Editor’s note: This has been a long, tumultuous presidential campaign, the likes of which we may never see again. The three writers of The Observer’s editorial board decided to offer their parting thoughts on it before Election Day on Tuesday. Click on the links to see the other two essays.
We’ve been pelted with statistics during this never-ending election cycle. Every variable in the nasty slap-fight between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has been thoroughly polled and dissected. Pollsters need four years off after Tuesday.
But there’s one data point that supersedes all others. It’s been driving this entire campaign. It’s the fact that America will no longer be majority white by 2050.
That, more than global trade or the off-shoring of jobs or citizens’ disillusionment with political elites, explains the rise of Donald Trump, the central figure of this election saga.
The fear of a brown America is the turbo juice coursing through Trump’s campaign. Thus the railing against Mexicans and Muslims, and the law-and-order bromides. It’s the only card no other GOP candidate would fully play.
This election has always been about the America that was and the America that will be. One looks back to when its worldview was unquestioned – when America was “great.” The other, rising in social power, looks forward to imposing its values.
We’ve reached a tipping point. We’re not what we were, much to the dismay of Trump’s supporters. But we’re not yet what we will be, thus the bitter fights over transgender bathroom rights and other social boundary lines.
Tuesday’s results won’t end our family squabble. They won’t stop demography from dictating our destiny.
But they will tell us just how far along that road we’ve come.