Now that the 2018 Mid Term Elections process is all but completed, it is responsible to examine the results of that process and to make some assessments about the political health of the Nation. Given the increasing tension and dysfunctionality that has come to characterize the political climate in the United States, such an evaluation is clearly warranted. “The 2018 Mid-Terms”, were framed by many pundits as perhaps the most important elections in the history of the United States. If that assessment is true, and to a large degree I share that conclusion, then a serious examination and review of the election consequences is as important as the event itself.
In addition to learning that the President of the United States, by his own admission assigned no preexisting sense of importance for the “midterm election process” until this cycle, which is a particularly significant observation, there are additional observations and conversations demanding attention and further review. However, for the evaluation to offer a real opportunity for the process to expand opportunities for participation in the democratic process; America must dispose of the self- aggrandizing conclusion that “our political system” is the best and most judicious election process that has ever evolved. If we follow a false premise, we will arrive at a false conclusion. Consequently, it is virtually impossible for an assembly of men, who by their nature and demonstrated behaviors were themselves flawed to create a perfect and flawless product for the governing of other human beings. The very fact that the founders and drafters of America’s enabling documents provided a process for amending the document, suggest that they were more amenable to acknowledging the limitations on their wisdom and vision than are those of us who now have the challenge of managing the implementation of their plan.
Reverence is indeed important, but “reverence” which virtually insures the under-development of opportunities for essential sustainable progress is at best arrogance. In order to evaluate the efficacy of our political process and construct a viable future for the nation, America must be as critically evaluative of the way our policies and national decisions affect tomorrow as America is celebratory about the way our national history impacted and framed the climate for global development during the previous two centuries. In addition, the view from either perspective will, out of necessity, have to be accompanied by a greater degree of objectivity and honesty that is yet to be revealed.
This perhaps is our biggest challenge. I am not presently convinced that America as a nation is prepared or even capable of adequately addressing that challenge. The visible and accelerated collapse of our democratic institutions is frightening to observe. National and local politics, at the moment, are dominated by dark money, green money, four dollar contributions and small change. Money comes into electoral districts from known and unknown sources, influencing decisions in a way which refutes the wisdom of an earlier age which said “all politics are local”. Remember the defeat of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney? Unfortunately, probably not enough of us do.
America, the former bastion of international democracy, now has a very popular and influential President, who can shy away from the exercise of our national responsibility to vigorously investigate and condemn the apparent kidnapping and murder of a US resident – Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi – and recite as the reason: the existence of a pending a multi -billion dollar arms deal. America as we speak, can assist in the bombing of defenseless women and children in Yemen, and participate in the creation of one of the planets major human rights catastrophes and does so without having to account either at home or abroad.
Some would argue that our current national profile is more closely aligned with an axis of emerging fascist and neo-fascist dictators and practices that are becoming prevalent in Western Europe, the Middle East, South and Central America and other parts of the world. United States foreign policy in the Israeli Palestinian conflict has become so pro-Israel until the United States can comfortably cut off essential human rights support for Palestine and abandon any serious pretense “of mediating the conflict”.
The country which once proudly welcomed the hungry , the tired and the poor who are yearning to be free, now disparages refugees from “shit hole countries” and seeks to build a wall between itself, the South and other Black and brown spaces. This America now eagerly separates children from parents while constructing concentration type centers for families and children who in many instances are simply fleeing to avoid the consequences of earlier policy decisions fostered on their countries by the United States.
Over the past half a century, the United States has turned war into an enterprise. The revenue streams generated as a consequence of the military industrial complex, impacting the United States economy, have become a sustained and essential component of the national economic structure. Over the last one hundred and fifty years, the United States has turned the containment of human beings and chattel slavery into a modern and acceptable economic enterprise through the development of what we now see as the ‘criminal industrial complex’. I am concerned that the fear, hostility and anti-immigration sentiment that is being generated and manufactured at present is not only electoral energy, but it is also the newest construct which legitimizes human beings for further economic exploitation and the accumulation of wealth for those who eagerly await the opportunity to exploit oppressed and oppressable populations. Bad capitalism and human exploitation has many faces.
In this version of 21 st century slavery, the captor need not go and seek the captive. Local conditions globally created, compel the would be victim to seek, by almost any means necessary to reach the captor, in order to find a better life and improved opportunity to more fully share in “the human experience”.
These thoughts and considerations are in my view all tied directly to the political processes which now frames and supports our sense of Nation. They and the answers we produce will better than anything else tell the world and ourselves just who we are. We might have time to confuse others for a while, but internally we have run out of time not to be honest about our home grown sense of self and a future that increasingly exposes our diminished influence in a new and emerging world.
Let the post mortem begin if we have the stomach for it. How honest and how healthy is our political and electoral system? Has it outgrown its inherent safe guards? What is the current utility of the Electoral College? Will the welcomed addition of expanded influence of women in our national politics, in any way mitigate against the profoundly destructive influence of dollars on the principal of one person one vote? Are the results of this expansion likely to produce a set of outcomes that will differ from the affirmative action experience in attempting to “balance race and gender”?
With the election of President Obama, Black America has attained virtually all of the “significant firsts” in our quest for political equality and inclusion. Why then in 2018 are we still fighting historic systemic efforts to eradicate political gains and insure the perpetual political marginalization of Black voters? What are the strategies that Black America must develop and adopt, outside of the spectrum of electoral politics, in order to prevent the recurrent eradication of the gains made in previous struggles for freedom, justice and equality?
The politics of a nation, while drawing upon the talents of its citizens, should provide for the exchange of ideas and the melding of differences by employing processes which insure the equitable distribution of resources and opportunities. This should take place in ways which strengthen the nation and advances the collective interests of the state. For the American Republic as originally constructed, a “divided government” is neither an inherent danger nor a threat to a system of representative democracy. However a nation that stands divided against itself is at all times a danger to itself and a threat to the well-being of its citizenry and to freedom.
At the moment, I think it safe to conclude that America’s governing institutions need to reset the nation’s moral compass. History is telling us, in no uncertain terms, that we have lost our way.
Dr. William Small, Jr., is a retired educator and former Trustee and Board Chairman at South Carolina State University