The Midterm Elections

Alan Zendell, October 27, 2022

The much-anticipated 2022 midterm elections are only twelve days away. It feels surreal. It’s almost as if we never completed the last election cycle. A frightening number of Americans still believe the lie that the 2020 election results were wrong despite overwhelming evidence that that election was cleaner than anyone imagined. Worse, the Trumpers’ mobster-like approach to elections, that lying, posturing, falsifying evidence, and stalling the efforts of legitimate law enforcement and the courts may drive our future politics. Don’t be surprised if every Trump-supported candidate who loses claims victory and screams voter fraud.

That scenario might make a great plot for movie, but it spells serious problems for our nation’s future. Just in the past week, we’ve seen dangerous warnings of what might result. Yesterday, for example, Israeli President Isaac Herzog was invited by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to address a joint session of Congress next year on the 75th anniversary of Israel’s birth. But even such an obvious display of unity among close allies had to be amended to assure Herzog that if the Republicans win control of the Congress next month, the invitation would still stand, because Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell support it.

Similarly, two of the most extreme caucuses in Congress made pubic pronouncements in advance of the election concerning funding for our support of Ukraine. Both the Bernie Sanders Progressives and Kevin McCarthy’s posse of Trump lapdogs issued veiled threats that they might oppose continued aid to repel Russia’s invasion. The statements were entirely political, meant to appeal to the groups’ respective bases when they cast their votes. But both were issued without regard for their international, diplomatic, and security implications.

Both statements were immediately walked back, but the damage had been done. No matter how extremists on both ends of the spectrum water down their threats to the Biden administration, Vladimir Putin heard them, and it was sweet music to his ears. If support for Ukraine were shaky in the American Congress, how long would NATO’s consensus to oppose his war survive? President Biden performed what future historians might regard as a miracle when he restored Europe’s confidence in America as the leader of the democratic world, after the Trump administration made a show of alienating our allies and lauding the dictators who govern our most dangerous adversaries. But if the world sees that our entire philosophy of diplomacy and world politics can be completely reversed every two years, how can countries that depend on mutual aid treaties with the United States rely on us in the future?

A more pertinent question might be how our country can survive, much less prosper under those conditions. The Trump-dominated wing of the Republican Party has perverted the notion of democracy. Instead of a government by and for the people, we have somehow found ourselves being governed by an extremist minority willing to pander to any group, no matter how craven if it assures their votes. That minority was able to leverage its power to stack the Supreme Court with people who call themselves Originalists and states’ rights advocates, labels that have become code for giving a wink and a nod to racists and xenophobes, to assuring the proliferation of military assault weapons, to preserving the wealth of our richest individuals, and enabling a strangely distorted view of Christian extremism that rivals the policies of radical extremist Islamic regimes like those in Iran and Afghanistan.

The point is that we may be on the cusp of what history one day views as the collapse of the American dream. It may not feel that way if you live in a nice house and drive an expensive car, but (pardon the cliché) don’t let the trees blind you from the fact that the forest is changing. It took the Roman Empire centuries to die, though from the context of history, its demise was assured long before that. Did Roman Senators in 100 A. D. realize their civilization was collapsing around them?

The difference today is that we the people have the power to right the ship if we use it properly. Suppose we put aside our petty resentments and remember that most of the good things in our lives only exist because we grew up in the United States and remember that preserving our democracy and our Constitution is the best legacy we can leave future generations. If we re-assess who deserves our loyalty, it’ll be pretty clear who really cares about the future of our country and who is involved in a life-and-death struggle for power and wealth. Unlike the Romans, we have the power to assure that the right people win.

I voted today. Will you?

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