We’ve been hearing for a couple of years now that our country is “divided,” “broken,” “fractured,” “splintered” and that current society is “tribal.”
All of those descriptions seem mostly accurate. Signs of strain, fractured will and stress are everywhere.
The most recent evidence is in many of the outcomes of our recent national elections. While some candidates and ballot issues were decided by solid majorities - Idaho’s Governor and Medicaid expansion for example - such one-sided results were rare.
I didn’t look at all national races, but in the 63 I did examine, 57 were decided by less that three-percent – many by tenths of a point. Yes, Democrats picked up the U.S. House. They needed 23 wins. They got 30. In a body of 435, hardly a landslide. If a few don’t follow caucus instructions on whatever the vote is about on any given day, that majority can evaporate. The new majority “whip” is going to be kept busy.
Less than a one point separation is likely to give Florida a Republican governor and, less than two-points, a senator. Same margains in Texas with Cruz over O’Rourke. Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Nevada and more had Senate and House victories by two and three points. Or less. Many state races and ballot issues were squeakers. Arizona is still counting Senate votes. No winner in Alabama Governor yet, either.
“Well, Rainey, a win is still a win,” you say. “What’s the matter with you?”
I see several “matters.”
For one, like Jack Kennedy faced, when one of these squeaker winners walks down the street, that person has to realize nearly one of every two people passing by voted against her/him. So much for a mandate. So much for real constituent support.
Another example. Legislating. If your majority in a congressional or legislative body is around one-percent or so, keeping your “horses” going in the same direction on significant issues is very difficult. Especially issues of conscience. Think Supreme Court candidates, budgeting or abortion rights. Without the heft of a solid majority, such issues are often near-impossible to settle.
There are many folks still saying we must stop speaking ill of each other - must stop the arguing and fighting - must return to a “kinder, gentler time.” Must “come together.” “Love your enemy” and all that.
It seems to me we’ve gone too far down the national road of vitriol, hate and division for any of that to be effective. We’ve got a serial liar president with millions of supporters who say “Sure, he lies, but he says what’s on his mind, he’s not a politician and I like that.” When what’s “on his mind” is constant lying about everything, how do you reach those people?
Another example. During exit polling in Florida, the question CNN put to voters, regardless of party affiliation - or none - was “Which national party do you want controlling Congress?” The answer? Dead even at 49% for each. How do you create effective governance out of that?
Other exit interviews on just about any issue or candidate there were many similar near-tie responses, regardless of what region of the country was involved. If you take nearly any national issue, you’ll find just about a 50-50 split. A few choruses of “Kum-ba-yah” will not heal our coast-to-coast ills.
Seems to me we’re in a situation similar to what Quakers in this country faced during the Civil War. They made gallant efforts to stick to their pacifist culture and stay out of the fighting for a long time. But, eventually, many of them realized they’d lose that culture and all they had if they didn’t take up arms. So, many of them did. They joined up and helped overpower the enemy.
We’re now faced with significant threats to all our culture. To our peace and tranquility. To our chosen way of life. Even to preserving the Republic.
The sources of those threats are many. Politicians more concerned with continued public-trough employment than concerns constituents face. A political party using lies and terrible tactics - some illegal - to gain or keep control in Congress and many states. Millions of Americans divorced from reality by sick rightwing media and “consultant” forces pounding away in a closed environment of lies and half-truths. Millions of citizen naysayers believing their willful ignorance is as good as your factual reality.
There were way too many razor-thin victories in our last election - far too many candidates elected by hundredths-of-a- point to make real progress. The serious - some terrible - issues we face as a country can’t muster a significant majority to solve. The outcome - and the numbers - prove it.
The time for peaceful solutions seems over. It may take a national force-of-will to form the majority needed to get back on the right path. Force-of-will and a few more elections.
Like those Quakers, we may have to join a fight we really don’t want to.