John Kass: Fighting is far from over
After this ugly and contentious American presidential election, with families at odds and friends lost and anger in the air month after month, will the results help begin a healing process?
No. It sounds nice, but it really doesn’t work that way.
Republican Donald Trump won the election and defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton, but after all the noise and anger, healing takes time. It won’t be pretty, and for many, particularly Democratic women for whom Trump has become a demon, it will be downright painful.
Healing certainly won’t happen in the way it is being bleated about in some media quarters, as if we’re a nation of squabbling but cuddly rabbits in some Beatrix Potter story, and all we need is a stern talking-to and some hot cocoa and hugs before bed so that we may wake up on Wednesday and make up and cuddle again as before.
Here’s what’s wrong with the bleating about national healing.
We’re Americans. We’re not rabbits, yet.
We fight about ideas and power and we say stupid, angry, shameful things to each other, and harsh words and harsh ideas are not yet a crime. So our feelings get hurt. And they don’t heal in a day or two or even months. The realization of this naturally breeds anxiety. But this anxiety has another name:
It’s called freedom.
There are no public displays of anger in China or North Korea. If there are the dissenters are shamed and their families ruined, and if it persists, the government guns come out. There is no freedom there. But here?
We argue and squabble on a national level. Some liberals have demanded that Republicans not only be defeated, they must be “obliterated.” And Republicans say the same of their rivals. There are reasons for this.
We’re so full of strife in national elections because there’s so much at stake, because the federal government is so large now, so involved in our lives in ways the Founders never dreamed, from deciding about our public restrooms to late-term abortions, to deciding about how far our religions can reach into the public square or even speak, to decisions about who is an American and who can look at our cellphones, to decisions about our jobs and our health care.
An all-powerful federal government is the price of empire. And individual liberty is its casualty.
You can blame Lincoln or Roosevelt, or Bush or Obama or all the imperial presidents. With Congress abrogating its responsibility to check a succession of Republican and Democratic administrations, and with the increased bipartisan use of presidential orders, and with media elites cozying up to the status quo for warmth and nourishment, the road map to anger is plain on all of our faces.
The battle for supremacy through the White House is by its nature contentious and angry, either way this goes. And that won’t change now.
I could be all wrong in this, but the way I see it, there will be a reformation of the political parties. You’ve been seeing this take place over the past several years and it is the core reason for much of the anger. It has little to do with the flawed personalities of Clinton or Trump. It has to do with larger forces and interests.
The Democrats, for years the party of the working class, are now firmly the party of the economic elites with minorities as their shock troops, a party of the two coasts. The lobbyists of K Street are behind it. Neoconservatives who promoted Republican wars are behind it. Wall Street is behind it. And the young voters for Bernie Sanders are coming to understand this now.
The Republicans, for years the party of the corporate elite, with the heartland middle class as its shock troops, are disintegrating. They are broken. It has taken time, but a constant betrayal of its conservative base caused this inevitable change.
As I’ve said before, Trump was not a cause of this, but a symptom.
Government workers with middle-class salaries will be Democrats, and that includes the vast federal bureaucracy that actually rules the nation. Private-sector middle-class Republicans — without government job security or pensions — will begin to form a new party.
They will be lured and cajoled by either the establishment wing represented by House Speaker Paul Ryan, or the movement Republicans — and the left-behind white working class — of Trump.
With Trump as president-elect, Ryan and the establishment GOP will join with Democratic interests and the “Never Trump” intellectuals to thwart him. They will frustrate him and box him in and play for time.
Clinton will be blamed as the flawed candidate, and the federal investigations into her alleged corruption and the cash of the Clinton Foundation charities will be relentless. This feeding frenzy will be joined by Democrats who want to turn the page on the Clintons and look to the midterm elections and the next presidential campaign in the pursuit of power.
So this hasn’t shaken out, and won’t for quite some time. Political reformations and movements are like that. There is an aching in the status quo, as those with privilege are dislodged. And there is great bitterness.
So even though many of us wish we could heal, the fact is we can’t, not yet.
Because we are not cuddly rabbits in a children’s story. We’re Americans and we argue about ideas, still, I hope. That’s what we do.