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These off-year elections and the many special elections to fill vacancies created by citizens who are asked by the president to serve in his cabinet or on his staff have kept the nation focused on the two-party system.
When politics are normal, policies and procedures are followed, laws are implemented according to the Constitution and legislative intent and the officeholders and leadership are transparent, the citizens act normal and responsible and go to the polls and vote their conscience without a lot of adversity.
In the spring of 2017 we had two noticeable elections in a district in South Carolina and a district in Georgia. The Democratic Party chose mainstream, somewhat progressive candidates to represent them. The Republican Party chose good, well-known mainstream conservatives who said they supported President Trump.
The Dems did well in that 6th District in northern Georgia that had been the seat of Dr. Price, but the Republicans won by clear victories and after a few analyses, everybody went on home and all was well.
Trump called the NFL players SOBs and exacerbated the issue of race. While all the political blunders ensued, the Republican leaders were silent. Not only were they silent, they were shocked and ashamed. There was a lone opposition voice in the political wilderness, that of Sen. John McCain. Finally, there came from few Republican leaders the soft plea to tone down the rhetoric and Sen. Jeff Flake published a book questioning where conservatism had gone.
As summer moved on and the ocean waters continued to warm up, a cluster of successive hurricanes, some reaching Category 5, came to our shores. By this time, Trump and the Republican Party are under review and close scrutiny by everybody. On his first trip to Houston, Texas, he spoke about the size of the crowd that greeted him. He failed the people, the party and the presidency. He immediately made a second trip and he passed.
Now the well-known state of Alabama was holding a special election to permanently fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. Trump favored Luther Strange and endorsed and campaigned on Strange’s behalf. Alabama favored Judge Roy Moore, who was endorsed and promoted by Steve Bannon. Moore won and now the Senate, the Republican Party, conservatism and Mitch McConnell are in crisis. In addition, a scandal surrounding Judge Moore is occupying all the cable news except Fox News.
On Nov. 7, that silver lining appeared. Democrats won two gubernatorial seats, in blue states, and other sporadic positions across the nation. These victories were not marginal nor landslides, but were decisive. These victories could be indicators for both Republicans and Democrats.
The Republicans may be drowning in the swamp and the tax cut lifeline may not be strong enough, clear enough or fair enough to save them.
On the Democratic side, women voted in record numbers as did African-Americans. The Democratic voter turnout was also exceptional.
What happened? What is different? What, if anything, is on the horizon?
Let’s return to the American people’s political TRADITION. When one party in power leaves the normal common run of governing and embraces tenets of authoritarianism, rejects American exceptionalism, refuses to speak out on racism, tries to blow up democracy with something called deconstruction and clings to power by exploiting divisiveness, the people find the American alternative in the other party.
Can the Democratic Party save the day? Why yes, of course. Democratic Party principles are not leftist as Republicans claim. They are centrist, comprehensive, flexible in implementation and they embrace justice and equality.
Finally, I caution those on the state and local level, especially African-Americans, who are courted by those who call the Republican Party the party of freedom and the party of Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln is dead and so is that party. Today’s Republican Party is one that embraces hypocrisy, hate, greed, discrimination, indifference and injustice.
George Leach is a Wilson resident and former teacher with a keen interest in local, state and national politics who serves as political action chairman of the NAACP’s Wilson branch.