What if the Most Important Election of Our Lifetimes Was the Last One?

  • In Politics
  • 2020-04-08 12:22:36Z
  • By The New York Times
President Trump Participates In America CARES: Small Business Relief Update
President Trump Participates In America CARES: Small Business Relief Update  

Politics runs on superlative: the best plan, the biggest rally, the most votes.

And one trope has proved most enduring of all, repeated each campaign season with well-practiced conviction.

"This is the most important election of our lifetimes," Bernie Sanders said of 2020 last month.

"The most important election of our lives," Pete Buttigieg agreed in February.

"Maybe the most important election," Joe Biden ruled last year, hedging slightly, "no matter how young or old you are."

Maybe. But what if they're wrong this time? What if the other clichés - of dice cast and Rubicons crossed - have finally overwritten this one?

What if the most important election of our lifetimes happened already?

"Actually," said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., a Biden supporter, "it was the last one."

This is the grim diagnosis now among some opponents of President Donald Trump, who see any hopeful predictions of the past - that the job might change him, that one term is not so long, that perhaps presidents do not matter all that much anyway - collapsing beneath the weight of a crisis whose costs are too bleak to bear.

Trump is in charge during a generational emergency, briefing the nation on life and death with an eye toward television ratings and miracle cures. It can feel unlikely that any choice in 2020 will be as consequential as the fact that he won in the first place.

Another Democratic primary day passed on Tuesday, this one in Wisconsin, and with it another reminder of the present limits of presidential politics, of how large the last decision looms and how distant the next one seems.

If the state's election made clear the lengths to which some people will go to change course, wearing homemade masks in socially distanced lines for a vote that was scrapped and then un-scrapped in the eleventh hour, it also reinforced how far the country has traveled in four years and a few relentless weeks.

In 2016, no one appeared to be risking their health to go to the polls in Wisconsin, where underdogs thrived in the primary: Ted Cruz beat Trump. Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton. She lost again in the fall, when Trump's surprise victory in the state helped carry him to the White House.

"It was the rejection of business as usual," said Rebecca Kirszner Katz, a progressive Democratic strategist. "And that includes any form of competent governing."

Recent weeks have at once exposed the messiness of the federal virus response and the consistency of Trump's rampaging leadership instincts, delivering a moment that has at last closed the gap between the permanent chaos of his White House, a once-remote sideshow for many Americans, and the daily upheaval in their own lives.

"What do you have to lose?" Trump famously asked black voters in 2016, suggesting he was a risk worth taking. He has repeated the question more recently in a new context: to encourage stricken citizens, in defiance of expert opinion, to try an anti-malarial drug to combat the coronavirus.

Of course, the answer to Trump's initial prompt has always been evident to most Democrats. At stake were health care plans, immigration policies, a generation of court seats and now, they say, many lives that would not have been lost to the coronavirus under more capable executive stewardship.

While the magnitude of the 2020 election is unambiguous - for Democrats who see November as essential to restoring the nation they recognize; for Republicans who believe Trump was doing just fine before a disease beyond his control intervened - the crisis has also complicated one of the most effective arguments against the president to date.

Biden, who entered the Wisconsin primary in a dominant position to claim the Democratic nomination, has staked his bid on presenting Trump as both a historical anomaly and a reversible blip, a president whose removal alone would restore some sense of national equilibrium, in the candidate's telling.

"I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time," Biden said in his announcement video last year. "But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation."

Biden has never shown the work on this math, never explained how the threat could be both existential and quickly revocable.

But with the task of social and economic repair now awaiting whoever takes the oath in nine months, two things can be true at once: A return to normal sounds terrific to many voters. And there is plainly no normal to return to, if there ever was.

"The striking thing about the first term is how much damage he was able to inflict," said Robert Reich, a former labor secretary under Bill Clinton who endorsed Sanders in the primary. "At the margin, he probably could do more with two terms, and I wouldn't wish that on this nation. But he's already done a huge amount."

Those with experience in revert-to-normal campaigns likewise caution against any wishful thinking.

Tim Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota - who took office in 2003 after Jesse Ventura, the retired professional wrestler - suggested that politics was "a lagging reflection of our culture," where "massive demographic, economic and technological change" in recent years has often steered voters in both parties toward populist messengers.

"The pandemic will change our culture temporarily, but it won't change what's been fueling our longer-term political trajectory," he said. Pawlenty, who has said he voted for Trump but called him "unhinged" in 2016, predicted that a mix of populism and "our culture's blending of politics and entertainment will likely yield more 'larger-than-life' candidates being elected."

