Everything Is Not Alright

I was determined to either find another topic than Tuesday’s elections here in the U.S., else not write a post for this morning.  I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing about the elections, especially those of you who live outside the U.S. as nearly half of my readers do, and frankly I’m tired of talking/writing about them.  So, I was going to write about … oh, maybe the COP27 taking place this week, or the ignominious Kanye West, or … something!  But then … as I was attempting to reduce the clutter in my email inbox, I came across a piece by Thomas Friedman that … well, it just begs to be shared.  And so, once again, I’d like to talk about this election … and things to come.  Some of what Mr. Friedman says is frightening, much of it is not what we hoped to hear, but I believe he is right and that his words carry a great deal of wisdom for what happens in the future, not only here in the U.S., but elsewhere.

Thomas Friedman knows of what he speaks.  A three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of seven books ranging from topics such as foreign affairs, global trade, the Middle East, globalization, and environmental issues, he is currently a weekly columnist for the New York Times.


America Dodged an Arrow

By Thomas Friedman

09 November 2022

You can hold off moving to Canada. You can forgo the call to the New Zealand Embassy on how to become a citizen there. Tuesday’s election really was the most important test since the Civil War of whether the engine of our constitutional system — our ability to peacefully and legitimately transfer power — remains intact. And it looks to have come through — a little dinged up, but OK.

I am still not even close to ready to sound the all-clear, to declare that running on a platform of election denialism will never tempt another American politician. But given the unprecedented degree to which election denialism was elevated in this midterm and the way several big-name Trump-imitating knuckleheads who made denialism central to their campaigns got their clocks cleaned —- we may have just dodged one of the biggest arrows ever aimed at the heart of our democracy.

To be sure, another arrow could target us at any moment, but the whole U.S. electoral system — in red states and blue — seemed to perform admirably, almost shrugging off the last two years of controversy, diminishing it to what it always was: the shameful fabrication of one man and his most shameless sycophants and imitators. Given the threat posed by Trump denialists to the acceptance and legitimacy of our elections, that is a big deal (and hopefully it will last through the Arizona count).

It could not come at a better time as the leaders of both Russia and China have manipulated their systems to entrench themselves in power beyond their previously established terms of office.

One of their arguments to their own people in doing so was to point to things like the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in America and the seeming chaos of our elections to tell their citizens: “That’s what democracy looks like. Is that what you want here?”

Indeed, in May, during his commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy’s graduating class, President Biden recalled when President Xi Jinping of China congratulated him in 2020 on his election: “He said democracies cannot be sustained in the 21st century; autocracies will run the world. Why? Things are changing so rapidly. Democracies require consensus, and it takes time, and you don’t have the time.”

For that reason, both Xi and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin — and the supreme leader in Iran now facing an uprising led by Iranian women — lost on Tuesday night, too. Because the more wild and unstable our politics, the less able we become to peacefully transfer power, the easier it is for them to justify never doing so.

But while election denialism took a thumping this week as a winning message, none of the things that are still eating away at the foundations of American democracy — and preventing us from actually getting big hard things done — have gone away.

I am talking about the way in which our primary system, gerrymandering and social networks have coalesced to steadily poison our national dialogue, steadily polarize our society into political tribes and steadily erode the twin pillars of our democracy: truth and trust.

Without being able to agree on what is true, we don’t know which way to go. And without being able to trust one another, we can’t head there together. And everything big and hard needs to be done together.

So, our enemies would be wise not to leave us for dead, but we would be even wiser not to conclude that, because we avoided the worst, we’ve locked in the best going forward.

Everything is not all right.

We are as divided coming out of this election as we were going into it. But to the extent that the red wave did not manifest itself — particularly in swing states like Pennsylvania, where John Fetterman won a Senate seat over the Trump-endorsed Dr. Oz, and in swing districts like one in central Virginia where Democratic Representative Abigail Spanberger was re-elected by defeating another Trump-backed candidate — it was because enough independents and moderate Republicans and Democrats showed up to put Fetterman and Spanberger over the top.

