By Tom Ehrich
Just a few more days, and this endless presidential campaign will be over.
The sore loser might try to prolong it with whining, lawsuits and goading his followers to violence. But if the projected Clinton landslide happens, Trump’s cries of “rigged” will sound hollow, and his aching for revenge will require a different venue, maybe a TV talk show.
I can think of many other things to think about, worry about, write about. When oxygen returns to the room, much will require our attention. Income and opportunity disparities, for one. Also, all the issues that fell to the wayside in an election that turned on one candidate’s repellant personality, such as climate change, violence in the Middle East, Russia’s warlike behavior under its own repellant leader, Europe’s pending disintegration, and all the fear, bigotry and xenophobia released in this year’s campaigning.
The list goes on and on, and a dysfunctional Congress seems determined to avoid anything like responsible governance. The mobs who roared for Trump will need to be brought into the general fold, as fellow citizens whose needs and interests matter.
One thing about Trump is that he got us thinking about how much we value American democracy and our tradition of peaceful transfer of power, as well as the great, if yet unfulfilled, promise of liberty and justice for all. I hope we stay out in the open and avoid retreating into our small tribes.
Truth-telling has taken a beating during this election season. Trump piled lie upon lie, got fact-checked, but kept right on doing it. We will need to restore our trust in facts, statistics, science, and historical realities.
Faith has lost its way, too. Conservative Christians made common-cause with a monster who violated everything they hold dear. They will need to rediscover their real faith and real values. Progressive Christians will need to become bridge-builders and stop approaching a needy world as a charity case. Liberal noblesse oblige is no more savory than right-wing power plays.
Except for a few stalwarts like The New York Times, Washington Post and The New Yorker, American journalism lost its way. It stopped reporting the news, and became fixated on polls, process stories and a false equivalence in which everything horrible that Trump said had to be matched by a Clinton fault. We depend on a free press. But we also depend on a press that uses its freedom to do the hard work of holding the powerful accountable and naming reality.
The end of this election cycle means our work of recovery must begin. We allowed a vile con man to strut on center stage. Now we have a nation to rebuild and trust to restore.