Trump ran a racist campaign, and GOP voters supported it

Two years ago, America failed a moral test when it elected Donald Trump to its highest office, and Republican voters failed that test again yesterday by embracing instead of rejecting his racist midterm campaign tactics.

Many of us hoped the midterms would deliver a decisive repudiation of this incendiary demagogue who acquires power by exciting the prejudices and hatreds of the mobs who attend his rallies, but Republican-leaning voters across the country turned out to defend him and his racist agenda.

We hoped America would peer into its soul, go to the polls, and tell Donald Trump he is not one of us, he is alien to us, and does not speak for us. Voters did turn out in record numbers, but only half of us voted to save America’s soul, leaving the country as divided and contentious as before. Basically, nothing has changed; we’re still in the same place.

Winning House control is important because now there will be checks and balances. There was a suburban revolt against Trumpism, and young people and women walked away from him, which to some extent reconfigures America’s political maps. The defeat of Kim Davis is a small moral victory, and the defeats of Scott Walker and Kris Kobach are significant political victories.

But it was an ambiguous night for the good guys. White supremacist Rep. Steve King and two indicted GOP congressmen were re-elected. The GOP’s coalition of uneducated white males and rural voters remains intact and as intractably backward-looking as ever; it seems those voters would rather have validation of their animosities than health care for their families.

We should want our country to be better than this, and the majority of us are. We should want a government that works for all of us, not just a privileged few, and policies that promote peace abroad and lift up our citizens at home. We should want civility, honesty, and truthfulness in our governing processes. Trump never had those values, and most Republican voters have abandoned them. They deserved to lose this election, but while Democrats made important gains, the results were disappointing by falling short of fully restoring America’s most uplifting values.

The Republicans who won last night will have little incentive to distance themselves from Trump or disavow his destructive politics, simply because he demonstrated that promoting hatred, racism, and bigotry, and political violence can win elections for them. And Trump’s most ardent followers will see in the results, if not public approval of, then a lack of public opprobrium for, their vileness.

Our work is not done, it is only beginning. The man in the high castle still rules, and we are still only the Resistance. The 2020 campaign begins today, and much sweat and toil lies ahead of us. Our task is much greater than winning the White House and Congress two years from now; it is  to reclaim America’s soul from the darkness of Trumpism. We now know Republican voters won’t help us do that, not that we ever imagined they would, after all they are the source of the problem. The coming battles aren’t, at their core, about the economy, tax cuts, or health care. Those issues, while important, are subordinate to the greater question of what kind of national character our country will have in the future.

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