“There is still a viable group of centrist voters out there, who, when given a valid choice — not everywhere, and not always, but in some key districts — asserted themselves,” Don Baer, who was a communications director in the Clinton White House, told me. “I think there are still a lot of voters saying: ‘We want a viable center, where we can figure out how to make things happen that can really help people, even if it isn’t perfect or all at once. We don’t want every election to be existential.’”

The challenge, added Baer, “is, how do you take that sentiment to scale and make it work in Washington on a regular basis?”

I don’t know, but, if this election is a sign that we are at least edging back from the brink, it’s because enough Americans still fall into this independent or centrist camp and do not want to keep dwelling on the grievances, lies and fantasies of Donald Trump, which they can see are making the G.O.P. crazy and roiling the whole country. They also don’t want to be shackled by the woke enforcers of the far left, and they are terrified by the spread of the kind of sick political violence that was just visited on Nancy Pelosi’s husband.

We owe a huge debt for keeping this center alive to Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and Democratic Representative Elaine Luria. The three of them helped to spearhead the Jan. 6 investigation in Congress and ended up being forced out of office as a result. But the message that committee sent to enough voters — that we must never, ever, ever let something like this happen again — surely also contributed to the absence of a pro-Trump wave in this midterm election.

In sum, we did not get a clean bill of health. We got a diagnosis that our political white blood cells did OK in beating back the metastasizing infection that threatened to kill our whole electoral system. But that infection is still here, which is why the doctor advised, “Behave in healthy ways, build back your strength and return in 24 months for another scan.”

28 thoughts on “Everything Is Not Alright

  1. I love Thomas Hartmann. Once again he is spot on. With the gerrymandering that went on (especially in Florida), the underminding at voting booths, and the fake news, it’s amazing democracy came out alive. And yes, if it weren’t for the youngsters who will eventually save the world, AND THE WOMEN, coming out in droves to fight the red algae, this would have been a different story. But, it’s far from over. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • The gerrymandering in far too many states is an unconscionable means of diluting the vote of primarily Black and Hispanic people, but others as well. This is why I fully support an Amendment to do away with the Electoral College. It has always done precisely the opposite of what the Founders intended, and today is the biggest hurdle we have to voting rights. Yep, my friend ,,, we were saved by the women and youth this time. Let’s hope we have learned and won’t come so close to the precipice next time ’round! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I want to say something, and I want to say it loud and clear. Trump did not lose this election, WOMEN and young voters WON IT, Not that anything has truly been decided yet, but if women did not come out to vote in the numbers that they did, that Red Wave that the Republicans predicted might very well have happened.
    As an outside observer, I say we should be thanking women for saving democracy — for now!
    The problem is, nothing was really decided on Tuesday. This election was a stalemate! Except in the South where the Republicans won mainly because of gerrymandering and threatening voters, and deep historical issues, the Republicans and Democrats both lost this election. Nobody won it! At a time when a great statement needed to be made, it just wasn’t there. Democracy whimpered.
    But if you subtract the women’s vote, America would be Red right now! (Getting young people out to vote was also a huge factor from what I have read, but I have not heard yet any stats on how the youth vote was split by gender. I suspect more young women voted than young men because young women had much more at stake than did young men.)
    No, none of the big issues were decided on Tuesday. They have only been postponed to 2024. As I see it, if the Democrats are unable to pass federal legislation saving Roe v Wade, and if they cannot prove democracy works by ensuring that every eligible voter retains the right to safely cast a vote everywhere in America including Florida, a lot of voters will just give up. Either democracy works, or it does not!
    Right now it is a draw, thanks to women. And I think every freedom loving man in America should be thanking their stars that women saved their asses!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Pingback: Everything Is Not Alright. |jilldennison.com | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  4. Thank you for sharing!!.. America did not “dodge the arrow”, unlike many other countries America has a shield called the “Constitution”, and unlike many countries, it is a constitution not based on or determined by faith based ideologies… 🙂
    And, unlike many countries, thus far issues here in the USA have been dealt with by not over reacting or settled with conflict, and using today’s technology to work together and help more people be aware, knowledgeable and more informed about issues rather than going by the local gossip… 🙂
    The governments of those countries mentioned were formed in a time when technology was not like today, many people were misinformed, unknowing, etc. and in today’s world those governments are not sustainable and are occupied by desperate people, put into office by desperate people who are resisting change, like a drowning man grabbing at straws… they are the “dinosaur”… 🙂
    It may not seem like the wisdom will prevail with the news, but slowly the home known as the USA is being made better, by the people, it just take some patience with a few bumps along the way, “A home that is built with patience, understanding and love will withstand the strongest winds of difficulties and conflict , a home built with a closed mind, insincerity or haste will collapse in a mere breeze of discontent.” (Larry “Dutch” Woller )…. 🙂

