All focus is on Election Day, Nov. 8, and with good reason. Rarely, if ever, has the choice of president been so stark and the impact so significant. But we are thinking of Nov. 9, The Day After, and the months and years that will play out as a result of the electorate’s choice. The loser will have been the choice of about 40 percent of the voters, the majority of whom are appalled at the prospects of life under the leadership of the winner. Die-hard supporters of Donald Trump talk of taking to the streets should he lose; devotees of Hillary Clinton talk of leaving the country if Trump wins. How are we to repair the torn fabric of American society going forward after this most bizarre, disheartening presidential campaign?
Recent history indicates a Washington whose politicians are more concerned about thwarting the efforts of their opponents than improving life for their fellow citizens. Democrats and Republicans have been in gridlock for so long that it is hard to imagine Congress filling the empty seat on the Supreme Court, no matter which party wins the White House. Gone are the days of party leaders who crossed the aisle to negotiate legislation based on compassion and compromise for the good of the country. We must demand of our political leaders a politics of the possible. Communities of faith surely have a constructive role to play in helping to transform the national climate from hating to healing. Community discussions to promote understanding across political lines should be initiated in the Jewish community and should be supported. Divisiveness, we know, is corrosive, while honest dialogue can build trust, incrementally.
It is difficult to imagine that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump could bring healing anytime soon to the citizens of a fractured and fractious collection of red and blue states. Trump’s campaign was based on division and fear. He fed on some white citizens’ distrust of immigrants and people of color. He described an America in freefall, rocked by violence in the streets, ineffective in foreign policy, and vulnerable to attack from enemies abroad. Should he lose, will he be able to concede to a woman he insists should be jailed? Or will he continue to insist the election was rigged, fostering distrust in a democratic system that has prided itself on the peaceful transition of power for more than two centuries?
Clinton has endured a level of visceral distrust, if not hatred, for decades. Despite her impressive resume as first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state, she is perceived widely as two-faced, corrupt, and worse. Some of it can be attributed to an arrogant defensiveness and air of entitlement on her part that frustrates even her closest advisers. But there’s a mix of misogyny from some of her critics as well.
Clinton as president would have to focus on transparency and work diligently at regaining trust; Trump, based on his narcissism, would not make the effort.
Beyond personalities, though, this election is about America’s role in the world. Will it step back, in keeping with Trump’s “America First” slogan, echoing the isolationist rallying cry of Charles Lindbergh and his opposition to the United States entering World War II? Or will the United States continue to play a vital role in attempts to maintain global stability in an increasingly complex and volatile environment?
One of the few things Americans of every political view should agree on is the need, post-election, to put the bitterness behind us as best we can and work together. Surely there is more that unites than divides us as we strive to embody the words of the Pledge of Allegiance to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”