It's Election Day in the U. S. and I can't help thinking about what might have been.
Commentators opine incessantly about the paucity of choice given the deficiencies in the current two major party candidates. Donald Trump is a dangerous firebrand who could potentially unravel the American experiment while Hillary Clinton is a lifelong Washington insider who has earned a reputation as unlikeable and untrustworthy.
The fact of the matter is that it didn't have to be this way. Top marks for blame go to the Republican Party for creating the toxic environment that allowed Donald Trump to capture the party's presidential nomination.
Ever since Ronald Reagan seized the party's reins and steered it to the right, Republican leaders have tacitly appealed to the worst instincts of many white male voters in order to hold on to power. Thanks to their selfish efforts, the United States is now severely divided by income, ideology and ethnicity.
The Republican Party's plutocratic crusade has left a trail of damage from Wall Street to Main Street. Years of misguided economic and foreign policy by the likes of Ronald Reagan and Bush 41 and 43 have crippled the country and left it with two warring factions.
The dramatic failure of trickle-down economics and simplistic foreign interventions like Iraq not only bankrupted the nation; they also helped create the climate which allowed someone like Donald Trump to get this close to the Oval Office.
By pushing further and further to the right, the Republican leadership laid the groundwork for a blustering, racist, sexist demagogue to win the nomination. And in doing so, they undermined the possibility of finding a reasonable, moderate candidate within their own ranks. When every Republican candidate has to swear fealty to a rightwing credo, is it really surprising that this year's field of presidential wannabes was so pathetically weak?
Those of a certain age (including me) will remember a time in the previous millennium when creatures called liberal Republicans roamed the American political landscape. Effective legislators like Nelson Rockefeller, Charles Percy and Mark Hatfield actually reached across the aisle and worked with their Democratic colleagues to effect real change.
Lest you think this is nothing but an anti-Trump screed, I attribute secondary blame for the current mess to the Democratic Party. Here we are waiting on pins and needles for Tuesday night's results with the disastrous possibility of a Trump victory when all of that could have been easily avoided.
The Democratic Party shares some of the fault for putting the nation in such a tenuous position by undermining the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. Here was a man of principle who spoke to the burning issues of the day such as Wall Street greed, income inequality, inadequate healthcare, inaccessible higher education and insufficient working wages.
Bernie Sanders was not more of the same. He was looking to revolutionize American politics and renew the country's social contract which had been torn asunder by the Republicans.
Throughout the primaries, polling showed that Bernie Sanders was far ahead of Hillary Clinton when it came to a head-to-head matchup with Donald Trump. Given the enthusiasm demonstrated by Bernie's supporters, there's no reason to think that that edge would not have continued right through to Election Day.
But just as the Republican Party shot itself in the foot, so, too, did the Democratic Party establishment who decided that Hillary was the chosen one notwithstanding the extensive grassroots support generated by her opponent. Hillary was owed the nomination, or so the thinking went, regardless of what was right for the country.
So here we are today hoping that enough voters will consider the potential disaster inherent in a Trump presidency and vote for Clinton albeit with little or no enthusiasm. It could have been so different; it could have been a landslide victory for Bernie. But sadly that result is not to be. And for that, we have both parties to blame.
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