I seldom devote a column to elections because culture, not politics, is the real driver of human events. But 2016 is different. By changing the direction of our politics, this election could change our culture.
As I write, Donald Trump's candidacy is collapsing and the Republican Party is falling apart. Polls show Clinton leading decisively. House speaker Paul Ryan has effectively conceded Trump's defeat by giving up stumping for Trump and devoting his efforts to retaining Republican control of Congress. More than 40 Republican senators and congressmen have withdrawn their support of Trump, 30 of them urging him to resign. Of Republican voters, 25 percent say they can't support Trump, a figure that, if still true on election day, will ensure a Clinton landslide.
This would have "coattails" for congressional races. Democrats need only four turnovers to gain control of the Senate, and 30 to gain control of the House. Pundits and politicians alike agree that, the larger Clinton's win, the greater the chance of Democratic control of Congress.
Republicans have only themselves to blame. Displaying an obsessive, ideological, and often racist, resistance to an intelligent, open-minded, talented president, they have been the party of "no" throughout Obama's presidency. The leading Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, said in 2010 that "the single-most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." One Republican senator explained, "If he [Obama] was for it, we had to be against it." Such blind resistance resulted in a do-nothing Congress that has frustrated people's hopes. The populist revolution that produced Trump's disastrous candidacy arose from this frustration.
The size of Clinton's win matters. If Clinton's margin is small, her victory won't pull in enough Democrats to win control of the Senate and House. And if Clinton wins with only a plurality of the popular vote -- say 48 to 42 percent with the remaining 10 percent going to the Libertarian and Green candidates -- Clinton will find it more difficult to govern effectively. The result in either case will be continued gridlock in Washington. So, even in irredeemably "red" states like Arkansas, it's important for Democrats and progressives, including especially supporters of Bernie Sanders, to get to the polls and vote for Clinton if they want four years of effective liberal leadership.
Bernie Sanders himself urges progressives to vote for Clinton. Among his stated reasons: making public universities tuition-free; a doubling of community-health centers; pay equity for women; stopping climate change (which Trump thinks is not real); better jobs for middle- and working-class families; transforming our energy system; appointment of Supreme Court justices; narrowing the income gap; the Citizens United decision on corporate political spending; and health care.
This nation is changing. The populist revolution also led to Sanders' surprisingly strong Democratic showing. Unlike Trump's insurgency, Bernie's revolution made a lot of sense and can look forward, I think and hope, to a healthy future. Young people, "millennials," provided most of the energy and many of the votes for Bernie. These people will be voting for decades, and there will be others after them to continue and expand this progressive trend. It's not merely a political trend, it's a vibrant new cultural trend that represents a hopeful and probably an enduring direction for our nation and the world. Obama was the beginning of this hopeful trend, even though he couldn't accomplish much in the face of Republican negativity.
A strong Clinton win would weaken the TEA party culture that dominates among the 40 percent of voters who still support Trump. The TEA party is reminiscent of the anti-immigrant, right-wing Know-Nothing Party that was prominent just before the Civil War, that received most of its electoral support from the South, and that died when their candidate Millard Fillmore, whose main support came from the future Confederacy, lost decisively. The TEA party culture has spawned many of America's most fundamental problems.
It's a time of hopeful change for America. This election is disrupting the Republican Party establishment, and has already disrupted the Democratic Party establishment. On the progressive side, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and many others are ready and waiting. On the conservative side, as the Republican Steve King of Iowa put it, the party might be forced to rebuild and the establishment wing "could simply be amputated out."
Regardless of how disgruntled you might be with recent politics, and regardless of your political leanings, I hope you will fully participate in this watershed election.
Commentary on 10/18/2016
Print Headline: A possibly revolutionary election