What Next Week’s Election Really Means

Alan Zendell, November 1, 2022

Next week’s election will decide who gets to legislate in the House of Representatives and seat about a third of the Senate and a bunch of state Governors. Most ballots will contain a slew of other things: candidates for state and local office, constitutional amendments, referenda, and assorted ballot questions, like whether to legalize abortion and marijuana. It’s a cliché that all politics is local, but when they study the cumulative effect of all those local races, most political scientists and commentators will be assessing the health of our nation’s democracy.

Awful as it was, some good might come from the assault by a right-wing nut job spouting Trumpisms that left House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a fractured skull. The Speaker is next in line for the White House, should some equally awful or worse fate befall President Biden and Vice President Harris. The attack on Paul Pelosi, which, in the words of the assailant, was an attempt to punish the Speaker for all of her “lies” on behalf the 2020 “election stealers,” has implications for our political future that are only marginally less serious than an attack on Jill Biden or Doug Imhoff (the husband of VP Harris) would be.

Viewing it combination with the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 should convince voters that the attack on Pelosi is part of a growing pattern that threatens the future of our democracy. We got further confirmation of that today as Steve Bannon and several of the other perpetrators of the election stealing lies urged defeated Brazilian President Bolsonaro to apply the Trump playbook and claim the election he lost was fraudulent. Bolsonaro is one of the world leaders who adopted Trump’s autocratic, extremist style of governance, and Trump endorsed his re-election wholeheartedly.

There is a similar dynamic in play in Israel, as Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to lead his right-wing, anti-Arab nationalists to victory and reclaim the Prime Ministership. The winner in Israel is not clear yet. It’s too soon to tell, but we can hope that the elections in Brazil and Israel are the beginning of a reversal of the global trend toward ultra-nationalism and racial and religious divisiveness, as well as a sign that having watched Trump’s behavior over the past seven years, the rest of the of the world is rejecting it. The question for the United States is whether that trend will materialize when Americans cast their votes.

We’re always going to have to deal with a couple of elected officials who behave like Marjorie Taylor Greene. When there are one or two, they can be viewed as right-wing extremist gadflies, voices that remind us we must always be vigilant in defense of our democracy, but no real threat. When the number of Greene-like people elected to govern us grows, however, alarm bells should go off in the mind of anyone who believes in the American dream.

President Biden likes to describe the present time as a cusp or inflection point. Those are mathematical terms whose meanings are equally valid in the world of government and politics. An inflection point is the moment the direction of a trend changes, when things go from getting worse to getting better, or vice versa. In mathematics, a cusp is the point at which two converging curves like the edges of a crescent moon meet in a sharp tip, but in politics it’s more of a tipping point where everything can change dramatically without warning. Together, those definitions suggest we could see drastic changes in our way of life that seem to occur suddenly, out of the blue. In reality, however, the tipping point only seems sudden to people who have been ignoring trends that have been growing for years.

It’s pretty clear how we got where we are today. Most Americans celebrated Barack Obama’s election to two terms as President as a sign that our society had matured beyond racism, bigotry, and the subjugation of women. It was a shock, when Donald Trump was elected to succeed him, to realize that the voices (and weapons) of hate and authoritarianism hadn’t gone away, but simply retreated underground. Trump brought them out into the light, enabled their reawakening and cheered them on at every turn. The Republican Party was no match for Trump’s canny street-fighting ability, and the cowardice of traditional Republicans who abandoned Conservative values for Trumpism is what is enabling the new crop of Greene’s to gain traction.

Greene and her ilk should not get to decide the future of America. It’s up to us, the voters to do that. Forget the polls and the hype. Look at the candidates’ records and websites. Get off your butts and vote for our future.

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