Years ago, before the blogosphere was a thing, I used to write articles for a site called ThemeStream. They actually paid me for the articles based on how many views I got. I once received a check from them for $50!
When the election of 2000 was finally decided, weeks after election day, I wrote an article about what a unique and wonderful place the United States is when it comes to the peaceful transition of power. Other countries might have seen tanks rolling through the streets, rioting and rock throwing, massive unrest in the wake of an election that truly did have the appearance of being “rigged.”
But we didn’t see any of that. What was saw was, at worst, a grumbling acceptance of the Supreme Court decision that placed George W. Bush in the Oval Office. I was among those grumbling. I had voted for Al Gore, mostly because I was fearful of the direction in which Bush 43 would take our country.
Nevertheless, I accepted the results, and in the ThemeStream article, I expressed my hope that Bush would turn out to be a great president and would do wonderful things for our country. I noted that though the transition of power had not gotten off to a smooth start, we as a country would come together, accept the results of the election, and expect both sides of the aisle to work together to build a good future for our country and all Americans, keeping us safe, continuing the thriving economy of the Clinton administration, and providing opportunity for all.
“The Peaceful Transition Of Power Following A Democratic Election Is The Ultimate American Tradition” (Jonathan Karl, ABC News)
It didn’t exactly work out that way, but no one suggested that citizens should rise up and forcibly resist the new president, and no one suggested that Democrats should refuse to work with him, refuse to participate in hearings for cabinet and Supreme Court members. Members of Congress did not shout ugly things at Bush while he gave the State of the Union address. No one questioned Bush’s citizenship or patriotism.
Sadly, the 2000 election seems to have marked the end of the kind of civility for which this nation has been known and which for many is a source of great pride. The Bush administration saw a steady decline in transparency, accountability, and responsibility. By the time we reached 2008, we saw ugliness and vitriol the likes of which I had not observed in my lifetime (at least not as an adult). And by the time Barack Obama was sworn in, our nation’s first black president, something that should have caused pride and celebration among all who believe our country is great (as opposed to those who think our country needs to be made great again), we had Mitch McConnell holding a meeting in which he announced the number one priority of Senate Republicans would be to make Obama a one-term president. The priority would not be in creating jobs, improving the economy, making college affordable, solving the healthcare crisis. It would not be national security or ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. No, it would be to make Obama a one-term president, regardless of what that singular focus might do to our nation as a whole. Meanwhile, talking heads like Rush Limbaugh publicly hoped for Obama’s failure. He openly expressed his hope that the President of the United States, elected by a majority of voters, would fail. Let that sink in.
Fast forward to 2016. We have Donald Trump, the leader of the “birther” movement, a reality TV star, a self-acknowledged womanizer, a well known misogynist, a man who has been proven to discriminate against people of color, who refuses to pay small businesses that do work for him, a man who received five deferments allowing him to escape serving his country in Vietnam, and we hear him attempting to undermine the very foundation of our democracy. Weeks before the election, he began his claims that the polls would be rigged. He claimed voter fraud is and would be rampant, but offered no facts to back up that claim.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, Trump has set up a scenario in which we may be witnessing an ugly and gruesome end to this great experiment called America. People of all political stripes worry about what the results of this election could bring. There are reports of people stockpiling food this weekend, with long lines at grocery stores and empty shelves. People are concerned that the anger and hatred Trump has ginned up among the militia types has a real possibility of leading to a civil war. I have friends who have seriously investigated the reality of moving to Canada or Mexico. Keep in mind, this is regardless of the outcome of the election, because Trump has openly said he will not accept the results if he loses, and he has not so subtly encouraged his supporters to take matters into their own hands, both at the polls and after election day. Such is this man’s thirst for power.
This is scary, folks. And it’s unacceptable. And it’s un-American. And it has to stop. But I fear it may be too late. And there is one party who is clearly to blame. Ironically, it’s the ones who claim exclusive right to the mantle of patriotism.