When respected historians tell us our political drama is without precedent we understand we face uncertainty.The last 4 years tells us we face challenges, difficult challenges.
One of the most used adjectives of our era is existential, often paired with threat. The days ahead will test resolve, will, and our belief in the constitutionally coded aspirations of our democratic republic.
fault line warnings
It foreshadows what may come when a headline reads the "President maintained control" in a debate. Simply making a nod to being to being civil obfuscates there was nothing new, just more of the same old boasts, self worship, lies, of course lies, and bogus allegations coming out of a foreign intelligence playbook to divide us and to sew doubts. But much was made of the style. Again appearance trumps substance. It repeats a pattern of the last four years; diversion, something else to talk about, a new bright shiny object.
Joe Biden is a known commodity. An old fashioned centrist to liberal Democrat who knows how government and foreign policy works. Donald Trump is a clinical narcissist with a history of fraud, racism, personal scandal, sexual abuse and failure after failure with the exception of a reality television show. This has been obvious to the world.
Still, the nation is divided over these men and what they represent about human dignity, liberty, science and health. A choice will be made, a leader chosen and we will find a way to live with the consequence.
This writer has a preferred hope for the future.
It is a season of change and US citizens are exercising their franchise at an historic early pace. The will of the majority is anawesome and powerful force, the rock solid granite mountain of our constitution.
The ideas from both ends of Pennsylvania Ave will soothe the troubled soul of the Republic, once Trump is removed, deposed by the majority will and this is no small point.
Since the founding, the US has done a slow walk toward greater emancipation for all souls. As bright as the originators were, they were captive of their age that approved slavery, saw women as not fully vested citizens, Blacks as property and even then with a worth only 3/5 of a white man.
Still, they provided for majority rule, gave us the structure of a government of law, provided for flexibility in the constitution, laid the path for law making, and established three branches of government to be a check and balance on each other. The American story has been the expansion of liberty, human dignity and the sacredness of the vote, giving the power to the citizen. We voters hire and fire our political representatives.
gaming the system
Only 5 times in US history have those who won the majority of the vote been denied the Presidency and two of those have been in the last 20 years. Al Gore was more popular than George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton more popular than Donald Trump.
Not only was the will of the majority cheated but a deep cancer was set upon the American nation. The majority of the sitting US Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Presidents who were rejected by the majority of American citizens. Let that sink in.
The Republican party's lies and duplicity, going back to the denial of an appointment to President Obama and the rush job to put an anti abortion Coney-Barrett on the court is the icon symbol for how the court is being steered further away from the wishes and will of most Americans. That reality threatens fairness, justice and could erode confidence in the Supreme Court itself. Enemies of the US must be delighted by this.
The Electoral College, the allotment of the US Senate, and the Republican packing of the Judiciary undermines the fundamental need for majority rule. The vote of each citizen, the expression of their wishes, is foundational to the legitimacy of the government. It makes no difference where they live.
As it is now and unless efforts are made to change it, we are on a path where the majority of Americans can be under represented, while a minority, gaming the system, can be over represented.
In the days ahead we need to be vigilant about vote integrity, access and calculation. And we need to be diligent about gaming the antiquated and now dangerous electoral college system again.
the trump believers
Trump's ineptitude and unfitness has delivered nothing but failure and decline with a couple of exceptions, based on your perspective.
The Federalist Society and Mitch McConnell used him to fill the federal judiciary with conservatives, at best, to right wing zealots and many lacking what had been previously required experience. They've done so in an effort to undo the Affordable Care act, upend Roe V. Wade and to drive the judiciary into a direction that is on a different page than the majority of Americans and even more distant from the attitudes of millions more in upcoming generations. That is dangerous.
The Trump republican party did a favor for their wealthiest supporters, by giving them another tax cut, and by bailing out banks and corporations while being miserly on the Covid relief aid given to working citizens and small businesses. The House passed a wide ranging help to cities, states and working people months ago, but the Trump administration and his senate republicans are so dysfunctional they can't agree amongst themselves and they've delayed vital aid.
To his credit the administration was able to extend a peace framework for Israel and a couple of small Arab nations.
But his foreign policy failures overshadow that.
