You can hold off moving to Canada. You can forgo the call to the New Zealand Embassy on how to become a citizen there. Tuesday’s election really was the most important test since the Civil War of whether the engine of our constitutional system — our ability to peacefully and legitimately transfer power — remains intact. And it looks to have come through — a little dinged up, but OK.
I am still not even close to ready to sound the all-clear, to declare that running on a platform of election denialism will never tempt another American politician. But given the unprecedented degree to which election denialism was elevated in this midterm and the way several big-name Donald Trump-imitating knuckleheads who made denialism central to their campaigns got their clocks cleaned — we may have just dodged one of the biggest arrows ever aimed at the heart of our democracy.
To be sure, another arrow could target us at any moment, but the whole US electoral system — in red states and blue — seemed to perform admirably, almost shrugging off the last two years of controversy, diminishing it to what it always was: the shameful fabrication of one man and his most shameless sycophants and imitators. Given the threat posed by Trump denialists to the acceptance and legitimacy of our elections, that is a big deal.
It could not come at a better time as the leaders of Russia and China have manipulated their systems to entrench themselves in power beyond their previously established terms of office.
One of their arguments to their own people in doing so was to point to things like the January 6, 2021, insurrection in America and the seeming chaos of our elections to tell their citizens: “That’s what democracy looks like. Is that what you want here?”
Indeed, in May, during his commencement address to the US Naval Academy’s graduating class, President Joe Biden recalled when President Xi Jinping of China congratulated him in 2020 on his election: “He said democracies cannot be sustained in the 21st century; autocracies will run the world. Why? Things are changing so rapidly. Democracies require consensus, and it takes time, and you don’t have the time.”
For that reason, Xi and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin lost on Tuesday night, too. Because the more wild and unstable our politics, the less able we become to peacefully transfer power, the easier it is for them to justify never doing so.
But while election denialism took a thumping this week as a winning message, none of the things that are still eating away at the foundations of American democracy — and preventing us from actually getting big hard things done — have gone away.
I am talking about the way in which our primary system, gerrymandering and social networks have coalesced to steadily poison our national dialogue, steadily polarise our society into political tribes and steadily erode the twin pillars of our democracy: truth and trust.
Without being able to agree on what is true, we don’t know which way to go. And without being able to trust one another, we can’t head there together. And everything big and hard needs to be done together.
So, our enemies would be wise not to leave us for dead, but we would be even wiser not to conclude that, because we avoided the worst, we’ve locked in the best going forward. -- The New York Times