With only six weeks to go until the November 8 elections, the country better starts preparing for the inevitable. It will take a miracle now – or an act of God – to prevent the election of an utterly flawed candidate for the Presidency of the United States. And a septuagenarian. A representative of a generation that had its chances and did little or nothing with them. And a representative of a generation that is far removed from the mindset and aspirations of the people who will represent the large majority of the population and the driving force behind the future of this country.
It still blows the mind that this is really happening. That the country with an abundance of proven talent and character has managed to offer up two of the most undesirable egomaniacs as the choice for the future. How much better would we all feel if on November 8 the country could vote for someone like Mitch Daniels, John Kasich or Condoleezza Rice on the republican side or for someone like Jim Webb, Tim Kaine or John Hickenlooper on the democratic side. But it is not to be and we only have ourselves to blame. The question now becomes: how can we limit the damage from this self-inflicted disaster?
The thing to watch out for most is the further creep of the ‘imperial presidency’. The only way to do damage control to compensate for having the wrong person in the White House is for the Congress and the Supreme Court to strictly limit the executive reach of the president to the constitutionally enshrined powers, preferably with a minimalist interpretation. Given the character and the hubris of the two candidates running for the highest office in the nation and given the likelihood of a split Congress, it looks certain that both Trump and Clinton would try to test the boundaries of the executive power and authority, much like Obama has tried in an effort to overcome a hostile and ineffective legislative branch.
The next thing to do is to accept reality and prepare for the future. Whoever wins this time, it is hard to imagine that it will result in more than a one term presidency and in four years we will have the opportunity to erase our mistakes and do it all over again. It would be tremendously beneficial if in the intervening four years a political realignment takes place that would restore the dominance of the moderate center of the right leaning democrats and the left leaning republicans. The impetus for this would have to come from the party that is going to take a drubbing in the 2016 elections. Even with a win for Donald Trump, the republican party will have to decide if it will be the party of Trump or the party of Paul Ryan and Ben Sasse.
What is really missing in our political system is a constitutional requirement for a national strategy. The nation’s challenges are manifold, but we are not in any way forced to have a national discussion about priorities in addressing these challenges and a time-frame within which we expect to get our problems solved. America as a nation should have a clearly articulated vision of where it wants to be ten and twenty years from now and it should have established strategies for implementation. A national strategy like this should be binding upon the Congress and the White House and transcend the changes in administration but be set at a high enough level (like 30,000 ft.) to leave ample room for the two branches to select their ways of implementation in line with their policy views. A constitutionally mandated and protected national strategic plan would limit the freedom of the president to veer off in a direction that would be off strategy.
The existence of a national strategy would also help in restoring faith and confidence in the American miracle. Today there is so much negativity in the media about America’s place in the world that it risks becoming self-fulfilling. The optimism that was so palpable in the Reagan era has evaporated, gone up in thin air. If America had a plan in place that dealt with the future in a constructive sense, people could rally behind it, because in spite of all the political polarization, the love of country has not been lost. People just have very different images of what the USA stands for.
The current election campaign has whipped up passions like seldom before in our recent electoral history. Most people seem to look at the choice in front of us as a choice for the lesser of two evils. But even among friends there is no consensus on which of the two candidates represents the lesser evil and opinions are all based on emotion and extrapolation. The political climate is vitriolic. Some of this is the result of mounting frustration with the ineffectiveness of our politicians to deal with the challenges the country and its people face. But it is raised to a fever pitch by the rhetoric and demagoguery used in this campaign. The genie released by the inflammatory campaign rhetoric will be impossible to be put back into the bottle, regardless of the outcome of this election. At least half of the nation will feel defeated and angered on November 9 and the reaction will either be rebellious or constructive (we lost this one but let’s do something about it). America will have four years to do damage control and offer the people an outlook on a better political future.