Elections mean everything.
But not because our favored candidate wins or loses. I'm old enough now to have experienced the highs and lows of many, many elections. Elections for Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Governors, legislators, and even city council members. Won some. Lost some. Cried in jubilation. Cried in despair.
But here's the thing. America has been the greatest nation on Earth for going on nearly a quarter of a millenium. Our nation is the first and greatest experiment in Democracy, the idea that the will of the People will govern the People. We've had great leaders. We've had terrible leaders. And yet, here we are. Still Number One on the Charts, Number One in Their Hearts. The rest of the world still looks to America as the great beacon of Hope, of Freedom, of Opportunity.
Last May, I was in Las Vegas with a diverse group of friends to run a half marathon and share some good fellowship. We talked some politics. One member of our group is a hard-core conservative. When others in our group expressed fear of a Trump presidency, I noted that Trump would be constrained by the American power structure—Congress, the Executive bureaucracy, the courts. In an age of expansive Presidential power, these constraints may not mean as much as they did in prior ages. But they are there, and they are real.
At this moment, the election hasn't been officially called, but it looks like Donald Trump—yes, the Celebrity Apprentice "You're fired!" Donald Trump—will most likely be our next President. I'm on record thinking Trump will be a disaster as President. I would have voted for Jeb! Bush, John Kasich, or Marco Rubio over Hillary Clinton, and basically any Joe or Jane Schmoe over Donald Trump. Yet, here we are. A majority of Americans (or close enough as to make no difference) prefer Donald Trump.
That's the beauty of democracy. The will of the People prevails. And it seems America wants to go a direction I think is folly. But who am I to say I know better than the People? Maybe the People as a whole are smarter than I am, Wisdom of the Crowd and all. In two years there will be another Congressional election, and in four years there will be another Presidential election. And if Trump is a disaster, if our country has lurched into a ravine, then my side will presumably win a victory or two, and maybe even claim a mandate. And if Trump is successful? Well, then America as a whole presumably is doing well and my fears were misplaced.
I know my Democratic friends will run through the list of unfair disadvantages Clinton faced. Gerrymandering. Voter suppression. Media fawning over Trump. FBI Director Comey's absurd injecting of himself into the last two weeks of a presidential race. Third-party candidacies by Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein. Irrational and even rabid investigations by a Republican House. And yes, still in 2016, residual sexism.
It's all bullshit.
Trump was the weakest potential candidate in a large Republican field. President Obama is as popular as President Reagan was at the end of his second term. The economy is doing well, and unemployment is under 5%. This loss is squarely on Hillary Clinton. Clinton, who already faced skepticism and distrust, chose to use a personal email server while Secretary of State, feeding into a narrative of dishonesty and lawlessness, creating a scandal that was both meritless and defining. She chose to give speeches to Wall Street companies for large fees. She chose to limit her campaign efforts in the Upper Midwest, taking the traditional support of blue-collar union workers for granted. Clinton had the most amazing possible opposition research to turn into anti-Trump ads, focusing on Trump's sexist, racist, and generally unsavory actions and attitudes. Even Trump's greatest strength—his self-acclaimed business acumen—turned out to be as much a fraud as the candidate himself.
Clinton's failure to capitalize on all of these inherent advantages is a testament to her weakness as a candidate. She failed to connect to ordinary Americans who have been left out of the economic recovery. She failed to explain how she would change the status quo, how she would represent those who aren't part of the social and economic elite. She failed to make a case why her Presidency would move America forward in a significant way other than being "not Trump". She simply failed to connect with We the People.
So, here we are. The American People have spoken. The People want change. The People want not-Clinton. The People want Donald Trump to look President Obama in the eye and say "You're Fired!" And in a democracy, the will of the People prevails.
So to all of my friends who are anti-Trump: Do not despair. Trump and the Republicans now have full and unfettered power. Everything is on them. If they let Obamacare fail without a safety net, it's on them. If Russia hacks our government computers, it's on them. If there is a terrorist attack or if the Middle East falls into chaos, it's on them. If the economy tanks, it's on them. If they repeal civil rights legislation, it's on them. And if the Republicans do any of these things, well there is always the next election. And today begins the next election. Today is the first day to start to make the case for change. Today is the day to begin recruiting candidates for city councils, state legislatures, and Congress. Today is the day to start the opposition to Donald Trump.
But remember, millions of people around the world don't have the ability to participate in an election. Many people around the word have no say in their governance. They have no say in who runs their country, no say in who speaks for them on the local or international stage, no say in who makes policies that affect their lives.
Elections mean everything. And that's a beautiful thing.