The election, marked by a most deplorable and frightening campaign, is but weeks away. Polls suggest Hillary Clinton is likely to be our next president. If so, we will have collectively dodged a catastrophic bullet. But let’s not start raising our celebratory glasses. We should have no illusions about what’s happened here. When it comes to the country’s future direction, much remains unresolved. We will be left with fundamental questions not to mention deep, still not fully understood, scars. I for one draw a direct line between Donald Trump and John McCain’s astounding selection of the highly unqualified opportunist Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. His unforgivable folly almost immediately gave way to the Tea Party and a total radicalization of the Republican party. Some might argue that it all began with the so-called Reagan Revolution or even with Richard Nixon. Those roots are undeniable, but it really wasn’t until eight years ago that things turned so absolutist partisan, or that one could even imagine a Donald Trump leading a national ticket.
The election notwithstanding, celebrations are unwarranted until we resolve what has been set in such poisonous motion. So long as we refuse to engage with each other, to find some common ground, we are likely to see continued frustration and gridlock. That is virtually guaranteed if the GOP retains control of Congress, especially the Senate. In a time of global flux, the increasing threat of still denied and not fully addressed global warming and gaping economic disparity we will face continuing danger. Nothing less than a total reboot will do. That’s going to take both leadership and our collective will. It won’t be easy, most especially since we’ve gotten so accustomed to taking sides and self-righteously proclaiming to always be in the right.
While we have heard less talk of it this election cycle, conventional wisdom has long held that there is some kind of predominate “middle” across the land. If so, it hasn’t shown its face in quite a while. There certainly seem to be few if any “middle” Republican office holders and, albeit perhaps less so, even among Democrats. In fact, in this hyper-partisan time those of us who are active or who follow politics closely often show disdain for anyone who doesn’t hold absolute faith with either our liberal or conservative ideology. Perhaps we are becoming more secular, but this kind of attitude mirrors the religious fundamentalism that claims for itself ownership of “the” truth. That doesn’t lead anywhere good in either faith or politics.
Barack Obama came into office facing an overflowing plate ¾ Iraq, Afghanistan and an almost unprecedented excess driven recession. Eight years later, despite considerable accomplishments, the Middle East remains in conflict and the residual effects of the downturn continue to impact on too many Americans. Our assumed “can do” and “land of opportunity” ethos is in question and many citizens of all political stripes are both frustrated and angry. The challenges facing a President Hillary Clinton may be somewhat different, but they are no less daunting. In fact, I would argue that the state of our national psyche is so fragile in that in some ways, they may be greater today. Given the limitations of any president to bring about substantial change or progress, she will have to make hard choices and set some priorities. Addressing our challenges abroad and economic challenges at home are obviously on the to do list, but bringing about a reboot may be equally or even more important.
Much attention has been paid in recent weeks to the challenges facing the Republican Party in the face of its 2016 fracturing. But let’s not forget Democrats have their own challenges evidenced by a very anemic 2016 presidential bench and the extraordinary response to independent Bernie Sanders candidacy. That he properly opted for unity and campaigned for Clinton does not mean that what drove his insurgent campaign was not real or that what drove it will have gone the morning after. Very many of his followers were and are young and the future ¾ theirs and ours ¾ depends on them and addressing their issues. There is good reason that politicians have become suspect and business as usual has been so discredited across party lines. The enthusiasm gap of this election dare not be ignored nor can the very fact that one of the two major parties could turn to such an extreme candidate. That’s not a GOP problem, it’s an American problem. We should read it as an ominous warning signal. All is not well and we pretend that it is at our own great peril.
Is a seasoned senior pol like Hillary the right person to address these issues, to launch a credible reboot? That remains to be seen of course, but she may turn out to be exactly the right agent. Who better to self-judge, to understand that what we’ve been doing no longer works? A Clinton led reboot could represent real reform, an affirmation that she is of the future rather than the past. It would give special meaning to signal that she is not just a second Clinton or even Obama Administration, but one of the world that exists today and will be with us moving forward. It’s a tall order to not merely think “out-of-the-box” but to act out of it as well. She will be entering the presidency at a time of a messy and often dysfunctional country and world.
Other countries question whether our time of leadership is at an end and many at home question what the nature of that leadership should be and where. Among the many complications, the UK with whom we have always had that “special relationship” is in flux after the Brexit vote. Israel our closest ally in the Near East still has not been able to make the peace it needs for survival as a Jewish state. Isis remains a threat to stability complicating the neighborhood in which both Israelis and Palestinians live. China is facing economic challenges and Russia is aggressively trying to reassert itself. The list of challenges at home and abroad abound. Where our desperately needed domestic reboot fits into that puzzle remains the yet to be answered question. Other problems have a way of making their way to the front of the line, but she shouldn’t let that happen. We need a reboot and we need it today not tomorrow.