My name is J. Denton Adams. Call me Remy. This likely means nothing to most of you. As a matter of background, I am the former production editor for a McClatchy beast called The Insider, a state government newsletter which, in truth, most normal people don’t read. I don’t necessarily count the membership of BlueNC among “most normal people.” Currently, I am an attorney, a very cynical one, who sees a justice system plagued by archaic notions that seldom do anything but prey upon the tired, poor or huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Instead, we imprison them, and hide them and preclude them from participating in the electoral process.
I believe the American dream is at a substantial impasse, as I suspect many of you do. It is important that we question why, then determine what must be done. In truth, I am far more of a moderate than the normal BlueNC reader, but I sincerely hope my thoughts are not lost in partisanship, as I in part believe that is the locus of the problem.
About Election Night
The first mistake a nation can make is forgetting that history can explain the present. Greater minds than us have often dealt with similar problems before. I will let a Founding Father’s words on rebellion in 1786 explain the elections of 2016:
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
-- Thomas Jefferson
There are some times -- like now -- in which I believe Jefferson was right, but the greatest Republic the world has seen has aged too much to occasionally bathe in the phoenix blood of rebellion. The point holds, however, in the metaphorical sense. On November 8, 2016, a minority of the populace elected a man of questionable morality, acumen and temperament to our nation’s highest office. They did this either because they despised his adversary, Hillary Clinton, or found the status quo so abhorrent that it merited a wholesale rejection of the prior eight years. We have witnessed a rebellion, rather than a mandate.
To put President-Elect Trump into context, he is a demagogue whose rhetoric reeks of fascism. His political positions, for decades, have shifted with the day of the week and direction of the wind. He threatened to disregard the results of the election if it did not favor him. He promised to imprison Mrs. Clinton upon his victory, but has since backed off this claim. Others who have taken similar courses of action include Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, and Joseph Stalin. This is not to say Mrs. Clinton is or was (or ever will be) a saint. She foolishly sought to turn an incident in Benghazi to her political advantage, displayed royally awful discretion regarding emails and signaled an interest in being a politician, rather than a stateswoman.
“They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed.”
Let’s go back to the founding father in the conversation. He was talking about Shays’ Rebellion, in which Daniel Shays spearheaded a charge with 4,000 rebels against the United States in reaction to perceived economic and civil rights violations. Are they much different than those who rose up against all expectations on Election Day to elect Mr. Trump? His true supporters believed not only that the country was headed in the wrong direction, but that they personally had watched their civil and economic rights slowly being chipped away. Like Shays, some had violence on their mind if Mrs. Clinton carried the election. (Which she did in a way, just not the Electoral College.) Now, a portion of those who cast ballots for her are protesting in the streets. (Due to years of a system based in division and identity politics.) The true believers on each side cannot comprehend how anyone could vote in support of the other.
Modern politics has become a game of facade, not facts. Our two-party system, coupled with the wired world, has created a monstrosity. The parties are guilty of waging electoral battles with incendiary sound-bites and questionable online articles, propped up by straw men and cherry-picked facts. Our anemic Fifth Estate has allowed this to happen. Through simplifying issues and feeding on fear and paranoia, our political class has widened these rifts. Gerrymandering has permitted extremists to hold office in more places. Meanwhile, the electorate only knows how they feel at the moment, rather than the substance of the policies put before them.
“The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.”
The problem is not that the American public is angry. They should be. I submit, however, that they are angry about the wrong thing. What they should be angry about is the fact that our elected officials have lost track of their purpose. Liberals are not liberating. Conservatives are not conserving. Representatives are not representing. Progressives are not progressing. Instead, our politicians turn their attention, year after year, to self-serving electioneering, in a desperate gambit to keep or gain power. None are innocent of this. Where have the statesmen gone? There was a time when it was understood that seeking high office was an honorable endeavor. A statesman represents all constituents at all times, not just those who cast their ballots one way.
When did moderate become a dirty word? Anyone with a modicum of sense recognizes that debate, negotiation and compromise are necessary to the ongoing State. A Supreme Court seat remains unfilled due to idealogues, successfully held ransom for politics. Much of the work of the past eight years is about to be summarily erased, without anyone questioning whether it in fact should be.
Ignorantly, the left and right believe they have all the answers. This fallacy is dangerous in and of itself. When coupled with extremist rhetoric, which is becoming more prevalent, it creates a powderkeg that threatens our very liberty. This is the tyranny of intractable ignorance.
“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”
The good news is that the spirit of the Republic is alive and well. I do not care for our new president, nor would I have had the Democrats taken the day. No matter who is at the helm, if they surround themselves with the best and the brightest idealogues, the American Experiment is at risk. It appears Trump is doing just that. The media is awash with politicos calling for unity, saying that governance is now the issue. Yet, now is not the time for unity. I sincerely believe that those who are rational among us have the unique duty to call out the insanity that faces us all. Otherwise, in four or eight years, we will be doing this once again.
The only way to stop this perpetual whiplash is to reinstate measured perspectives into the the public conversation. Our political system must cease to be dominated by battles of right and left, and instead be supplanted by debate about what will work. Currently, what was intended to be a constructive mix of adversarial views has become one in which enemies sit angrily across the aisles from one another. They will never believe that this pathetic incivility is wrong unless we tell them.
The path we must take, as a nation, is to illuminate the dark mistruths that fuel our system. Their origin is irrelevant. If they are harmful ideas, they should be condemned and identified as the reckless idiocy that they are. If they have remote merit, then they should be evaluated, debated and changed to fit the needs of the people. They should be allowed to prevail or fail in the marketplace of ideas. No elected official, journalist, commentator, savior or despot can change this. No, it is the will of the people that will do this. Still, with no voice in a world of antithetical leaders, we risk real rebellion.
For the warriors among you, I propose simply this: Think what your adherence to the party line has achieved. It should be clear that our progress in recent years can be readily erased with the pulse of insanity that has occurred this election cycle. White nationalists (Nazis) have the illusion in front of them that they are suddenly mainstreamed. Our trade deals, the pulse of our economy, are about to be shredded, with literally no thought as to their positive effects. Climate science is about to be wholeheartedly ignored, where its dissidents should instead be viewed as reckless madmen.
For our true believers, I submit the following: Progress must occasionally be measured in tempered steps. Frankly, this is the same conversation I anticipate having with conservatives. The world must be ready for change, and it is the call of the progressive to set that need for change, much like the conservative must caution against its immediacy. Argue with me as you will, that is the nature of this beast we call democracy.
I, accordingly, have a proposition. That is to elect sane people, derelict of the abomination of gerrymandering, to debate, negotiate and compromise. This is a far cry from an effort to elect solely the members of one party. Instead, it is a call to find the long lost statesmen (and stateswomen) among us. They are what is necessary to achieve change in these times, but they are a forgotten thing. We need to encourage statesmen in all 100 counties, at all times. Those who vote in favor of the people, and their myriad needs are exactly what is needed to shield our democracy from demagoguery. Moderate must no longer be a dirty word, and we are not in a position to argue otherwise in the next two years, at least. Don’t read this as an endorsement of wholehearted leftist policies on my end. While this is my predilection, it is not my end. My goal is to have a state and, ultimately, a nation that works. That is the beauty of our great nation. It is and always was supposed to be a melting pot of ideas. Let’s find the ones that work, and make them work.