Should the GOP hopeful win, however, he will be President Trump. He will be my president, the president of the United States. I won’t question his legitimacy to hold the office, won’t whine about a rigged system or voter fraud. I won’t embrace any cock-eyed conspiracy theory or rant that some kind of New World Order is actually in control, that the politicians are mere puppets whose strings are being pulled by some behind-the-scenes business cabal. I won’t support those who think a Trump win is akin to a call for armed insurrection.
All of that thinking is pure bull, no matter your politics. Which is why some of the talk going around about what may happen post-election needs to just end.
The truth is that my day-to-day life won’t really change very much no matter what happens in D.C. or who wins the White House. Nope, I’ll get up and make espresso in the morning and feed my dog before heading to work. I’ll go on with my life and career, keep espousing ideas and opinions about what this region and this country ought to do. I’ll moan while I write that check to pay my taxes, scream when my health insurance premiums keep rising, and worry about the country we are leaving my children.
And I’ll still believe that America is this unique, fantastic place where we are so free that our human frailties are displayed for all to see. And this election, more so than any I remember, has put a microscope on those frailties. Our messy electoral process stands in stark contrast to the lofty ideals upon which this country was founded.
For all the talk we hear today about the founders and what they would think of this or that, the truth is that they participated in a pretty aggressive brand of bare-knuckle politics. Some of their disagreements ended in bloody, deadly duels. Eighteenth century American politics was not the warm fuzzy place portrayed in elementary school social studies books.
National Public Radio host Ari Shapiro was in Western North Carolina a couple of weeks ago covering the presidential campaign. He’s one of the country’s top political reporters and agreed to an interview with The Smoky Mountain News. Here’s my favorite quote from that story:
“The truth is our country is less divided than our politics. If you take three of the most controversial issues in America — abortion, immigration, guns — you can create policy positions on those issues that more than 50 percent of Americans will agree with. But, our political leaders don’t have incentives to reach those positions — partly due to gerrymandering, partly due to other issues that encourage people to appeal to the base elements in their own party, rather than the consensus building in the middle of the American people. And that’s also because more members of Congress than ever are elected from solid red or solid blue districts. There are fewer swing districts than ever before. And that means, if you reach a compromise with the other party, you’re less at risk of being defeated by someone from the other party, and more at risk of being defeated by someone more extreme than you in your own party — there is this disincentive rather than an incentive to compromise if you want to keep your job.”
I believe that’s a pretty apt description of the state of politics in this country. Our current system thrives on division instead of compromise. Throw in the Internet and social media and cable television, and the mix gets even more volatile.
When the election is over, however, we must try and come together, solve problems, back off the hate. I’m not talking joining hands and singing “Kumbaya,” but fully accepting that this country, what it stands for and what we and our parents and our grandparents have built, will outlast any controversial campaign. Most of my neighbors and the people I know are honorable, truthful, and respectful. I can work with them to build a better community.
It’s not very common in our instant gratification society to think long term, beyond this very odd moment in our history, but it’s the only way this great idea of America will survive: you vote your choice, I’ll vote mine, and when it’s over, let’s let the dust settle, help pick each other off the mat, and keep moving forward. It’s what we’ve done for the last 228 years.