It has been hard to find hope this week. The disorientation I feel ebbs and flows, diminishes at best, but never dissipates completely. I’ve been through difficult elections before, and I’ve had to accept losses that did not look fair (Bush v Gore comes to mind) and losses that hurt like heck. But this one is different. With all other election losses, I never feared for the future. I may not have agreed with the winner’s policies or ideas, but I knew that the United States of America would be fine, that the checks and balances the founding fathers built into the system would assure that the country wouldn’t come apart at the seams. This time is different. There is a very real possibility that, within a short period, we will be ruled, not governed, and that possibility stops my breath in my throat.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past several days trying to make sense of what happened, why it happened, and where we go from here. These are my conclusions, in no particular order.
The electoral college is an anachronism and should be abolished.
There are now five elections in which the will of the people has been subverted to the electoral vote. One should have been too many. When do we look at it rationally and decide that enough is enough? If the discounting of nearly 3 million votes is not enough evidence of a system failure, what is?
I lay a great deal of responsibility for this mess directly at the feet of the media.
During the primaries, Donald Trump the reality TV star sucked all the air out of the news cycles daily, with his outrageous statements. He was the lead story on every station, in every time slot. The news directors allowed ratings and clicks to drive the content of their broadcasts. Instead of providing a clear-eyed assessment of a clearly off-the-rails candidate, they fed his insatiable need for attention with their slavish attention to his increasingly unhinged pronouncements. They gave him so much free air time that it almost seemed they were on his payroll (if he actually ever paid anyone, that is.) At the same time that Donald Trump was bragging about sexually assaulting women and insinuating to his Second Amendment crowd that they could “take care of the problem (Hillary Clinton) for him,” getting absolutely zero castigation from the press, they kept flogging Clinton’s email server as if it was the single most important ethical failing of the 21st Century. This ultimately emboldened and fueled his base of voters angry that the economy of the 21st Century had passed them by – a fact that was virtually ignored by all the reporting I saw about the people who attended his rallies. Whatever happened to news judgment? The major networks, the 24-hour cable news giants, and most major newspapers kept Trump above the fold, regardless of the cost to real news.
The debates were pointless. The “moderators” allowed both candidates, but most egregiously Trump, to interrupt and talk over each other to the point that it was like Sunday dinner at the DiPasqua house – everyone is shouting, but no one is listening. Rarely did they step in with any force or authority to control the situation. The questions were mostly softball and inconsequential to the nation’s future. Where were the policy questions? Where were the questions about how to handle Kim Jong Un and Bashar al-Assad? Taxes? Plans for reining in out-of-control military spending? The Zika virus? Ebola? The erosion of the middle class? Sacrificed again at the altar of ratings.
Democracy depends on journalism. A free press is essential to running a government of, by and for the people. The electorate has no other way to know what the people they’ve elected are doing if the press doesn’t do its job. They are supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To speak truth to power. They failed miserably.
Our two-party system is a sham.
The Democratic party has been chasing its tail for so long that it’s fainted from dizziness. The debacle of this Presidential election laid bare the yawning chasms of disorganization and failure of vision that has plagued this party for decades. They squandered a stellar opportunity to back a candidate who represented what the party is supposed to stand for in favor of a candidate whose “turn” it was.
On the Republican side, the party of fiscal conservatism and family values has been so overrun by wild-eyed, raving, anti-everything zealots that Ronald Reagan wouldn’t even recognize it. The only people this party represents now are the NRA and the insurance, pharmaceutical, and oil lobbies.
Money Money Money
The Citizens United decision broke down the dam to flood Washington with all kinds of money that is untraceable to any one source, with no constraints on corporate “campaign contributions.” That, coupled with the explosion of lobbying in the last four decades, has resulted in Senators and Representatives who answer only to the people and corporations who keep them awash in cash. As a consequence, the only business that gets done in Washington is that which is ordered by the Special Interest Overlords, and it always goes in their favor.
Where does all of this leave the average citizen?
Completely without representation in a government that is supposed to be answerable to The People.
Feeling helpless outrage.
Fearful of a future that, for the first time in our history as a nation, might include the suspension of rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
I made the decision weeks ago that I will not stay quiet, that I will not allow this to happen without a fight. But it is draining, and it feels dangerous. For the first time in my life, I’m afraid of the future. And that feels so very wrong in the United States of America.