Things We Know at a Moment of Uncertainty
What will be decided the night of Nov. 8, as the two one-percenter presidential candidates hold victory and defeat parties in Manhattan, is who goes to the White House in January. Beyond that, the president-elect’s ability to lead, and to unite a woefully divided nation, is in grave doubt. But as we look back on a tumultuous 2016, head into a suspenseful election just two days from now, and then a new political landscape in 2017, there are some things we know for sure.
1) Senator Ted Cruz is a laughingstock. Remember that tough guy who came to the stage of the Republican convention in July and, to a chorus of boos, refused to utter Donald Trump’s name, let alone endorse him, and told everyone there to “vote their conscience”? These days Cruz, desperate to avoid defeat by a 2018 primary challenger so he can return to the Senate and crank up his 2020 campaign for president, tries “supporting” Trump in campaign stops while making sure he is never caught on camera saying the words “I support Donald Trump.” His weasel words will crack you up.
2) House Speaker Paul Ryan is miserable. Threats from the Freedom Caucus to topple him as speaker, combined with the specter of leading the House for a President Clinton or a President Trump, may easily be a bridge too far for someone as conflicted about his party’s direction as Ryan. Maybe this is his last week leading the chamber.
3) James Comey’s once sterling reputation is tarnished for good. That bedside visit in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room is forgotten now and Comey’s once unquestionable integrity has taken a beating, thanks to his highly questionable conduct in the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s private server. First Comey broke protocol by publicly defending a probe that looked like it was fixed for Clinton, then he broke protocol again just days before the election by announcing the discovery of new emails that could be pertinent, thus reopening the investigation. High profile Republicans including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, former Attorneys General Alberto Gonzalez and Michael Mukasey joined others to criticize Comey for doing so.
4) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political career is toast. Once a top surrogate for Trump, and almost selected to be his running mate, Christie is now too toxic for Trump because of his complicity in the Bridgegate scandal. His event for the GOP nominee in New Hampshire this weekend was canceled after news broke that two top aides were convicted in the case (during which it was alleged that Christie knew of their revenge plot all along, despite his denials).
5) Trade deals are gone. Trump won’t approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and neither would Hillary Clinton. The fragile bipartisan coalition in Congress backing it has bled support and free trade is a top casualty of campaign 2016.
6) Obamacare is in a death spiral and triage for an overhaul must begin in February, no matter who is president.
7) Endorsing, and announcing publicly that one is just “voting” for a candidate, are two different things -- really. Just ask the tortured GOPers who strained to distinguish their lack of an endorsement of Trump with their party-unity-box-checking declaration that of course they would support the nominee at the ballot box.
8) Win or lose, Sen. Rob Portman ran the campaign of the year. Starting early, his well-funded and capably staffed effort helped the Ohio Republican manage the thorny challenge of keeping his distance from Trump in a state Trump is poised to win. Portman, in the year of the outsider, is even more of an insider than Clinton, having served in the House for 12 years, been U.S. trade representative as well as director of the Office of Management and Budget for President George W. Bush, and even worked a stint in the President George H.W. Bush administration. Yet he has run a local campaign focused on issues like human trafficking and opioid addiction, and secured the endorsement of the Teamsters as well as other unions.
9) The Cubs victory in the World Series was the brightest moment shared by the entire country in so long no one can remember which one came before. We all wanted to go on reading Cubs victory reaction stories -- like the one about a man fulfilling a promise he made in 1980 to watch a Cubs World Series game with his dad; he kept his word and listened to the game on the radio beside his father’s grave -- up until and through Election Day.
10) Should Hillary lose, the Democrats have no bench. Since she started running for president in 2005, the Clintons made sure any Democrats wanting to raise money or their name identification knew they should get on the Hillary train and put their own plans on hold until the Clinton era ended.
11) Evangelical Christians are simply Republican voters, nothing more and nothing less. They will support a twice-divorced adulterer and former pro-abortion liberal who boasts about sexual assault and has been accused of it by 11 women. No GOP candidate should ever worry about their personal or political purity again when seeking to win over this crowd.
Finally, this Wednesday will stink for most Americans as they realize how impotent support will be for the 45th president of the United States – a reality that will hold for months or years, if not for the entire duration of the administration. It may be a good time to go back to reading the Cubs stories and to remember that even in dark days we can lead, without leaders, by our own example too.