For this American voter, the overriding issue in the coming election is not the economy. It’s not immigration. It’s not taxes, and it’s not healthcare. It’s not terrorism or porn stars—climate change or socialism—hurricanes or Russia—Kavanaugh or Mueller.
For this American voter, more than any of these very real and pressing agenda items—indeed, more than any other current societal challenge—the 2018 Election is overwhelmingly about one thing: Cruelty.
For more than three years now—during the months-long lead up to the 2016 presidential election, and through the two years since—a dastardly mean streak has pulsed furiously within the American body politic, a strain of viral rancor not merely pernicious, but almost gleefully so. Rally halls have been echoing and vibrating with cheers, chants, and laughter, spurred by a demagogue who recklessly foments division and hatred, tossing off insults and vitriol as merrily as if shooting souvenir t-shirts through an air-gun at a sporting event.
This is not merely problematic—it is a national emergency with existential implications. A constituency that most Americans once recognized as detestable—a constituency drawn to bigotry, misogyny, autocracy, and violence—has for the last three-plus years been fed, nurtured, and coddled to the point of legitimacy. And through policies and pronouncements which just a few short years ago would have been acknowledged as too grievous and un-American even to imagine, our government and the people who control it now seem purposefully to be shifting from the western ideals of tolerance, openness, fairness, and liberty, toward a darker, get-out-of-my-way, might-makes-right, I’m-the-boss-and-you’re-not approach to national governance and global relations.
From the confluence of these two dynamics—a populace whose worst instincts are legitimized, and a government with an obvious preference for the iron fist over the rule of law—there now flows through a large swath of our republic a rapidly rising river of malignity. Murderous regimes and dictators are celebrated, freedom-loving allies are vilified, asylum-seeking parents are forcibly separated from their children, white supremacists are defended as good people, mainstream journalists are branded as enemies, sexual assault victims are mocked and demeaned, political opponents are taunted with threats to “lock ’em up” . . . and on and on, with wave after wave of malevolence lapping corrosively over basic, foundational notions of decency, probity, respect, and goodwill. We are, as we approach Election Day 2018, a nation awash in a flood of cruelty. It’s a torrent against which we—the majority of Americans who understand, value, and subscribe to what Lincoln termed “the better angels of our nature”—must use our votes as a thick and impermeable dam.
This country has not always lived up to the benevolence of its lofty ideals. On a range of issues, throughout various eras, our social fabric has been tested, strained, even torn, by the destructive impulses of cruelty. We are now in one of those eras—a dangerous, toxic era instigated by witless demagoguery that eats away at our core, and fueled by the absence of firm and principled opposition from those with the power to oppose. And so it devolves to us—to we, the American voters, who must, with our ballots, repudiate and replace those who won’t confront and reject the naked cruelty of our present day.
We must be the check. We must be the balance. We must put a stop to the cruelty. In the coming election, that must be our first priority.