What that means for the fate of this presidency is uncertain. Gallego, the Arizona congressman, said that this election amounted to "the cleanup," even if the 2016 result could never be expunged.

More than most states, Wisconsin knows well that politics is rarely a dry-erase board. Its last Republican governor, Scott Walker, survived a recall election. Its current Democratic governor, Tony Evers, who had previously said he lacked the legal authority to delay Tuesday's primary, sought to reverse himself on Monday by unilaterally changing the election date - only to have his reversal reversed by the state's Supreme Court.

The result on Tuesday (in the absence of actual results, which officials said would come later) was a kind of rolling civic acknowledgment that all was not well and would not be soon.

"This is something they shouldn't play politics with," said Brian Binder, 49, from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, who said he had previously voted in every election since he was 18. "I don't know why we couldn't postpone to keep people safe."

The tension between political rhythms and public health produced another surreal contest between Sanders and Biden, who retains a large delegate lead in the race to take on Trump. There are still no rallies or hands to shake. Even the standard campaign calls to action on social media, urging supporters to hustle to polling sites, went missing amid the court rulings that made this primary possible, rendered along ideological lines.

Was it important to vote? Was it even wise?

In less trying times, Biden's record on the subject had been consistent.

"The most important election you've ever been part of," he told voters in 2018, rallying for midterm candidates.

"The most important election," he said in 2016, stumping for Hillary Clinton, "in any of your lives."

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2020 The New York Times Company


More Related News

Trump warns he may move Republican convention site from NC
Trump warns he may move Republican convention site from NC
  • US
  • 2020-05-25 13:39:18Z

U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Monday that he may move the Republican National Convention from North Carolina set for August if the event faces state social distancing restrictions as a result of the coronavirus. The coronavirus pandemic has forced Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to halt campaign rallies. Trump said on Twitter that if Democratic Governor Roy Cooper does not immediately answer "whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied," then the party will find "with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site."

Trump Tweets and Golfs, but Makes No Mention of Virus
Trump Tweets and Golfs, but Makes No Mention of Virus's Toll

WASHINGTON -- As President Donald Trump's motorcade pulled into his golf club in Virginia on an overcast Sunday, a small group of protesters waited outside the entrance. One held up a sign."I care do U?" it read. "100,000 dead."Trump and his advisers have said that he does, but he has made scant effort to demonstrate it this Memorial Day weekend. He finally ordered flags lowered to half-staff at the White House only after being badgered to do so by his critics and otherwise took no public notice as the American death toll from the coronavirus pandemic approached a staggering 100,000.While the country neared six digits of death, the president who repeatedly criticized his predecessor for...

Trump Flips Out After Biden Ad Rips Him For Golfing Amid Growing Death Toll
Trump Flips Out After Biden Ad Rips Him For Golfing Amid Growing Death Toll

Trump golfed twice over the weekend as the coronavirus death toll in the United States approached 100,000.

Chris Wallace Condemns Kayleigh McEnany for Questioning White House Reporters
Chris Wallace Condemns Kayleigh McEnany for Questioning White House Reporters' Faith

Chris Wallace was back to challenging the Trump administration on "Fox News Sunday" this week, criticizing Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany for impugning the faith of reporters who questioned the president's push to reopen places of worship.On Friday, Trump threatened to "override" the authority of governors if they did not reopen religious buildings that have been closed in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. When reporters told McEnany that the president had no legal authority to do so, she responded by saying she found it "interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed."McEnany then told the White House press...

Trump Sows Doubt on Voting. It Keeps Some People Up at Night.
Trump Sows Doubt on Voting. It Keeps Some People Up at Night.

WASHINGTON -- In October, President Donald Trump declares a state of emergency in major cities in battleground states, like Milwaukee and Detroit, banning polling places from opening.A week before the election, Attorney General William Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.After Biden wins a narrow Electoral College victory, Trump refuses to accept the results, won't leave the White House and declines to allow the Biden transition team customary access to agencies before the Jan. 20 inauguration.Far-fetched conspiracy theories? Not to a group of worst-case scenario planners -- mostly Democrats, but some anti-Trump Republicans as well...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • uyayzols
    (2020-04-20 19:46:44Z)

    does medicare cover viagra 2020 https://menviagraus.com/ - que es el viagra generico viagra fГјr die frau gГјnstig kaufen viagra purchase buy viagra tesco online


Top News: Politics