“Another shady businessman who would make things worse,” bared a television ad.
I’ve seen the ad numerous times, as I’m sure anyone who frequents the dining hall on a daily basis does. A sense of deja vu came over me. I was reminded of my freshman year, when the 2016 election was under way, and American political norms were falling to pieces like a house of cards, reduced to the sum of their parts, those being empty rhetoric and excessive moralizing.
The 2018 elections will soon be upon us, and their results will no doubt lead to more turmoil, whichever party wins
The time has come, I suppose, to reflect upon those sordid times of two years’ past, to reflect on those wretched events, which turned polarization into a civil war fought with tweets and insults, with jeers and howling.
What makes the 2016 election remarkable, and what makes it an event worthy of historical consideration, is not that someone with no experience won the White House; it was only a matter of time before America’s distrust of experts and intellectuals came home to roost.
Indeed, Trump’s win was inevitable in one sense. Celebrities have been part of American political culture for a long time, and that one would win the White House in such a fashion is not surprising.
Nor is it surprising, upon reflection, that a Republican won. Parties rarely control the presidency for more than eight years.
No, what makes the 2016 election a historic event is that it was radically awful. There is nothing virtuous or seemly to be found within it, nothing tasteful to be discovered. It unleashed a Pandora’s box of evils, a veritable maelstrom of civic destruction.
The two most unpopular nominees in the history of polling the subject. The open usage of racist and sexist rhetoric, parties being divided over a nominee’s legitimacy, ideological disputes, violence in the streets, pundits who use vile rhetoric to inflame the passions of their audiences, and finally, a president who lost the popular vote but won the electoral college.
The 2000 election pales in comparison, 1968 is more apt, but even that did not have electoral results so contested.
If you were to judge an election based on how many political science books said election would render obsolete, it would be difficult to hand the prize to any election other than that of 2016.
If you were to judge an election in recent memory on the basis of how badly it divides Americans, ruins friendships, puts the world into turmoil, and inflame every single tension that has ever existed in American society, 2016 would stand out as a major contender, if not winning outright.
This election spawned articles that advocated for the breakup of the Union itself, the effective end of the American experiment.
The wounds that have been exposed and reopened by 2016 will not easily heal. Not while Trump is in office, and likely not for a long while after.
But heal they must, if America is to fix its ills.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr.