- - Monday, November 5, 2018


Americans revel in full-contact sport. Football, alas, has replaced baseball as the national pastime. No longer satisfied to put on their favorite team jersey, some parents stoke their competitive fires by dyeing their toddler’s hair to match the team colors. But pigskin fanaticism is not politics, and Election Day isn’t game day. Flush with acute political angst — some call it a prelude to a second civil war — voters face off Tuesday across the nation. More than bragging rights are at stake — the outcomes will determine decide the nation’s future. (If only for the next two years.)

For the past two years, the national life has been marked by a raging (or at least ranting) national argument over the results of the presidential election that sent Donald Trump, the Republican, to the White House and Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, to the hinterlands. A wider view reveals that the testy political atmosphere began much earlier: The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, spread a dark national mood of fear and anxiety that has persisted since, like an itch that can’t be scratched. That dark mood kept both George W. Bush and Barack Obama below a 50 percent approval rating for the duration of their eight years in office.

After 17 years of war and terror, a certain number of Americans appear to have concluded that the American Dream is finished. Long-standing ideals of limited government and unlimited opportunity have failed. In their stead, trendy notions born in university faculty lounges or imported from foreign shores — hatred of national heritage, embrace of freedom-shrinking socialism, bans on free speech, promotion of sexual anarchy — are championed as harbingers of utopia.

For self-proclaimed “progressives,” it all seems to follow “the long arc of the moral universe,” as Martin Luther King Jr. described the path to a revolutionary promised land. Then the Donald landed squarely in the way. No amount of verbal conjuring — from tales of dirty Russian dossiers, to lurid stripper interviews, to colorful curses — have succeeded in weakening the president’s resolve to “make America great again.”

It has only primed the anger of Mr. Trump’s Democratic Party opponents to dismiss his victories — U.S. inroads toward peace with implacable enemy in North Korea, economic growth hitting a jaw-dropping 4 percent, wage increases exceeding 3 percent, highest in a decade, and a stock market more than 27 percent higher than at his inauguration 21 months ago.

It all ends now, if Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer get their wish. The FiveThirtyEight political poll gives Mrs. Pelosi an 86 percent chance of reclaiming her job as speaker of the House. A Democrat-controlled House could hamstring the president for the remainder of his first term even without help from the Senate, which is given a much better chance of remaining in Republican hands. But if political surveys were always reliable, the former first lady would be throwing lamps at the White House.

Nothing drives voters to the polls like the unsettling feeling that the nation has gone off the rails. A survey of American values conducted by the polling firm PRRI found that 47 percent of Americans “feel like a stranger in their own country.” Though 51 percent disagreed with that view, it’s hardly surprising that a sizable portion of Americans do feel that way, a view heartily supported by Hollywood, where many fantasies are born and raised.

The actor James Cromwell tells Variety that if Democrats don’t win on Tuesday there will be “blood in the streets.” Barbra Streisand says she doesn’t care if her resistance lyrics offend Trump supporters, and this time, no kidding, she really, really, really will flee to Canada.

Alexis de Tocqueville observed that “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” Perhaps. Losing candidates and parties invariably object to election outcomes, believing voters got it wrong. It’s beyond question, though, that the people get the government they vote for.

After Americans make their midterm choices and the record bookkeepers post the final results, the winners and losers are supposed to bury the hatchet and shake hands. “There is one way to settle our differences,” the president rightly says. “It’s peacefully at the ballot box.” Actually, there is another way, but only the irredeemably foolish wish for a second civil war. Only those who have never seen war, up close and personal, would wish that. Fortunately, the electorate eventually sobers up.

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