Editor’s note: Terry F. Buss, PhD, is a professor emeritus and fellow at the U.S. National Academy of Public Administration.
I am writing this article from Washington, DC, one week before midterm elections across the country. Competing political parties, their supporters, and the mainstream media (MSM) have lost their “collective minds” in pursuit of power. The fortunes of each change rapidly as succeeding events raise then lower the prospects of one over another.
The Democratic Party, still shocked by Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton and the takeover of Congress, state governorships, and local elected offices by the Republican Party in 2016, have continued their unprecedented efforts to retake power “by any means necessary.” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton supporters in government – especially the FBI, Justice Department, and intelligence agencies – are surreptitiously undermining Trump at every turn through leaks, collusion and obstruction. Their goal is to impeach Trump and/or charge him with criminal offenses to get him out of office. They see Trump’s presidency as illegitimate.
The Republican Party, although deeply divided over health care issues, immigration, and federal spending, and especially over whether to support Trump and his policies, are frantically trying to unravel the Barack Obama legacy – trade, immigration, climate change, international relations, and energy – and pursue conservative policies – smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and gun ownership and free speech – fearing a loss to the Democrats.
The MSM has openly declared war on Trump, his political constituencies, and his policies. Journalistic ethics have been widely abandoned, flooding the political system with fake or biased news and extreme commentary. We learned from the MSM that Trump is another Hitler; a misogynist, homophobe, and rapist; responsible for deadly hurricanes in the US; and encouraging gun violence in American cities. The New York Times even published an article that fanaticized over Trump’s possible assassination. 95% of MSM coverage of Trump is negative, according to media studies.
Social media, aided and abetted by chief executives at Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Twitter, have promoted extremism, misinformation, censorship, and bias to such an extent that the truth is nowhere to be found. Facebook set up a panel to curb extremist content, but applied it mostly to conservatives, not to the extremist IS. The left and the right are attacking the founder/CEOs of these companies, calling for their ouster.
Money is flowing into political party campaigns at unprecedented levels, in an attempt to “buy an election.” Thirty-three of 100 Senators are running for election. Some $1 billion has been contributed to influence their campaigns. Much of the money comes from finance or high-tech billionaires who have personal political agendas – often extreme – they want to promote. Some political candidates receive most of their funding from people who do not even live in the same state as the candidate: Hollywood actors and producers are particularly active in trying to influence local elections from the national level.
Like the 1960s, extremists on the left and right have inserted themselves into the political system. During this week, a madman sent mail bombs to 10 Democrat leaders and donors in an effort at intimidation. Another madman killed 11 Jews as they worshipped in a synagogue. Over the past weeks, Democrat supporters have disrupted Republican officials having dinner with their families. Left and right wing thugs have disrupted each other’s rallies with violence. MSM credits Trump with causing the violence on left and right.
Political parties are aiding and abetting this un-American behavior. Hillary Clinton publicly called for Democrats to behave “uncivilly” to Republicans. The socialist mayor of Portland, Oregon, ordered police not to stop left-wing fascists from taking over the downtown, harassing and beating people. The left argue that this behavior is necessary to counteract Trump.
Complicating matters: even though Trump has completed only half his term in office, Democrats have already begun running for the presidency against him for 2020! At latest count, there are 20 viable candidates. Each is competing as to who can most viciously attack Trump and his administration. Critics call this “Trump derangement syndrome.”
One presidential hopeful made a show of releasing secret Senate documents in a public hearing to show that he was not afraid to break the law in opposing Trump. Unfortunately, the documents were declassified before he released them. With so many candidates seeking media attention, the political system has become clogged with moronic coverage of the left and right.
Stakes for Democrats and Republicans could not be higher. Democrats want to throw out Trump’s policies and reinstate even more extreme versions of Obama’s. Democrats have moved far to the left thanks to Bernie Sanders, espousing socialist policies – free health care and education, open borders, and a guaranteed annual income regardless of employment. Democrats have ramped up “identity politics” which offers women, minorities, illegal aliens, LGBTs, and others benefits and rights in exchange for their support. And, Democrats are openly trying to unravel the US Constitution which stands in the way of their ambitions. Democrats, if they win, will radically transform America, or precipitate more civil strife.
For Republicans, in addition to thwarting the Democrat socialist agenda and pursuing political correctness, they are trying to capture control of the Supreme Court and federal judiciary to prevent Democrats from using the courts to further their agenda. Trump has been successful in creating a conservative-leaning Supreme Court with two new appointments. Trump supporters consider these court victories to be Trump’s greatest triumph over the left.
Trump, for his part, has been accused of egging on his detractors fueling their anger, and precipitating their outrageous behavior. Trump’s rhetoric and Twitter attacks over the past two years have become more aggressive and abusive, not to mention self-defeating. But Trump supporters believe there is nothing he can do to achieve civility with his opponents.
A standard feature of Trump’s political rallies during the midterm campaigns is to “call out” the MSM with charges of bias and fake news. Trump supporters still chant “lock her up” because they believe Hillary Clinton supporters in government let her escape corruption charges when she was Obama’s Secretary of State. Congresswoman Maxine Waters holds countless counter rallies with chants of “impeach 45 (i.e., Trump).”
The events and shenanigans during the election have affected party prospects for winning. Early in 2018, Republicans looked to retain control of Congress and other offices, as Democrats were in disarray. Gradually, Democrats and MSM were able to lower Republican prospects until a month ago, when Trump was able to confirm a second Supreme Court judge. Thereafter, Trump began campaigning across the country making the elections about him. Trump’s prospects then rallied.
But, Trump and Republican fortunes seem to decline for the worse as two madmen inserted themselves into the mix. Over the past three weeks a caravan of 7,000 to 14,000 illegal immigrants, descending on America’s southern border, ostensibly to embarrass Trump into arresting women and children, has turned around Trump’s fortune yet again.
No one, including the legion of professional pollsters, knows who will win in November. Many recall how they erroneously predicted that Hillary would beat Trump.
Thankfully, the nonsense above, while a topic of conversation, is not something the vast majority of Americans support or experience in their daily lives. Certainly, they are exposed to a daily deluge of misinformation, hate and extremism in all media and from political parties, but this does not greatly affect their lives at least directly. Most seem concerned and embarrassed by politics, opining that this is not what America is all about.
There is no indication that either Democrats or Republicans will become more civil, or that Trump will suddenly become more presidential. If the Democrats win the House and the Republicans maintain control of the Senate, government will be in deadlock as it was for Obama. But Trump will reign supreme in a gridlocked system where he may go to extremes to attain his policy agenda.
America’s democracy is in serious trouble.