Breaking the Cycle
A quick timeline of quotes from the recent U.S. presidential election:
Republican nominee Donald Trump, October 2016
“Remember, we’re competing in a rigged election folks. The media is an extension of the Clinton campaign, as WikiLeaks has proven…They even want to rig the election at the voting booths.”
Democrat nominee, Hilary Clinton, October 2016
“It’s appalling that a presidential nominee of a major party is undermining the pillar of our democracy—just because he hates losing.”
President Obama, October 2016
“…there is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even — you could even rig America’s elections, in part, because they are so decentralized and the numbers of votes involved. There is no evidence that that has happened in the past or that there are instances in which that will happen this time.”
Republican nominee, Donald Trump, November 8, 2016
“Of course I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result. I will follow and abide by all the rules and traditions of all of the many candidates who came before me, always.”
Obama administration, November 26, 2016
“The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian Government-directed compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the President-elect. Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people.”
Marc Elias, Clinton campaign general counsel, November 26, 2016
“Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”
John Podesta, Clinton campaign official, December 12, 2016
“Each day that month, our campaign decried the interference of Russia in our campaign and its evident goal of hurting our campaign to aid Donald Trump. Despite our protestations, this matter did not receive the attention it deserved by the media in the campaign. We now know that the CIA has determined Russia’s interference in our elections was for the purpose of electing Donald Trump. This should distress every American.”
President Obama, December 16, 2016
“And so when I receive a final report, you know, we’ll be able to, I think, give us a comprehensive and best guess as to those motivations. But that does not in any way, I think, detract from the basic point that everyone during the election perceived accurately — that in fact what the Russian hack had done was create more problems for the Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign. There’s no doubt that it contributed to an atmosphere in which the only focus for weeks at a time, months at a time were Hillary’s emails, the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC.”
Robert Gates, Former Defense Secretary, December 18, 2016
“I would characterize it as a thinly disguised covert operation to discredit the American election and to basically allow the Russians to say to the rest of the world that our elections are corrupt, incompetent, rigged, whatever and therefore no more honest than anyone else’s in the world including theirs, and thus the U.S. ought to get off it’s high horse in telling other countries how to run their elections.”
Former President Bill Clinton, December 2016
“[Donald Trump] doesn’t know much. One thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him.”
“[FBI Director] James Comey cost her the election,”
I recently spoke to a close friend about why they were still posting daily complaints on Facebook about Trump’s election. I asked, “Why not wait until Trump is in office and then start critiquing his policy decisions?” His reply was that Republicans attacked President Obama from the day he was elected. I retorted that Democrats did the same to President Bush. It starts to feel like a chicken or egg scenario. I suggested that sooner or later someone has to have the courage to break the cycle (easy for me to say, when I’m a conservative and a Republican is about to take office). Another friend also told me last week that the Electoral College is a tool that conservatives use to oppress minorities.
I might also remind readers that the same President Obama who is now complaining about negative publicity for his chosen successor (as if there is any other kind) said this in October when he thought Clinton would have the White House:
“And if he [Donald Trump] got the most votes, then it would be my expectation of Hillary Clinton to offer a gracious concession speech and pledge to work with him in order to make sure that the American people benefit from an effective government.
And it would be my job to welcome Mr. Trump, regardless of what he’s said about me or my differences with him on my opinions, and escort him over to the Capitol, in which there would be a peaceful transfer of power.
That’s what Americans do. That’s why America is already great. One way of weakening America, making it less great, is if you start betraying those basic American traditions that have been bipartisan, and have helped to hold together this democracy now for well over two centuries.”
While we can say a lot about the future of the country and Ordinary Times has invited you to share the worst of it in January, this is what I will volunteer today: The participants on both sides of the election this year have done significant harm to the institutions that many of us hold dear. The Republican candidate spent months telling us the election was rigged and then shocked us all by winning anyway. The Democrat candidate spent months telling us to respect the process and then when she suffered a surprise loss, her surrogates told us that something foul was afoot.
Attacks on the Electoral College may have validity (any system devised over 200 years ago needs occasional review) but to immediately discredit it in the aftermath of a loss is the kind of stuff that makes me wish civics was required in every school. Everyone agreed to the same rules beforehand, but it seems that some people had their fingers crossed behind their backs.
Where I land is that a Trump presidency seems awful on paper, but Presidents rarely ever turn out to be what we thought they would. Trump’s Cabinet picks alone signal that something different is happening, and quite frankly this is exactly what his supporters asked for, good or bad. Loading those offices with executives and not career politicians is scary for some but also reflects that this will not be business as usual. What that means for you and I remains to be seen.
I’m going to make a plea here which is likely to be ignored but in the spirit of the season I’ll still try. In the coming months, try your best to evaluate the new President and his appointees based on policy, not on how you feel about them as people. Stop picturing them as the Bad Guys and instead think of them as People I Simply Disagree With. When they do things that upset you, let’s hear about it, and maybe even suggest an alternative. When they do things you can live with, be adult enough to admit it. I can tell you from experience that the first time President Obama did something I liked, I begrudgingly praised him, even if it felt like I needed a shower afterwards. Today it comes a bit easier, even though my old partisan loyalties sometimes make me choke on the words. If any of you are brave enough to do the same, we’ll have the metaphorical soap waiting for you.
Happy Holidays everyone.