Specter of illegitimate elections looms large with Trump
With the Special Counsel's initial indictments now public in the Russian meddling scandal in our 2016 election — with more to come — my fear is that the electorate is so polarized that even if the minnows lead to the sharks (and the sharks are indicted) the poll ratings will remain the same: 56.5 percent who think Trump is an illegitimate president while 38.9 percent think he's just what America needs.
It's not about Trump anymore — it's really about the integrity of our election system, especially how the voters view election results. I don't think the numbers will change. They will resonate for decades, much like the divisions over the Vietnam War have, and still do, simmer. So no matter who wins future presidential elections, a third to two-thirds of the American voters won't trust the results.
This is the collateral damage that Trump's campaign and election have created, keeping in mind he lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes. We have always had two Americas — one White and one Black. Now we have a "new normal," one the majority and one the minority. And there is no civil discourse between the two sides — just voters bunkered into their respective ideological silos. The center of American democracy has disappeared. There is no common ground.
The damage extends to the state and local level as well with its urban/rural divide. In Oregon we have the populous Portland metro area which is predictably liberal, while in rural Oregon we have a solid conservative "other" Oregon. I've lived in both Oregons — Roseburg and now the Metro area. One drives SUVs, the other pick-up trucks. One is "green" while the other eats spotted owls for lunch (or so they say).
At the congressional level, due to gerrymandering, this has led to most members of the House coming from so-called "safe districts." For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D) faces only token opposition from Republican candidates in the precincts of Portlandia. On the other hand, Congressman Greg Walden has nothing to fear in his district, which stretches east of the Cascades into Southern Oregon. This is mirrored across the nation.
But it's worse in the Republican column because moderate Rs like a Mark Hatfield or Tom McCall — both revered Oregonians — are akin to an endangered species and wouldn't survive a GOP primary given the ultra-conservative ideological proclivities of the base in the era of Trump. This uphill race for moderate Rs is also made more problematic by voter ID laws, voter suppression and the scrubbing of voter rolls, each of which penalizes minority and elderly voters and give "fake news" from our friends in Mother Russia a foothold.
It's ironic that the Trump base lauds the Russian hackers since their partisan brethren in the past were staunch anti-communists. Putin, a Czar-like autocrat, came up through the ranks of the KGB in the communist regime. Some might ask, is there really a difference? Once a thug, always a thug, no matter the current ideology. One of course could ask the same rhetorical question of Trump, who currently holds the reins of the "bully pulpit" in the U.S.
So at the end of the day, we are a nation divided — and likely to be for decades to come.
Russ Dondero is a professor emeritus at Pacific University in Forest Grove. He blogs at russdondero.squarespace.com.