As I write this, the outcome of the US presidential election remains undecided. To judge by media reports, it may take days to determine who the winner is. A few quick observations:
The pollsters got it wrong again. Forty-eight hours ago, the chatter was all about a Democratic landslide. Observers were confidently speculating about who would land the top jobs in a Biden administration. I don’t pretend to understand the science of polling. But I know a bankrupt enterprise when I see one.
Many observers worried about a close election with no clear outcome leading to a constitutional crisis of some sort. The wilder and more irresponsible speculation imagined US troops being summoned to intervene and sort matters out. It grieves me to say that such scenarios remain possible. My own view is this: who ultimately occupies the Oval Office is of less importance than protecting the integrity of the Constitution itself. Once we stray from its terms then the nation risks becoming a banana republic. It seems absurd to say so — I fear it may not be.
The motivations of the Trump voter deserve closer examination. By the most obvious objective standards, Donald Trump is a failed president. The pandemic rages, the economy sucks, the federal deficit is through the roof, the ‘wall’ remains unbuilt (and Mexico isn’t paying for it), and the ‘endless wars’ haven’t ended. Yet tens of millions of my fellow citizens appear to love the guy. It won’t do to dismiss them as a mob of angry white men who never made it through high school. I personally view Trump himself as a despicable character. But there is an urgent need to understand the people who voted for him. They appear likely to remain a force in American political life for some time to come.
Yet all is not lost. The sun did come up this morning. We must hope that honest patriots are heard and cool heads prevail in the days ahead.
Andrew Bacevich is president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.