by Jorge I. Domínguez-López
“The art of prophecy is very difficult, especially with respect to the future,” Mark Twain famously said. Many times in our history, political pundits have learned and forgotten the wisdom of that dictum.
Let us forget Twain’s lesson again and make a prediction: After next week’s midterm elections, our country will be more divided than it is today.
For at least two decades, political pundits and strategists from both parties have argued about the best way to win an election. Most political strategists have been of the opinion that appealing to the middle ground to attract undecided voters was the surest way to win electoral battles. Some commentators have maintained that the surest way to win is by mobilizing the base, instead of trying to appeal to the center. For populist commentators like Rush Limbaugh, President Trump’s victory in the last presidential election was the confirmation of their long-held belief.
Many people on the left seem to agree with this way of thinking too. While Donald Trump was trouncing the other 16 Republican presidential pre-candidates in the primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, was on the verge of getting the Democratic Party nomination.
The first two years of the Trump presidency have been a continuation of that polarizing process. President Trump’s often-incendiary rhetoric and some of his policies, and the incapacity of many democrats to come to terms with the results of the last election have been significant catalysts for the current situation.
And now we come to the midterm elections. The reduction of tensions in the Korean Peninsula, the renegotiation of NAFTA, the lowest unemployment rate in half a century and the confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh have all been good news for the current administration. But its leader continues to be a polarizing figure.
We arrive at these elections also under the cloud of the pipe-bomb campaign against democrat leaders, the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and the caravan of several thousand would-be refugees advancing through Mexico toward the southern border of the U.S.
As citizens and Catholics, we need to inform ourselves about the current challenges our nation faces and what the candidates in our districts are promising to do about them. We need to inform ourselves about the Church’s teachings on the issues at hand. We need to pray and reflect. And we need to vote.
Most pundits say that the Democrats are going to control the House while Republicans will keep the Senate. If those predictions turn out to be accurate, the next two years will be a battle to impeach President Trump – a process that would pass in the House to die in a Republican-controlled Senate.
It seems like acrimony and paralysis will probably be the two best words to describe what is coming.
In these difficult times, as Pope Francis has said, “we need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true.”
Whatever our political beliefs might be, we as Christians should refrain from demonizing our political adversaries. And we need to oppose the destructive cynicism or indifference toward politics many people profess today. And the best way to do it is by participating in the political process in a way that is consistent with our beliefs as Christians and our duty as citizens of this nation.