On Elec­tion Day we can lose our coun­try or save it

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - OPINION - BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Mi­ami Her­ald

“What are these politi­cians go­ing to do for us?”

A guy in Texas asked that ques­tion a few weeks back on “Full Frontal with Saman­tha Bee,” by way of ex­plain­ing why he won’t be vot­ing in the most im­por­tant midterm elec­tion in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­tory. His words have been play­ing on an end­less loop in my head ever since. You’ll sel­dom hear elec­toral ap­a­thy, ig­no­rance and cyn­i­cism more con­cisely il­lus­trated.

More­over, he re­flects an un­der­stand­ing of pol­i­tics as solely a trans­ac­tional process: Vote for this, get that. But for how­ever much cast­ing a bal­lot is a way to get, it is also, and per­haps even more so, a way to say. One thinks of Nor­man Rock­well’s fa­mous “Four Free­doms” paint­ing of an or­di­nary guy stand­ing up in a pub­lic meet­ing to speak his piece. That’s what vot­ing is.

If the evo­ca­tion of that image seems corny, that’s OK. We could use a lit­tle corni­ness just now, could do with a sen­ti­men­tal nod to the foun­da­tion stones we claim to cher­ish: lib­erty, jus­tice, equal­ity, de­cency, democ­racy, com­pas­sion and all that other old-fash­ioned hokum. Be­cause here’s the thing:

We could lose it all. We could lose our coun­try.

Maybe you think that’s alarmist. But any­one who is san­guine about Amer­ica’s fu­ture has not been pay­ing at­ten­tion to Amer­ica’s present.

Let’s take a re­cent episode as an in­struc­tive ex­am­ple. As you will re­call, our pres­i­dent claimed the power, at his sole dis­cre­tion, to over­turn the 14th Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, which is patently ab­surd. That’s not the way Amer­ica works. A pres­i­dent can­not de­clare some part of the Con­sti­tu­tion – the Con­sti­tu­tion! – null and void. Only dic­ta­tors can do that.

But if this guy thinks he has that power, what else might he think he can do? Know­ing him as we do, is it far-fetched to imag­ine a sce­nario where he gins up some fake cri­sis in 2020 and uses it to post­pone the elec­tion? Or is it in­con­ceiv­able that, hav­ing lost that elec­tion, he re­fuses to sur­ren­der power, claim­ing the process was “rigged”?

So yes, we could, in­deed, lose our coun­try here. And not just be­cause of him, but also be­cause of us – how he has changed us.

Can you imag­ine for a mo­ment the ex­plo­sive up­roar that would have en­sued had any other pres­i­dent made such a tyran­ni­cal – not to say fascis­tic – claim? If Obama had done it, Sean Han­nity would’ve had a stroke, live on air. And he’d have been jus­ti­fied and would not have been alone.

But not with this guy. Un­der him we live with rou­tine chaos, or­di­nary out­rage, nor­mal ab­nor­mal­ity. In­fants are stolen from par­ents, the Army is sent against refugees, Amer­ica dis­hon­ors its agree­ments, kicks its friends and ca­resses its foes, while this truthchal­lenged man in­sists we’re not see­ing what we’re see­ing, that white is black, up is left and two plus two equals marsh­mal­lows. And it’s just an­other day in the life. We are in­ured.

Now some non­voter wants to know what politi­cians are go­ing to do for us? Wrong ques­tion. Tues­day is about what we do for our coun­try.

Email Leonard Pitts Jr. at lpitts@mi­ami­her­ald.com.

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