Perhaps it’s time to bleed purple
“People say, ‘Oh, politics is so polarized today,’ and I’m thinking…‘1861, that was polarized.’”
— P.J. O’Rourke
Never gloat. Never whine.
Those of us burdened or blessed with some experience on the front lines of politics know the wisdom of that admonition. So, apparently, do Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. All three treated us to post-election comments that embodied the spirit of a quote variously attributed to different athletic coaches that it’s important to win with humility and lose with dignity.
It’s been good to have a week to ponder what happened last Tuesday, a day many of us, including some Trump supporters, expected might end quite differently. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about.
First, the apparent hypocrisy of the demonstrators protesting the final result.
Some, I presume, were aghast when Trump said he’d keep us in suspense about whether he’d accept the outcome of the election. Understandably, he’s perfectly happy about how things turned out. It’s too bad the protestors don’t see the same value in our system post-election that many of them professed after Trump’s pre-election remarks.
There’s the hue and cry about our national electoral system.
For the second time in this still-emerging century, for the fifth time in our country’s history, the candidate who won the popular vote failed to gain the necessary Electoral College votes to assume the presidency. Those arguing for a change to direct democracy ignore the reality that would make us truly flyover country — that we’d never see that hangar at Westar Aviation, the Central High School gymnasium, Cross Orchards, Stocker Stadium or the steps of our courthouse blessed with the presence of presidential candidates if all they had to do to win was campaign in the most populated areas of the country.
Then there’s the media.
There’s a lesson for both traditional journalism and emerging digital outlets. They should cover the country, not just the candidates. Associated Press executive editor Kathleen Carroll put it this way in an election post-mortem.
“As a profession, we like conflict. Two sides. Winners and losers. Agressors and victims. Good guys and bad guys. The world is more nuanced and complex than that.”
Scoreboard journalism, I’ve called it, where numbers rule and the focus is on the latest polling, attendance at rallies, a list of endorsements. Perhaps in the next go-round there’ll be a reporter or two assigned to ferret out deeper emotions and the mood of the electorate in addition to the many poring over the minutiae of the latest survey.
Candidates themselves might look in the mirror and ask some questions.
Was it smart for Hillary Clinton and her surrogates to spend the final days of the campaign talking about Trump’s supposed lack of qualifications and his temperament? His final arguments focused instead on what he would do if elected. Like his ideas or not, his close was more about plans than personalities.
Forty-one percent of Clinton voters and 51 percent of Trump voters said they’d be voting against the other candidate, not for their choice. That needs fixing — by both political parties.
About those plans…about “draining the swamp.”
Already we’ve seen some softening as the realities of governing versus campaigning set it. His chief of staff will be an insider. He’s courting Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. He says some elements of Obamacare will remain in place. There may be a fence in some areas rather than a wall. We’ll see how his supporters deal with all that. Anyone wonder how the math will work out for rebuilding our infrastructure and paying for that wall while simultaneously cutting revenues (taxes) and reducing the national debt?
What about Congress?
Even with the GOP “owning it” via control of both houses, overreach will be tempered by the lack of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Unless Republicans adopt Harry Reid’s “nuclear option,” something they’ve railed against. Members of Congress and, more importantly, their constituents in states both red and blue all want the same things. Decent jobs, safe communities, effective and affordable health care and, perhaps most important, a feeling they’re being listened to and their concerns are not only heard but met. Few of them appreciate gridlock.
Here’s something we might all think about as we move forward:
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt