Despite the heavy pressures on it from Right and Left, the American political system is in fact functioning moderately well. This must be counted as evidence of its fundamental strength, given that there remains serious doubt about the outcome of the last presidential election, and the dictators in Big Tech and Big Media continue to show complete disregard for freedom of expression and for traditional criteria of unbiased, professional reporting.
As has been amply publicized—though it has also been the subject of a great deal of obfuscation—Joe Biden undoubtedly won the popular vote by 5-6 million, but he only won in the Electoral College by fewer than 50,000 votes. If those votes had flipped in the right numbers in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, they would have given the election to President Trump. Trump’s policies were generally approved in the congressional and state elections, but a clear—though narrow—majority of Americans could no longer endure the controversy of his incumbency.
Given the sandbag job conducted against him by 95 percent of the national political media, 98 percent of the social media bosses abusing their positions as supposedly impartial platform operators, and the fact that Trump was outspent in a horrifyingly expensive election campaign by a margin of two-to-one by his opponent, it is remarkable that he almost won.
The majority of Americans found the endless tumult and recriminations insufferable, and in its almost magical way, the American political system has succeeded: the tumult has ended but the president who was possibly cheated and in any case hounded from office by dishonest media and corrupt magnates of technology and finance, remains a formidable political presence. After such a clangorous term in the White House, bracketed by the uproarious election campaigns of 2016 and 2020, he lives to fight another day and remains unambiguously at the head of the greatest single bloc of voters ever bound to an individual by personal voting loyalty in the history of the country.
A number of the most popular presidents in the past undoubtedly had larger followings as percentages of the numbers of voters: both Roosevelts, Reagan, and possibly Eisenhower. All of them enjoyed what it is now fashionable to call almost cultish popularity, but it was a smaller electorate in those times, and all of those leaders followed traditional paths to the White House, up the political ladder, or by earning the gratitude and admiration of the nation through high distinction in supreme military command at a critical time—General Eisenhower was a world-historic figure before he was elected president.
There is a new president and there is also what only occasionally occurs in the United States—an inter-election, de facto, leader of the opposition. The last time that someone lost a presidential election in circumstances that enabled him to campaign plausibly as the almost certain challenger of the person who defeated him was Andrew Jackson in 1824, after he led the polls but without an electoral college majority. His opponents in the election, John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, combined to elect Adams in the House of Representatives and Clay, the speaker of the House, became the Secretary of State.
There has never been such a prolonged and frenzied hostility to any president from the political class as President Trump faced throughout his term, and next week, there will be an unusual political turning point as Trump’s enemies have a final parting with Trump-hate as a substitute for government and politics. The narrow victory of his enemies at the election will be countered by the abject failure of this insane attempt to impeach him.
Trump did not incite the 300,000 followers whom he addressed in Washington on January 6 to do anything except “peacefully and patriotically to make (their) voices heard” by the Congress. No one was attempting an insurrection, even the hooligans who led the assault and vandalism.
In attempting to remove the ex-president from an office he does not hold for incitements he did not make to an insurrection that was not attempted, Trump’s enemies confess to an obsessive irrationality. They are unable to emancipate themselves from their hatred of the former president and to execute the razor-thin mandate to govern they have been given.
The system is working because it has ended the intolerable level of anger and accusation that afflicted American politics, but it has not yet determined whether Trump or his opponents are the ultimate winners. The fiasco of the impending impeachment will emphasize the durability of Trump’s popularity. In order to defeat Trump once and for all, the Democrats are going to have to govern successfully.
It is generally agreed that President Biden got off to a good start fluently delivering a placatory inaugural message of unity. This effectively addresses the national desire for reduced temperatures and noise levels, though it remains to be seen how he will satisfy the jangling aspirations of the several chief components of the Democratic coalition.
The aggressive green policies and especially the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, please the far Left that, as Senator Bernie Sanders says, is 35 to 40 percent of the Democrats. But such efforts offend the traditional labor Democrats and lower and middle-income groups generally who do not want their energy prices increased and who dislike needless unemployment.
Bailing out Planned Parenthood, subsidizing foreign abortions, and liberalizing abortion in the United States all please the Sanders Left, but these policies displease the large number of Democrats among 77 percent of Americans who do not favor unregulated abortion, (including a substantial majority of the nearly 50 million practicing Roman Catholics, conspicuously including the president himself). Almost all major issues produce and exploit the same divisions within the Democrats and it is not clear how the president proposes to keep his party united, since the Trump bogeyman won’t do it anymore.
The Republicans are divided as well, between the Trump followers and the old NeverTrumpers—the McCRomBushes—who liked the slow post-Reagan drift to the Left, alternating control of the White House and the Congress but with the political class in Washington unshakably Democratic.
After the recent election, some NeverTrumpers danced with the advocates of “Trumpism without Trump,” but they all beseeched Trump to do everything he could to save the two Georgia Senate seats in the special elections of January 5. They were happy to be rid of Trump but wanted him to spare them a Democratic-led Senate. This meant Trump had to stop complaining about a stolen election. He chose to continue his denunciation of the presidential election results, and is presumably consolable that the Republicans who betrayed him will not be able to cling to his coattails while stabbing him in the back.
Now the country will undergo the formative experience of learning how destructive to their concept of America the Sanders program will be—or obliging Joe Biden to amputate the left-wing of his party and cooperate with congressional Republicans. The Democrats and their almost totalitarian allies in the media have been slinging mud for the last five years. Now they will have to show whether they can govern or not. More than 80 percent of Americans disrespect the Congress and distrust the media. But the system is still working.