All Elections Have Consequences, Some More Than Others

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught public policy at USF, UC Berkeley and other institutions and is Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

Judgement Day—politically speaking—is upon us. Today millions of voters will render their opinions on who they would prefer to lead them in all 435 congressional districts.

84 of them are considered competitive with Republicans holding a 23-seat majority. With at least seven considered up for grabs in California, the nation’s largest state has the lion’s share.

It is thought that Democrats will have to win at least four of these seats to have any chance of recapturing the House.

In the U.S. Senate there are 35 seats up for election including the one currently occupied by California Senator, Dianne Feinstein, who has led consistently in all polls throughout the campaign and is all but a lock.

Democrats are defending 26 seats while Republicans are only defending 9. Ten of the contested Democratic seats are in states that voted for Donald Trump in 2016. The GOP is defending just one Senate seat in a state Hilary Clinton carried—Nevada.

To oust the GOP from majority control in the Senate, the Dems will need to win or hold on to most or all of the following states: West Virginia, North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Indiana and Florida.

The polls show tightening races in each.
Additionally they might also need to score victories in Nevada, currently in Republican hands and in Arizona where GOP Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring.

Wisconsin where Dem. Sen. Tammy Baldwin must fend off a red wave and New Jersey where Dem. Sen. Bob Menendez survived a mistrial on corruption charges, could also hold surprises.

In short the Democrats might do well if they can just prevent the GOP from increasing its present 51-49 majority.

The numbers game is always interesting, but their accuracy is much more difficult to decipher in an election that is really all about only one person—Donald Trump.

In California, vulnerable GOP incumbents who happen to be in districts which Clinton carried have generally shunned too many debates where questions about Trump’s fitness for office were inevitable.

This has been treacherous ground for candidates across the nation who would rather have debated issues important to their regions which could showcase their own fitness.

But Trump’s seemingly pathological need to dominate all the news has nationalized the mid-term elections from the very beginning, and has made this a referendum mainly about the president.

This is a big gamble. But it is apparently exactly what the White House strategists have wanted and barring a huge anti-Trump turnout they may succeed.

The nation’s electorate it appears is going through an unprecedented radicalization which makes any predicting suspect.

Just as Trump has altered our concepts of political reality, the rules of engagement have also changed—perhaps indefinitely.

The real battle for supremacy is being waged not only along partisan lines between Democrats, Republicans and a growing population of independents, but between factions without an identifiable leader that disavow everything Trump stands for and others that embrace just as fervently everything he says and does.

This is why blind appeals to partisanship without some coherent message to support them are failing.

This is why there are serious discussions going on about forming a competitive third party

Trumpism—and it means different things to those who espouse it— has ushered in at least temporarily— the post-partisan age.

It does not rise to an ideology because even after cursory examination, it is devoid of any enduring principles or moral imperatives, or a sustainable voter majority beyond its insistent base.

Still it is a powerful force precisely because it has disrupted the natural order of things and some of its worst teachings are becoming embedded in the national psyche.

It is chaos theory put into practice by masterminds who knew exactly how to take the public pulse and found the perfect individual to execute it.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is American history has not been all that kind to leaders with dictatorial impulses. In fact, there are no examples of any ever succeeding—although a few showed tendencies.

(John Adams signed the Alien & Sedition Acts allowing him to imprison and deport non-citizens deemed dangerous; Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War which prohibits anyone from being imprisoned indefinitely without a showing of cause; and there was FDR’s internment of Japanese prisoners during World War Two. Each was declared unconstitutional).

Trump is not concealing his strong preference for a monarchical form of government and has vested most of his political capital in that aspiration since his election.

Autocrats require inattentive masses who will bow to their megalomaniacal schemes which demand bogeymen that people will come to fear.

Enter the oncoming caravan!

Prior to the election we are hearing that two thousand or so Honduran immigrants armed mainly with sticks and stones and headed to our borders constitute a threat to our national security!

With this bogus invasion imminent, thousands of troops have been rushed to the Mexican border.

There is a better chance that heavily armed white supremacists, their silent supporters and the unsuspected madmen they influence, stirred up by racial, religious and xenophobic hatreds and hiding unnoticed in dozens of communities will continue to storm schools, synagogues, hotels, night clubs and any other targets that suit their fancy.

These are the real enemies of democracy who live within our borders, and the fears they evoke are not imaginary.

These bad actors have no special loyalty to any political creed, but will take comfort from any quarters where indulgence is shown for the mayhem they are causing.

For most of our history they have been confined to the extreme fringes of society and while they are loud and dangerous, they constitute a distinct minority.

We do not constrain these extremists by further stoking fears and hatreds about the same populations they want to see eradicated.

The world will not come to an end on November 6th, nor our republic as we know it. It has not before now.

But we are on a path that is gradually eroding our fundamental liberties and they could be more difficult to restore once taken.
This state and the nation have given up much of its human treasure in wars we fought to defend other nations confronted with autocratic rule.

The pendulum has clearly swung in a severe rightward direction much as it has in other democratic countries around the globe which are experiencing a similar unhealthy slide toward authoritarianism.

Our first challenge is to restore order here.

If a ruling party whether it be Republican or Democratic is complicit in an ongoing crisis of growing proportion, there is only one sure way to counter it and restore some balance-—and that is with our votes.

All elections have consequences—some more serious than others. This could be one of them.

Though it is how we mark our ballots, we go to the voting booths not primarily as Democrats, Republicans or independents, not as conservatives, moderates, liberals, progressives, socialists, or whatever else we choose to be called.

We go foremost as citizens of a free if badly fractured nation that is still under law, and we should be determined to keep it that way.

The 2018 mid-term elections are much more than a test of partisanship. Assuming the integrity of the voting process has been restored and safeguarded, they will be seen as a vote of confidence in the current leadership.

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