President Donald Trump has made next Tuesday's midterm election all about him--as he does with almost everything.
A referendum on Trump is appropriate next week because Americans should seriously consider what kind of country they want. The midterm vote is a chance for Americans to cast their lot for the future.
In his near-daily hate rallies around the country, Trump howls like an itinerant revival preacher at a tent meeting about the hellfire and brimstone that will befall the nation if any Democrat is elected.
For the adoring attendees at his rallies, Trump is delivering. They excuse him for his deeply suspicious affinity for Vladimir Putin and for abandoning American leadership abroad. They accept his open racism, anti-democratic impulses, contempt for women, and the corruption of his administration.
In fear of his base of support, the Republican Party has capitulated to Trump's leadership. With Republicans in control of Congress, Trump has given them the gigantic tax cut for the wealthy they craved. Trump also created a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, and his government is busily reorienting the government to a hard-right agenda, removing regulations on the environment or any other limitation that big supporters favor. Trump would have destroyed the Affordable Care Act had John McCain and a few others not stopped him.
After working desperately to kill the entire Affordable Care Act, Trump now claims to favor health care at his rallies. He also promises a new middle-class tax cut. What goes unsaid is that Republicans will try to pay for any tax reduction with cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The president's campaign energy must be motivated by the knowledge that the election will determine his future level of power, his ability to influence ongoing investigations, and the degree of public oversight of his government for the next two years.
What is astounding is how far he is willing to go at his rallies to promote fear and loathing of Democrats. Listening to Trump, you would think that the Democrats created the convoy of 7,000 wretched refugees who are fleeing death and desperate poverty in Central America and that these people somehow threaten the survival of the United States. Finding solutions to turn back these refugees would not be difficult, but that is irrelevant. Trump only has one solution--his border wall--as he ramps up hatred of immigrants.
Trump's domestic supporters and Russian Internet trolls constantly demonize Democrats. They accuse the party of trying to convert the U.S. into a socialist country, opening the borders to criminals and destroying the economy. Meanwhile, Trump blasts legitimate press coverage as "fake news" for exposing his constant lies and for refusing to validate his often-outrageous assertions.
These extremes would be absurd in normal circumstances, but apparently, they work with Trump's base. In fact, control of one or both houses would not give Democrats the power to create the disasters that Trump projects. Instead, such an outcome would give a level of public debate and force bipartisan consideration of Trump's policies now missing in Washington.
The media will spend the next several days obsessively guessing about what course the voters favor. Public opinion polls lost credibility after the 2016 election, and no one knows for sure how the election will go.
If Trump gets his way and the Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress, the president will claim a national mandate and will be unconstrained in his effort to restructure the future of the United States. The basic question is whether this is good for the country.
Voters Tuesday must decide if they want to grant more power and authority to Donald Trump or if they want to place a check on his power by voting for an opposition party in Congress and in state governments.
Those who favor Trump's leadership and his vision of America will vote for Trump's candidates. But others, including me, will vote for opposition candidates to ensure that the constitutional checks and balances envisioned by the founding fathers are in place to limit Trump's worst instincts.
The outcome Tuesday night will seriously affect the future direction of the nation.
James Pardew is an Arkansas native and a former career U.S. Army officer and American diplomat. He is the author of Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans.
Editorial on 11/02/2018