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State of American History, Civics, and Politics

The Day After: Post-Election Stress Disorder

“The Day After” is a TV movie first shown in 1983 about the devastating impact of a nuclear war on the community in Lawrence, Kansas. It was shown with great hype and warning on the devastating impact merely seeing it might have on viewers especially children. The broadcast occurred during a time when the Cold War raged. It also occurred at a time when no one anticipated the in a few years the Soviet Union would collapse and do so peacefully with no loss of life and no armed conflict. So as it turned out the reality of what would happen was unfathomable to the producers and viewers of the movie in 1983.

Still, the movie reminds us that picking up the pieces after a day of infamy is part of the human experience. That condition is particularly applicable to the American elections of 2016 and 2018 where people experienced severe post-election stress disorder.

The example from 2016 is well known. At the time, prognosticators turned out to be as wrong about the immediate future as were people in 1983…and this time Russia, not the Soviet Union was directly involved. It violated the United States not just in Kansas but throughout the country and without suffering any penalty for its actions.

As Election Day, 2016, unfolded, many people expected history to be made. On that day, for the first time, a woman would win the election to be President of the United States. Expectations were high. Everyone knew it was coming. Even her primary opponent had readied his excuses to explain how he was defeated in a rigged election with illegal voters. He was fully prepared to issue that charge and did so even when he won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote.

For a certain segment of the voting population, they approached the evening in great joy. Women, not only elitists, gathered, often with their daughters, at campaign headquarters throughout the land. They were ready to celebrate after witnessing the historic occasion. Then the results started coming in. Florida was not a battleground; there was not even a need for a recount. The same for Ohio. The vaunted Blue Wall was porous. Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin went Republican. How as this possible? The election was not merely unexpectedly lost, it was lost to a serial abuser of women with no remorse or morality…to say nothing of all his other shortcomings. It was not simply losing to Romney, it was losing to your worst nightmare and finding out it was not a dream. You were not asleep. You had not imagined it. It had really happened.

The day after, even Election Day evening after the polls closed, witnessed a national example of post-election stress disorder. People were in shock. How could the deplorables have won? The losing candidate had said she could not understand why she was not 50% points ahead in the polls. Perhaps that was part of the problem. The failure to understand that not only was part of why she lost, it became part of why the loss was as devastating psychologically as the movie “The Day After” was supposed to be to all who watched it. The unthinkable had occurred.

This instance of post-election stressed disorder morphed into a rage that has sustained its victims for lo the next two years until the 2018 elections. They say revenge is best served cold but people are still hot with anger. That need to win makes a repeat of post-election stress disorder possible. Victory in the popular vote for the House of Representatives is not enough but what if that is all they get? How will they survive another two years? How will they survive another six years? Hallelujah or OMG!

Meanwhile, on the other side, the Republicans have been preparing for their own post-election stress disorder. There is nothing unusual in the party in power losing in the midterm election. That is par for the course. However, the Republican wave in 2010 afforded Republicans the opportunity to do something the 2006 Democratic wave did not. Because of the census, the Republican victories at the state and federal level allowed Republicans to gerrymander on a scale unprecedented in American history. That rigging the playing field mitigated the potential gains the Democrats would be expected to achieve in electoral results in the midterm elections. As with the Electoral College, winning the plurality or majority in the popular voting for the House of Representatives was no longer sufficient for victory. Voter suppression adds to the edge the Republicans have. So even without a repeat violation of America by the Russians, Republicans had reason to believe they could weather the storm of the midterms and even gain in the Senate due to the electoral perfect storm in its favor in that chamber.

There was just one fly in the ointment. No, not the economy. It should have worked to the Republican advantage. No, not the absence of war. It should have worked to the Republican advantage. Peace and prosperity should work to the advantage of the party in power even if the prosperity is limited to the 1%. But as we all know, the Republican candidate in 2016 and incumbent in 2018 does not play the rules. He makes up his own rules. And truth be told, for the serial business failure they have worked out to be pretty good so far…at least for him.

The rule he deployed for this election is Apocalypse Now. He may not know the Maslow Hierarchy [Wartime President: The Battle Is Engaged, 10/23/18] in the abstract but he does in the field. His rhetoric has consistently ratcheted up until it finally reached apocalyptic proportions. The process above and beyond the normal hyperbolic rhetoric commenced with the showdown between the Kavanoes and the Kavayeses [America’s Third Civil War: Kava-Noes versus Kava-Yeses, 10/9/18]. One would have thought the fate of the world depended on the outcome of this vote…or at least the fate of all white males for whom it was now open season as targets by Democratic women.  One might have thought that that supreme confrontation represented the emotional height or depth of the current campaign. As always in this environment, there is more.

With the refugee caravan, the tenor of the campaign truly reached its eschatological moment. “We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord.” In the battle for the delegates between Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft at the Republican presidential convention in 1912, Roosevelt concluded a speech with these words. He stood with Abraham Lincoln and objected to what he saw as the selling of the party to corporate interests. His stirring words of deep emotion were not simply some narcissistic binge. There was an agenda. There were issues. There was the future of the Republican Party. There was the future of the country. Maybe even there was the future of the world although no one knew the winner of the 1912 election would be the president in the “war to end all wars.” Roosevelt lost and the recent death of John McCain reminds us that there is no place for Lincoln in the Republican Party today [R.I.P. Party of Lincoln (1856-2016) 3/12/16].

What then is the cause of the apocalyptic language? How did a refugee caravan of civilian men, women, and children who often sought to settle in Mexico become an invading army to America? How did it become a Jewish-financed army of ISIS-trained very bad people that threatened the future of the country? The Canadian burning of the White House during the War of 1812 does not compare to the assault on America the current president faces. The Martian invasion of October 30, 1938, does not compare to the assault on America the current president faces. Even 9/11 pales in comparison to the challenge the current president faces. Only one person stands between us and chaos, between making America great again and total collapse, between the triumph of real Americans and the triumph of, you know… those people. And that one person is Donald Trump.

Democrats are ill-advised to ignore the power of that message and that image. More is at risk than they realize. The existence of the country is at stake. Every night Sean Hannity regales us with the trials and tribulations America is about to experience if God forbid, or at least the American people who have been called to vote do not vote. Then the dreaded Pelosi regains power. Truly this is the time of troubles predicted in the gospels. The moment of truth has arrived. Trump save us.

The day after the midterm elections of 2018 will be an historic one for America.

Who will be fired?
Who will be indicted?
Who will act first?
Who will suffer post-election stress disorder?

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