Bravery in the moment of truth

In case there are some out there who still need persuading that the U.S. is on the verge of political system failure, look no further than this year’s presidential election, where it appears American voters are doomed to a choice between the two most disliked major party nominees in polling history.

The Democratic establishment has been hellbent from the get-go to nominate one of the world’s best-known political figures who also happens to be one of the least trusted and most unlikable politicians around. The silver lining to her unpopularity is that Republican insiders have so far proven incapable of preventing an even more unpopular and distrusted character from capturing their party’s nomination.

Elections are, by their nature, popularity contests to one degree or another. This presidential election is shaping up to be an unpopularity contest.

The greatest danger in continuously forcing voters to determine who they fear and hate the least is how nose-holding steers the public’s thinking away from what America’s future should look like and diverts our attention from what we all hope for and dream about. The badly corrupted and unresponsive government we have today is the product of decades of voters choosing the lesser of evils.

The continuation of the American experiment has depended on some good luck along the way. The U.S. could have come apart at the seams on more than one occasion. In our darkest moments, gifted leaders like Lincoln and FDR emerged to light a path forward. We are again at a moment of truth. The major parties have grown calcified and estranged from the masses and incapable of replacing growing darkness with light. As one commentator observed, “the elites have grown so complacent and arthritic that the existing parties are having difficulty containing the conflict and both parties seem on the verge of nervous breakdowns.”

What might come from such a breakdown is uncertain. The emergence of a new major party is highly unlikely because America has a two-party system that actively discriminates against this outcome, but it is no longer inconceivable that either or both of the major parties could splinter or even disintegrate. The only thing that is sure is that parties deserve this fate when they no longer appeal to your hopes and dreams but rather can only play on your worst fears to gain power.

It is up to us to refuse to go where the ruling elites want to take us. It is up to us to look for chances to unite when they see endless opportunities to divide. If you are alarmed by Trump, you need to realize that obsessing over the horrors of a Trump presidency won’t prevent one. It actually helps him. Likewise, if you can’t stand Hillary, you also need to understand that being consumed by how much you despise her and can’t trust her won’t stop her from inhabiting the White House.

Fear will figure prominently in both parties’ campaigns this fall. They will play on it. They will count on it. Now more than ever, the American people need to prove once again that this is the land of the brave. When they tell you what you should hate, say what you love. When they tell you what is going to be destroyed, say what you want to see created. In this oppressive darkness, it is up to us to shine light.

Mike McCabe