It’s not over we’re just beginning the next chapter
“The time for talk is over. Now it’s America’s turn.”
— Fox News promo
By this time tomorrow, Americans will have spoken. With any luck at all, there’ll be no “hanging chads” or other election mysteries. We’ll know whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next president. The final page will turn on one of the most unusual presidential campaigns in our lifetimes and the next chapter in our country’s ongoing experiment with democracy will have begun.
It’s that next chapter, the one we’ll all co-author, that worries me as I write an Election Day column the morning before final voting provides the subplot.
I’m hoping for a landslide either way — a definitive rejection of either Clinton or Trump that might end any suspense about where we are as a country. Given the nature of their campaigns and polling that says we don’t much like either one of them, it’d be too much to expect a positive affirmation of either candidate. The best we might hope for is a resounding decision on just who “We the People” really are.
That’s my hope. It’s not the way I’d bet.
Most likely, given recent polling, we’ll end up with a close popular vote. Because of the way our presidents are officially chosen, it’s entirely possible a very slight difference in the national popular vote could still result in a landslide Electoral College victory, most likely for Clinton, according to pundits.
That means today won’t bring finality. We’ve had a preview of what that next chapter might chronicle.
Trump’s said he’ll keep us “in suspense” unless he wins. GOP members of the House and Senate openly discuss blocking any Supreme Court nominee Clinton might offer, leaving the nation’s highest court short-staffed and potentially neutered indefinitely. In the most anticipated scenario, Democrats regain control of the Senate and Republicans maintain their House majority. Deadlock will likely trump compromise.
We’ll all be poorer if that’s what happens. Perhaps it’s not too late to consider another outcome.
A few weeks ago, a letter to the editor from the Rev. Karen Winkel of Montrose offered an admonition from John Wesley. The founder of Methodism advised that electors in 1774 “vote…for the person they judged most worthy…speak no evil of the person they voted against, and…to take care their spirits were not sharpened against those who had voted on the other side.”
Doesn’t Wesley’s admonition seem rather quaint as we look back at all that’s gone on leading up to final voting today? Has the kind of campaigning that’s gone on for the past couple of years, between all contenders not just Trump and Clinton, left any hope our next chapter won’t be written about divisiveness and anger but instead about acceptance and collaboration?
Each election, we often hear, is “the most important election of our time.” Each, it’s said, will define our future for generations to come. Sometimes that hyperbole contains a kernel of truth.
Certainly, this cycle will provide the most significant test of whether someone from outside the traditional political power structure can win the presidency. Others have tested that and fallen short. We’ll know in a matter of hours what that means not only for the country but also for a Republican Party Trump has splintered in the process.
Win or lose, Democrats will face a generational turning point when Hillary Clinton exits either as a twice-failed presidential candidate, via the 2020 election or because of term limits in 2024. It’s hard to imagine again Dems looking backwards to an aging bench instead of forward (again) to emerging leaders when selecting their next presidential candidate.
What impact will Hispanic voters who now make up a rapidly growing one-third of the electorate have? Will millennials finally show up at the polls rather than only at rallies and exercise their potentially significant impact on electoral outcomes? Will aging white males become even less important, valued more for the content of their wallets instead of the volume of their votes?
One simple question for our post-election chapter might have been voiced by one of the talking heads on CNN, Fox News or MSNBC (I can’t remember his name or network) on Sunday.
“Will we turn to each other,” he asked, “or turn on each other?”