Colson: The riot is over, now let’s get back to work | AspenTimes.com

Colson: The riot is over, now let’s get back to work

John Colson
Hit and Run

The sighs of relief are audible all over the United States today, Election Day 2016.

In fact, if my ears were sharp enough, I might detect them even beyond our borders.

We have somehow survived more than a year and a half of the most bitter, divisive campaign ever between two candidates for the U.S. presidency. The affronts to our national sensibilities have included everything from topsy-turvy polling and suspicions of media collusion in maintaining a drumbeat of paranoia and electoral nervousness to keep the public on edge, to a growing sense that a large number of voters will not accept the election results no matter what they are.

We have come to the end of this tumultuous and painful episode in the centuries long miniseries known as the American Democratic Experiment; or, if you prefer, the political riot of the past 18 months or so has been quelled, for the moment, by our democratic traditions.

Remarkably, the sky remains blue, birds and beasts go about their daily routines, babies are being born and old people are dying, and it appears as though life will continue along whatever the “new normal” might be as of tomorrow.

At the local and state levels, political contests at a lower decibel level will be decided after today, though those results predictably will be drowned out by the screeches of disappointment and accusations of election rigging by one or both sides of the presidential race, and perhaps even some of the same in the “down-ticket” races.

But regardless of all that gnashing of teeth and pounding of chests, the odds are that on Wednesday we will all look around, take a deep breath, and get on with the things that need to be done.

The work of government, like a locomotive being pushed by its own momentum, will rumble along on tracks that are considerably more rusty and cracked than they were before the 2016 political season got started, but the train will keep moving along.

At least, that’s my hope.

Of course, my hope is that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee, and an accompanying groundswell of Democrats in lower offices will win, and win decisively.

I’m not sure how well-founded that hope is, but along with it is the fervent wish that the predictably unstable but wildly noisy and self-righteous indignation of Republican nominee Donald Trump will fizzle and die like a fire with too little fuel.

Not that I believe for a moment that the nasty movement he spawned with his candidacy will shrivel and disappear once Clinton is declared the winner.

No, as Bob Dylan once sang, “This is not our fate.” Not this time.

We all have heard the pledges from the fantasy-imbued, die-hard nativists and bigots who make up the core of Trump’s base, who will not be going quietly into the post-electoral night.

And even in the halls of Congress, we already have heard that Republicans are making plans to block Clinton at every turn, just as they did with outgoing President Barack Obama when he was first elected eight years ago.

So, unless the voters have wised up and at least one of the two houses of Congress return to Democratic control, we are likely to be locked in the same kind of political quicksand that has blighted the promise once offered by an Obama administration.

As for Trump himself, if my hope is realized, my guess is he will lick his wounds for a while, then perhaps be sidetracked by what appears to be his newest dream of self-aggrandizement — creation of a Trump cable TV network, sort of an evil twin sister to the Fox cable empire.

About that possibility, I have nothing to say right now, except I am pretty sure I will not be a fan or a viewer. Trump’s version of reality, and of reality television, have never been my cup of tea (I never saw a single episode of “The Apprentice,” for instance), and I doubt if anything he comes up with now will be any more attractive.

Trump aside (Get it? Shoved aside?), we still have a lot of work to do in this country if we ever are to remake it into some semblance of the noble ideals and principles embodied in our Constitution.

Notice that I said “remake,” because that is how I see the task ahead of us. I think this country has, at times, been steered, however vaguely and stumblingly, in what I would define as the right direction — toward greater social justice for all, away from undemocratic class distinctions and income disparity, toward environmental protectionism and away from corporate control of everything.

Not that I am so naive as to imagine we have ever gotten close to realizing those ideals, but I believe completely that there have been moments when a lot of us, in certain movements and circumstances, were headed, albeit briefly, toward a more fair and just arrangement of our nation’s affairs.

We unfortunately have allowed corporations to recast themselves as equivalent to human beings in terms of enjoying the freedoms and rights laid out in the Constitution, and have surrendered too much political power to bullies, tyrants and bigots.

But such things can be undone if we work hard enough.

And if I cannot believe it is possible to edge back toward that path to a more enlightened, less divided, less politically and socially toxic future — well, then I guess I should have voted for Trump.

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.


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