Early Vote Offers ReliefBy Mildred Robertson
I live in North Carolina and I voted October 20th , the first day of early voting in our state. After months of mean-spirited, uninformed, raucous, political discourse, I was finally able to make my voice heard. It was cathartic.
I exhaled; much as you do when you exit an unhealthy relationship…when you come to the end of a particularly tedious course…when you have done all that you can do and wait for the universe to dispense the final outcome. And in so doing, I find myself now looking back over the last 18 months to see if I can make any sense of the madness.
Order is not the stuff this election was made of; so making sense of it is no small matter. It still eludes me, how this caricature that is Donald Trump ascended to the top of the Republican Party. His rise, I believe, is indicative of a disease that is slowly creeping through the party; poisoning its very essence.
It began with the hateful, small-minded, dogmatic rise of the Tea Party which has literally destroyed the Republican Party from the inside out. In a white backlash, the populist upstarts overtook the Party after President Barack Obama took the White House in 2008. They combined the themes of social and political conservatism, white supremacy, and religious zeal that left little room for “otherness.” During the mid-term elections traditional Republican politicians faced a stringent litmus test based on these themes. Those who failed were unceremoniously tossed aside.
The Tea Party’s zeal mirrored that of Joseph McCarthy, as politician after politician was called out for not being conservative enough, not hating Obama enough, not being isolationist enough, not being religious enough. The party within the Party had no particular policy platform. They did not seem to know what they were for…only what they were against.
They quickly became identified as the Party of “no.” And the professional politicians…those who understood the art of governing…the need to reason together and sometimes compromise; those politicians were left powerless.
The result was a deadlocked Congress that accomplished little if anything, leaving President Obama to struggle with the nation’s challenges alone. Each of his hard-fought victories only stoked the Tea Party’s resolve, and they took hating the Commander-in-Chief to an entirely new level. They disrespected him in the Chambers of Congress, accused him of holding the presidency illegitimately, and opposed every initiative he put forth…even ones they had previously supported.
This negative agenda resulted in a nation that languished on the verge of economic recovery. Obama was able to pull the country back from a precipitous economic crash that had been fueled by economic strategies that enriched those at the top of the economic pyramid, but left the rest of the nation in dire straits. But, as much as he tried, he was unable to push through much of his agenda to speed the recovery and give relief to the middle class.
It was this backdrop that gave rise to Donald Trump. Although of questionable political allegiance, he wooed the disgruntled white, male, conservative electorate who felt unrepresented by the Democrats and betrayed by the Republicans. He promised a nation where white males would again dominate. He represented a time when white men were kings, and women and other minorities were whatever men wanted them to be.
Trump had no problem disrespecting hated groups like immigrants and other minorities. He had no filter when talking about the president or other political foes. He said things this group of disaffected citizens had always wanted to say, but lacked the courage to do so. He made being politically incorrect in vogue, bringing out the worst in his followers.
As such, he has shaped one of the most divisive political campaigns in my memory. He has ripped the scab off of some of America’s darkest predispositions. He has dashed all talk of a post-racial America. He has brought to light the misogyny that still runs rampant in our society.
If any good is to come from this misdirected campaign, it is that we Americans must face our true selves. While it is a minority of Americans who appear to harbor these hateful, backward opinions, it occurs to me that at least one of every four people I come into contact is likely a Trump supporter who has embraced his dark view of the world. A quarter of my co-workers, people I pass in the mall, see at the grocery store or run into in my neighborhood want to return to segregation, isolation, and back-street abortions.
Perhaps we will look into this mirror that Trump has provided us and determine this is not the America we wish to see. Perhaps those on the right and those on the left will attempt to move toward the middle so that we can find common ground and create a government that better represents our collective needs and desires. Perhaps it will help us to rise to be our better selves. Perhaps we will realize that living in a democracy means that we don’t always get exactly what we want all of the time. Maybe we will see that through compromise, common sense and human decency, we can make a society that serves us all.