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.
I keep hearing the same exhale of relief: “I can’t wait til Tuesday! This long political nightmare will finally be over!”
No it won’t. It’s just getting started.
I’d love to wax optimistic about bridging our divides, putting the vitriol behind us, solving America’s problems. But the last of my optimism about politics was stomped out some time ago.
I still believe in the power of smart public policy and investments to serve as a catalyst for the free market and to improve people’s lives. But our politics is broken and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
No matter who wins the presidential election, Congress will paralyze progress. No matter who wins the gubernatorial election, the legislative leadership will continue to steamroll anyone in its way.
Vigorous policy debates are vital. But in recent years, we’ve crossed a line and now are incapable of finding common ground. Thanks to gerrymandering, social media’s echo chamber and other factors, most politicians have an incentive to dig in.
Ironically, it was the resulting gridlock in Washington that prompted voters’ disgust, which then birthed Donald Trump’s popularity. Though he may be the most offensive presidential candidate in U.S. history, the fact that some 60 million people will vote for him demonstrates the depth of people’s disgust with politics as usual.
Of course, elected officials are a tiny slice of American society. People of character and dedication fill the public, private, non-profit and faith sectors. Until we fix our politics, America’s hopes rest more than ever on them.