Amer­i­cans need a blue wave to wash away two toxic and hate-filled years

The Guardian - Journal - - Opinion -

The United States midterm elec­tions are al­ways im­por­tant. But the elec­tions to­mor­row mat­ter in ways that few midterm con­tests can have matched. Yes, it will take more than one elec­tion to mend the dam­aged and an­gry po­lit­i­cal mood that, in the last two weeks alone, has seen a fer­vent Don­ald Trump sup­porter send bombs to sev­eral Democrats, and a white su­prem­a­cist com­mit the most heinous act of an­tisemitic vi­o­lence in the coun­try’s his­tory. The man in the White House is not the only thing that must change. But the jour­ney has to start some­where. You only have to imag­ine how much more dif­fi­cult the jour­ney will oth­er­wise be to grasp the ex­cep­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity that rests on the shoul­ders of US vot­ers on Tues­day.

Don­ald Trump is not the sole rea­son why Amer­i­can pol­i­tics have be­come so toxic, why Amer­i­cans’ faith in their in­sti­tu­tions has been so shaken, or the in­flu­ence of the US for good in the world so di­min­ished. In many ways Mr Trump was the prod­uct of al­ready ex­ist­ing tox­i­c­ity, shaken faith and de­clin­ing pres­tige. But he has turbo-charged this de­cline de­lib­er­ately, as a mat­ter of con­scious pol­icy. He seeks con­sis­tently to be the pres­i­dent of some of the United States, not of the coun­try as a whole. Against those who do not sup­port or agree with him he de­ploys only hate and scorn. He lies and pro­vokes as a mat­ter of strat­egy. This is a pres­i­dent with­out prece­dent, and al­though in the US democ­racy is strong, it is not in­de­struc­tible.

Take the is­sue of vot­ing rights. It is of­ten as­sumed that the US con­sti­tu­tion em­bod­ies a fed­eral right to vote. It does not. Vot­ing is ad­min­is­tered by the states. Most states are in Repub­li­can hands, and the dis­tricts that will send mem­bers of Congress to Wash­ing­ton this week have fre­quently been ger­ry­man­dered. In many states, in­clud­ing North Carolina and Wis­con­sin, Repub­li­cans have im­posed re­stric­tions on early vot­ing, postal vot­ing and voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, all of them de­signed to pre­vent black Amer­i­cans from vot­ing. In Ge­or­gia, of­fi­cials tried to close seven out the nine vot­ing places in a pre­dom­i­nantly black area on the pre­text that dis­abled ac­cess was inad­e­quate.

The US con­sti­tu­tion is cel­e­brated for its checks and bal­ances. Yet par­ti­san­ship is now so en­trenched and un­bend­ing that in­sti­tu­tions them­selves are be­gin­ning to creak. The White House is in the hands of a ly­ing and rule-break­ing racist ex­ec­u­tive who, apart from all his pol­icy fail­ings, re­fuses to re­lease his tax re­turns, blurs the dis­tinc­tion be­tween of­fi­cial and per­sonal in­ter­ests, med­dles in in­ves­ti­ga­tions in which he has no busi­ness and who, just last week, de­ployed thou­sands of US troops for a purely par­ti­san rea­son. Mean­while, since the Brett Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion, the supreme court is now more firmly than ever un­der par­ti­san rightwing con­trol, open­ing up the near cer­tainty of an at­tempt to over­turn US abor­tion rights.

So there is a strong con­sti­tu­tional case, as well as a strong po­lit­i­cal one, for re­cap­tur­ing the leg­isla­tive branch this week from its dis­hon­est and syco­phan­tic rightwing Repub­li­can lead­er­ship. Demo­cratic con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives would con­strain Mr Trump by in­ves­ti­gat­ing is­sues that have been shame­lessly ig­nored by the cur­rent House lead­er­ship. Demo­cratic con­trol of the Se­nate, a long shot, would clip his wings even more. Demo­cratic fail­ure this week, by con­trast, would be – and would be taken to be – an elec­toral en­dorse­ment of Mr Trump.

This is a piv­otal elec­tion for Amer­i­cans, for Amer­i­can democ­racy, and for the rest of the world. Yet it comes at a time of de­cent US eco­nomic growth and high em­ploy­ment, when Repub­li­cans are en­er­gised, and Democrats are di­vided about their fu­ture course. It is far from guar­an­teed, in the light of 2016, that Demo­cratic en­thu­si­asm and money will turn into the blue wave that we want to­mor­row. But there is no more im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal task any­where in the world to­day than to seize this mo­ment.

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