Matt Flegenheimer of NYT ran a good op-ed this week: He argues that, despite all the fervent rhetoric of “2020 is the most important election of our lifetimes!” (which he notes was already said, dishonestly, in 2018, 2016, etc.), that in fact 2020 is ***not ***the most important election of our lifetimes.
The article argues that 1) Trump has done so much damage that even if Biden wins this year, Biden’s presidency will only amount to cleaning up the damage Trump has done, not getting much meaningfully done for Biden’s own sake, and 2) Trump has already changed what is normal. There is no pre-2016 normal that America can return to now, not anymore.
The article also doesn’t mention (but could have,) the effect that the huge jump in the national debt under Trump’s presidency will have (although the Obama administration did also add $10 trillion.) It also does not mention the judges nominated and confirmed to the courts.
One thing Trump has been correct in saying is the president’s biggest decision is the Supreme Court vacancies. The courts shifting further to the right with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, coupled with almost 200 increasingly young, right wing federal judges. Trump has accomplished hardly anything legislatively (those tax cuts don’t look so useful now) but his stamp on the civil liberties will endure.
Furthermore the bigger issue of Trumpism will endure even if he loses. Nationalism and anti-intellectualism could only be rejected in 2016. If we nipped that in the bud then things would be different. Instead Trump winning spawned a movement to turn what was a fringe far right line of thinking into the mainstream. A cult so obsessed in conspiracies and lies that demeans experts and institutions as ‘the deep state’ will just fester around the next Trump who might actually be competent in being a political operator.
One way in which 2020 can be seen as being more important is that Mitch McConnell is up for reelection. I think there’s a reasonable chance that with any other Majority Leader Merrick Garland would be on the SCOTUS.
It’s those down-ticket races that make this election so crucial. If Amy McGrath wins (not extremely likely, but certainly not impossible), if the Senate shifts to a Dem majority (in which case a McGrath victory is not as crucial), if the House holds its Dem majority, then even if Trump regains the presidency, some inroads might be taken in reversing some of the damage done by Trump.
This election is huge, but I do think that Democracy as we understand and believe in it is dead. I suppose it’s been on a downward slide for a while, but the election in 2016 marked the end of being able to pretend that Democracy was just fine.
Yes, Trump (and the Republican senate) has done massive damage that will take Herculean efforts to reverse. But at the same time the supports of a strong Democracy will continue to be eroded further.
Our growth-based economy continues to funnel wealth and stability to an ever-shrinking portion of the population, increasing the general population’s need for more hours of labor to maintain basic needs.
Near-universal access to the media (and the media’s near-universal access to us) gives unscrupulous or ignorant (or both) people incredible power to shape public perceptions of the truth, and of what is important. This is also amplified by the fact that thanks to the communication provided by the social-media world in which we live, any small festering of an idea can easily find enough like-minded people to thrive and self-promote.
We are encouraged to find community in digital space, where we can self-select into immediately satisfying and un-challenging groups (based on parameters set by and directed by others with profit motive), while participation in and understanding about our own geographic communities languishes.
At this point I can’t imagine an election at the national level in which most people are mostly informed accurately about the big issues.
I can’t imagine an America obsessed with “reality” and competition-based entertainment, where we are all encouraged to supersede expressions of our real lives with self-marketing and promotion, that is able to treat politics as anything other than a game to be won, with sides to be opposed at all costs.
I can’t imagine that an America that so culturally stratified coming together to stand united as neighbors and family first, and as political rivals second.
Maybe it’s always been thus, but the nut has been cracked, so to speak.
The only cause for reversal is to boot Trump out in a landslide and send his sycophants like Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Jodi Ernst, Lindsey Graham etc packing too. A big and flat condemnation of this presidency. I just don’t see that perfect storm happening.
I have a neighbor who is on facebook for years. She told me yesterday that they cheated Bernie in 2016, and her main motivation is still Hillary hate. She doesn’t care who wins now. Because they are all the same. And the Russians did not interfere. Hillary is out of office but she is behind the scenes doing things. And Corona is a (US) Govt thing that got out of hand. All world govts are bad except, apparently Russia.
She cannot form the thought in her mind that turnp is an emergency, even under pandemic. She said we could do without govts. i asked whether she would own a gun, and she hadn’t thoughgt about it a lot.
I’m not sure I agree. If (big ‘if’) Republicans get hammered in November then in the future the parties will try to avoid candidates like Trump.
After the 2016 election things were looking rosy for the Republicans. They had majorities in all the branches; their presidential candidate defeated one of the most prepared candidates in history (which doesn’t mean Clinton was a good candidate). Let’s say Biden wins in November, the Democrats increase the house, and re-take the senate (I can dream, can’t I?). Isn’t that a devastating blow to the Trump brand? Would Republicans dare trot out another Trump after something like that?
Trump has been spewing out so much bullshit for so long that it has deeply permeated our democracy, and we might never get the stench out. He has utterly exploited a critical portion of simple-minded voters which the Republican Party apparatus had been prepping, and they have lapped up so much of his bullshit that it’s the only thing they can digest now.
Along the way, he has warped the judicial system and embedded corruption throughout the administration.
I don’t think we can recover democracy now. He’ll probably undermine the election just enough to get re-elected, and then spend four more years spewing bullshit and warping the judicial system and corrupting the administration. It probably won’t be until his seventh year that any of his supporters even start to realize what a total fraud he is–and even then, a lot won’t even see that.
Just to mention one point from a foreign point of view (although I am an American expat): no one will ever again trust any treaty or agreement signed by the US, because a new president can unilaterally decide to ignore it. The tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum would have been unthinkable–until they actually happened. Even if a president Biden undoes what the orange menace has done, the damage will remain forever.