Yesterday was a remarkable day in the history of American democracy. This morning, millions of people at home and abroad are rightfully concerned about where our country goes from here — not just with respect specific issues like Supreme Court nominees and reproductive freedom and access to health care, but with more existential matters like the fundamentals of the economy and global security. Let’s fervently hope (and pray, if that’s your thing) that the President-elect and people around him are serious about uniting the country and that much of the rhetoric of the past several months was just that — rhetoric.
Here, however, are three preliminary takes on what last night’s election means for American policy and politics and the situation in one of the country’s fastest growing states:
#1 – “You break it, you own it” — Colin Powell’s famous words to George W. Bush regarding the Iraq invasion he was about to embark upon seem especially apt now — not just for Trump supporters, but for the “mainstream” Republicans (i.e. the Bushes, Burrs, Kochs, McCains and their ilk) who refused to actively campaign against him. While those of us who opposed Trumpism must do our duty to offer a responsible opposition, help make our country work and fight for that in which we believe, the hard reality right now is that the political Right holds essentially all the levers of national power. When the stock markets dive or Russia flexes its muscle in Eastern Europe or Greenland starts to melt faster, it will be they who must fashion responses. One can only hope with all one’s heart that they know how big the stakes are and have some means of bringing helpful responses to bear.
#1A – Be sure to thank the Art Popes, John Hoods and Koch Brothers of the world for the Trump win — In keeping with #1, it’s important to point out the conservatives (like Pope, Hood and the Kochs) who derided Trump as personally unfit to serve but refused to do the only possible honorable thing and actually help Secretary Clinton win, must now take some responsibility for whatever happens next. Maybe things will be okay (again, let’s hope so), but the simple fact is that there were smart, wealthy and enormously powerful American conservatives who knew Trump was a dangerous loose cannon and that Clinton was the path to economic stability and a more secure planet, but who ultimately refused to help defeat him because of selfish parochial and partisan concerns. Merely staying neutral and somehow equating the “sins” of the two candidates was a coward’s way out.
#2 – Roy Cooper’s, Josh Stein’s and Judge Mike Morgan’s wins are modest solace for North Carolina progressives – It’s a hell of a mess that these three men will be forced to confront and their power to make much of a difference will be greatly constrained by national circumstances and the state-level forces arrayed against them, but securing the Governor’s office (at least apparently), the Attorney General’s seat and a majority on the state Supreme Court are no small matter for progressives. Especially when the presidential race was going so disastrously wrong, it reflects a stinging repudiation of Gov. Pat McCrory and his four years in office.
#3 – We are still an evenly divided and rapidly evolving nation and state – The plain and simple truth we wake up to this morning is that we were and are a 50/50 nation when it comes to politics and ideology. The same is equally true in numerous states like North Carolina. What’s more, we remain in the midst of a period of rapid demographic shifts that don’t figure to stop. The nativists and others fearful of change and modernity may have eked out an electoral win last night at the national level, but they do not have a mandate for radical change and will not be able to resist the demographic tides that continue to sweep the country (or modernity itself, for that matter). President-elect Trump will be President of all Americans come January and Governor-elect Cooper will be Governor of all North Carolinians — both of which feature divided and fast-changing polities. Again, let’s hope and pray they recognize and honor these realities.