November 8, 2016: The Lesson I Hope We Learn

The two political parties need to change, and they need to govern.

The Democrats nominated the ultimate party politician.  They lost.

The Republican nominee was no more a Republican than I am an elephant.  He won.

Most Republicans distanced themselves from their nominee.  They lost.

The signs on people’s lawns telegraphed the story of this election months ago.  Where you saw a Clinton-Kaine sign, it was generally in a line with a half-dozen others, for Senator, Representative, Governor, local Democratic candidates.  Where you saw a Trump sign, you saw a Trump sign.  Rarely a sign for any other candidate.

Trump voters didn’t vote for a Republican; they voted for Trump.  They are sick of politics and our political “leaders”.  They voted for Trump, not as a Republican, but as an anti-Republican, and as an anti-Democrat.  They voted against both political parties.

Millions of anti-Trump citizens are equally sick of politics.  They despised Donald Trump, but they could not stomach the thought of voting for Hillary Clinton and politics as usual.  So they didn’t.

Those who did vote for Hillary were the true Democrats, the people with all those signs on their lawns.  They and most minorities, and a majority of women.  More than voted for Trump, it turns out, but not enough to win an election.

The two political parties need to change, and they need to govern.

Our President-elect is a dangerous buffoon.  Left to his own devices, he will lead our country, perhaps the global community, down, as in downhill, a host of dangerous paths – in domestic policy, financial policy, social policy, foreign policy, environmental policy.  He is a stew of dangerous, destructive ideas.

He was not elected because voters support those ideas.  He was elected because voters are fed up with the two political parties, their politics, and their lack of ideas.  With some individual exceptions, our two parties and their leadership have adopted an ugly, negative, disabling politics.  It’s not a politics that looks forward to issues and their solutions.  It’s a politics that looks backwards and seeks to assign blame.  It’s not a politics that rewards thought and initiative.  It’s a politics that rewards carping and criticism.  It’s not a politics of boldness and honesty.  It’s a politics of backstabbing and spin.  Criticizing is easy; governing is hard.  Governing risks criticism; criticizing promises re-election.  Nothing meaningful gets accomplished in Washington because there is no reward in trying to accomplish anything meaningful; the reward is in dragging down those who do.

People are sick of that.  They are sick of gridlocked, destructive politics, and of the parties and politicians who practice them.  Donald Trump is anti-politics and anti-party.  His ideas may be bad, but at least you know what they are.  The direction in which he wants to lead the country may be stupid and dangerous, but at least it’s a direction.  Unlike our two parties, he has ideas, and he promises motion.

If our two parties continue with politics as they have become, Donald Trump’s bad ideas are going to win out, and that is an awful prospect.  Most of the cards are in the Republicans’ hands.  They can play along with Donald Trump because he represents power and a path to “winning”.  If they do, it’s the American people who will lose.  Or they can work with the Democrats to finds ways past and around Donald Trump’s disastrous ideas.  And the American people will be the winners.

The Democrats can embrace the loser’s role, complaining, nitpicking, and dragging play to a halt.  If they do, the American people will be the real losers.  Or they can embrace good ideas, promote and defend them as good ideas, and work with Republicans to put them in place.  And the American people will be the winners.

There is a huge commonality of tolerance, reasonableness, and common sense in America.  If our two parties can embrace that commonality and govern for the good of the United States and all its people, there is hope that we’ll get through a Donald Trump presidency and emerge stronger and better governed.  If our parties and their leaders keep up their self-mutilating pattern of intolerance, self-serving, deceit, and stagnation, there may be no hope at all.

The election is a message from the American people to our political leaders.  Quit with the arrogance, the fatuous posturing, the back-stabbing and name-calling.  Change.  Govern the country.