    Until we meet again…
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Dutch!!! Well, the problem is that the Constitution is only as strong as those people who are responsible for protecting and upholding the values espoused within. It is a foundation, but foundations have been known to crumble if not properly cared for. As you say, thus far problems and issues have been dealt with by reasonable human beings working together to solve them. But today, I think we have a new element, one that is less interested in the common good and more interested in their own power & wealth. It is up to us to give those sort the boot and be wiser in our choices on election day. This week’s election gives some hope that we are learning from our past mistakes, but there are still dangers, still too many whose attention is easily diverted by the bright, shiny objects, or promises of something that appeals to them. You are more confident than I, though I’m more hopeful today than I was a week ago. Still, at the moment I don’t trust the people of this nation to take the threats that are on the horizon seriously, to think about what an autocracy could mean for us all. Sigh. Thanks for the Irish Saying, my friend … it always makes me smile!

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  5. Jill, good post. It is a start though. To me, it is a signal of several things that we must continue to do.
    – demand our elected officials to tell us the truth
    – demand our elected officials to work together to solve problems
    – demand our elected officials to avoid rhetoric boosting hearings taking away from real governance
    – when they deviate from these tasks, we need to hold them to account

    The other item which is happening as we speak is the Republican party is turning on the former president, at long last, seeing him for what he is. Since the January 6, 2021 insurrection, I noted then Donald Trump’s political career is over, but it will take the Republican party awhile to realize it. They are now starting to realize it. He is openly being ridiculed, which is definitely not music to the ears of a narcissist.

    Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Keith! Yes, it is a start and I think perhaps the biggest step in the results of Tuesday’s election is that it shows some Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump/maga. Even Rupert Murdoch and former Trump boot-licker Kayleigh McEnany are backing away from him.

      I fully agree with your four points. Truth … we have a right to be able to believe what our elected officials tell us. If we cannot, then they should not be in office. Period. Working together … I remember the day when both sides hashed out legislation, exchanged ideas, found common ground, and ultimately compromised … give and take. But today? No way, José! It’s all or nothing at all, thus if there is a Republican majority in the House come January, literally nothing will be accomplished for the next two years. Oh sure, they’ll rename a few highways and such, but the things that We the People need done will sit on the sidelines. A sad state of affairs.

      But, as of this writing, it ain’t over yet! I think Warnock can win the runoff in Georgia, and there are still some key races in Arizona that could rebuff the likes of conspiracy theorist Kari Lake and what’s-his-name Finchem, plus I’m fairly certain Kelly keep his seat. A mixed bag, but overall I think the positive outweighs the negative.

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  6. Pingback: Everything Is Not Alright | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  7. Oh thanks upon thank you’s for not writing about Kanye or Ye as he wants to be called but noone’s on board. I enjoy when you write. But I would’ve skipped out on the whole thing if I’d seen the words Kanye and West. Thank you again for your brilliant writing. It not only entertains. It enlightens.

    Liked by 2 people

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