump himself. The returning Republicans will have become a more conservative strain of Tea Party/Freedom Caucus members, survivors of a wave of resignation and purifying primaries.
From all signals from the silent Special Counsel’s office, there are indications that the investigation is nearing a point where a report will emerge, in whatever form, that explores misdoings in the 2016 campaign. That, in turn, will bring new efforts by the tight circle around the president to fight whatever the conclusions are. Unless the results are totally bullet-proof, we will face a never-ending circular insult ring.
Meanwhile, the world oceans are warming, wages remain stagnant while corporate profits soar, the ripples of expanded trade wars are creating uncertainty and we’re still waiting for Iran and North Korea to realize that nuclear weapons are a bad idea.
Perhaps we can hope that the act of voting can prove beneficial in helping to break the building fever of division.