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Tomorrow, we will be tested.

Donald Trump has built his political career on fear, racism, bigotry, and lies. He leads a party that, instead of competing by offering better policies, resorts to dirty tricks, gerrymandering, and vote suppression to secure power. When in power, it panders to America’s oligarchs and treats the rest of us like serfs.

Nearly everyone agrees tomorrow’s election is a referendum on Donald Trump’s character, behavior, and governance. All indications are turnout will be high on both sides. That’s both encouraging and disturbing — encouraging because it tells us many of our fellow citizens are outraged and frightened by this demagogue’s scorched-earth politics, as we all should be, but disturbing because far too many among us have fallen under the spell of a charlatan’s promises to “make America great again,” hoping to retrieve a sense of security and well-being they’ve lost amid the turbulent winds of social and economic change sweeping through our country and the world.

The grievances of the Trump crowd are real, honest, and legitimate. They were promised a comfortable middle class life if they worked hard in factories, shops, construction sites, and places of commerce at jobs that often were backbreaking, dirty, and even dangerous. The Democrats, traditionally the party of unions and blue-collar voters, didn’t do enough to protect them from the financial engineering, corporate raiding, outsourcing, and unbridled Wall Street greed that stole the American Dream from them. We shouldn’t be surprised they fell in behind a Pied Piper who promised them what they wanted to hear, even as he plotted with his fellow oligarchs to pull the rug further out from under them.

The object lesson is that no political party can take any part of its constituency for granted. A neglected voter is ripe for plucking. The Democrats weren’t wrong to pursue social justice and legal equality for minorities, but they ignored dry rot in the foundation timbers of their labor-based coalition which had existed since New Deal days. Trump was elected by blue-collar Democrats.

Repairing those mistakes will take time and effort. Meanwhile, tomorrow is a “Come-to-Jesus” moment for all of us. We know now, clearly and unambiguously, exactly what Trumpism is. There is only one question on the ballot: Is this who we are? There’s a palpable danger the answer is “yes.” This election will likely show us that most of those who followed Trump in 2016 still do. It’s not a given that we can pry America from their hands.

As former President Obama puts it, “Character is on the ballot.” Not only the character of our current leader, but the character of our voters. That’s the test we now face. Sitting this one out is not an option for those who care about our country’s future.

Looking ahead, it’s easy to speak of moral choices, but as we contemplate what direction to take from here, we must remember that when morality has to compete with earning a paycheck, for most people putting food on the table will take precedence. That’s just reality. Therefore it is vital to govern our society so no one is forced to make such choices.

Despite our divisive politics, we are still largely a nation of shared ideals. While Trump himself is arguably an evil man, most of his supporters aren’t bad people. He feeds on their desperation and feeling of being abandoned. If we win tomorrow, we must use our victory for constructive ends. We must offer them a way out of the darkness he is leading them into, or we will lose them and a part of ourselves.


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