OK, So the election is [almost] over, and at a national level, there are a lot of folks (by the latest results a [small] plurality of the nation’s voters) who are feeling everything from glum to despondent to suicidal — and with some reason perhaps. Our country remains very sharply divided based on race, religion, culture, education, and income. Each of those carries with it a portion of each person’s worldview, and those worldviews are sharply divergent. Perhaps even more to the point, it is increasingly difficult to see how one brings those divergent views together into any sort of consensus that can move us – the collective us in the largest sense of all of humanity – to come together and take effective action on the pressing problems that demand our attention.
Those problems are numerous; ranging from climate change to income and wealth maldistribution to hunger, disease, (sounds a little bit like the four horsemen), war, crime, poverty, etc. In this country, we have people who believe that we need to open our gates to immigrants fleeing war, oppression and poverty and those who believe we need to tightly secure those gates against the risk of terrorists and criminals. We have those who believe that we need to let the free market loose from government shackles and those who believe those shackles need to be tightened far more to avoid the risk of another financial debacle. We have those who believe Obamacare has helped millions of people to improve their healthcare and those who believe it is taking many Americans on a road to ruin, both financial and physical.
While the Republicans have now take control of both the Presidency and the Congress, they have not erased those divisions. All you need to do is look at the electoral map of the country state-by-state, county-by-county, city-by-city, and even neighborhood-by-neighborhood to realize that the country is and will probably remain, at least for a while, very divided against itself.
Some of the checks and balances in our constitution have now be come less effective, but they have not disappeared. The Republicans may “control” Congress, but they remain divided internally, as demonstrated by the many party leaders who divorced themselves from Donald Trump’s candidacy. Whether they can unite behind a legislative agenda remains to be seen, as does the long-term effect of whatever legislation they succeed in getting enacted. The Supreme Court remains, at least for the moment, a deterrent to any proposal that is so radical that it would violate the Constitution’s basic principles. While Trump will probably appoint a conservative justice, that will only restore the tenuous balance that has been maintained for quite a while. Even if that balance shifts to the right, it would not be the first time. Under Reagan, the Rehnquist Court undid many of the precedents the Warren Court had set. It did not, however, destroy the country. Set it back, perhaps, but not destroy it.
There’s also the view that U.S. politics tends to “pendulum” over time. Every time there’s a move to the left, there’s a countervailing move to the right, which is, again, followed by a move to the left. We can’t predict right now how a Trump administration will work (or not), but chances are that two years from now at least some voters will be unhappy enough to want to change direction again. Especially if Trump and his Republican allies succeed in their plans for tax and federal budget cuts, we may see ourselves moving into a major recession, which is likely to sour many voters on leaving the Republicans in charge.
In short, as the title of this blog post suggests, it’s not time to panic and start looking for another country to emigrate to. Besides, there are few issues that respect national boundaries any more. The economy, disease, and, of course, climate change, don’t stop at national boundaries. If the U.S. is heading into a minefield, the rest of the world is close behind – or in some cases in front of us. We’re just as likely to affect the direction humanity takes here as somewhere else.
So, I guess my take-home message in this post is perhaps best stated by paraphrasing alternative radio newscaster “Scoop” Nisker’s closing comment in his news reports: If you don’t like the news, go out and do something to change it; and that can be something as simple as talking to your neighbors, friends, and relatives about your disagreements.