He's been played by North Korea, he's hurt US farmers with his failed China trade policies, he's been a laughing stock amongst old allies, he's tried to weaken alliances, he's allowed Iran to advance work on a bomb, he's been a regressive on the Climate Accords, so that corporations, cities and states have gone around him. He's tried to destroy the EPA, the Department of State, and he is vilified by the intelligence community and the Pentagon, both of whom he has tried to undermine. Most of all he has been a stooge for Russia's Putin. Some of his behavior could be traitorous. On at least 10 occasions he tried to obstruct justice. He's continued to run business enterprises enriching his own bank account. He's told more than 20 thousand lies, has failed to keep campaign pledges to build a wall, re open coal mines, bring back manufacturing, repair the infrastructure or drain the swamp. He set a record for the number of people in his administration who have been convicted of crimes. He faces a slew of potential criminal charges himself, and so does his family members who have violated nepotism principles. He is responsible for thousands of deaths from Covid because of failed leadership. He's continued to flaunt safety guidelines and has been responsible for super spreader events. And there is more, but still he has supporters. How is that possible? Who with a working brain can find any reason to support him?
Biden's accomplishments fills volumes, but perhaps the most important thing in his resume is his humanity, humility, empathy, and the enduring respect that he gets from Republicans, Democrats, military leaders, foreign policy and health care experts. On every scale, Biden is a better person, and a better choice. But millions will vote for Trump!
what to do about the divide
Of course the best outcome is a landslide win for Biden-Harris, a change of Senate Majority, and Trump's peaceful departure from office. If we are so lucky that still leaves the people who voted for Trump. Biden will reach out to them and will try to show that we are one nation.
But when 25% of the US believe the ludicrous Q Anon goofiness, we've got problems. When armed militia knuckleheads storm statehouses or plan kidnappings and prepare for a war, we've got problems. When you simply look at the vehemence or listen to Trump supporters, you know you don't want to live next door to them and we've got problems.
When they believe anything Trump says, we've got problems.
They are not going away, and as simplistic, poorly informed, fabulist, or just stupid as their reasons are, they are entitled to them.
The challenge is to find a way back to a standard of government that is honest, open and unifying. A more civil public discourse. Less frantic madness from the White House.
Seeing Trump crushed, and then legally pursued, clearing the senate of the Trumpistas and enablers, may be enough of a reality check that some of the Trump nation will put down the kool aid and rejoin reality.
This is not China so we won't build reeducation camps, this is not North Korea so we will not kill or imprison them, this is not Russia so we will not poison them. But we do need to find a way to live with them.
We also need to change a lot of things. Trump is a poster boy for a nation that has failed to teach civics and history and personal responsibility as citizens. He is poster boy for a nation that celebrates celebrity and would rather engage in consumerism than thought. He is a poster boy for a nation where people will defy science and their own best interest by refusing to wear a mask or to socially distance in the middle of the most deadly pandemic of a lifetime.
changes to make
There is need for more care and concern for others. We need to find a way to teach critical reasoning, certainly to all upcoming children, but even to adults. We need to find a way to teach media literacy.
People should be able to recognize propaganda when they see it. Folks should be smart enough to call a bull shit artist for who they are whatever their name, channel, or political office. We need to find a way where religion is not a rallying cry for division or political vengeance, judgementalism and pain, but a force for serving, uplift, compassion and caring. We need to find a way to publicly fund elections, eliminating the big money, and ending the election industry, and the idea that government is a business.
None of this will be easy. But the US has been broken by a devotion to the temporal, and ignoring the role of the citizen. When we are distracted, the bad players gain ground. Each one of us is responsible to uphold and advance the republic with our devotion to principles of human dignity, liberty, the commonweal, stewardship of natural resources that flow to those who will follow us centuries hence. We should all care about standards of living, health care, education and access for all. Electing Joe Biden will not make all of this happen, but it will improve the atmosphere and character of Washington. It will also flush out the malevolence Trump.
The founders were not enamored with the idea of political parties. Our party structure today is not what it was once. Once upon a time in America, compromise and public good went hand in hand with philosophic differences and party affiliation.
That was before Newt Gingrich made political collegiality a dirty word. This post is long enough, but suffice it to say there are many who say Gingrich's scorched earth style was a foundational enabler to the politics that destroyed the old GOP and made Donald Trump possible.
Joe Biden was around before Gingrich and he remembers how it used to work, and it did work. Maybe Old Joe can teach us old tricks. Maybe he can take us back to the future. Maybe Joe can show us the way to Make America Great Again-the United States of America.
a changing of the guard
My thanks to James Kranzthor, a reader, for this remarkable photo of vultures over looking the Cambria shoreline. Thanks to his wife Lauren for sending the photo to us.
As we head into the election finale, I can think of no better image to close the post.
Let's dedicate this stunning shot to the last days of Trump and his gang.
The other nature photos in this post are from our beloved eastern slope of the High Sierras.
See you down the trail.