In Tuesday’s election, Americans face a choice that could shape the nation for years after a campaign that left it politically torn, at war with itself over race, and mourning tragedy.
Voters must decide on Tuesday whether to constrain president Donald Trump and his complaint Republicans after the first two years of a demagogic presidency that widened national divides and unfolded in a torrent of scandal. Trump also tested constitutional norms and engineered a sharp shift in the country’s attitude toward the rest of the world.
Democrats continue to hold a double-digit lead over Republicans in a generic congressional ballot among likely voters, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. The party’s 55% to 42% advantage in the new poll mirrors their lead in early October and is about the same as the 10-point edge they held just after Labor Day.
But a they face first chance to judge Trump’s performance, they could also register satisfaction with a historically primed economy and a president who has kept many of his election promises, however controversial, and is running an undeniably consequential administration that has managed to engineer a generational conservation shift to the supreme court.
The first result would represent a rebuke to Trump’s entire political approach: His failure to tame his volatile instincts in the interests of national unity and his willingness to embrace the presidency itself as a national trust.
The second would convey acquiescence for the president’s scorched-earth tactics, indefatigable and domineering personality, fear-mongering warnings that the nation is under assault from an invading immigrant tide of dark-skinned criminals and approval of his creed of ‘America First’ nationalism.
‘You saw that barbed wire going up. That barbed wire- yes sir, we have barbed wire going up. Because you know what? we’re not letting these people invade our country,’ Trump said at a rally in Georgia on Sunday, defending his decision to dispatch troops to the border in what critics have branded a political ‘stunt’.
While the campaign has seen intense skirmishes over health care, immigration, education and the best way to share the dividends of high growth, low unemployment and rising wages, Trump has, as he does all the time about everything else, made the campaign about himself.
In the most inflammatory closing argument of any campaign in modern memory, Trump seized on a group of migrants heading toward the southern US border from hundreds of miles away in Mexico as a metaphor for his hardline and racially insulting rhetoric on immigration. His searing nationalist rhetoric and tearing of cultural fault lines drew criticism that he had crossed a dangerous line after a gunman killed 11 people in synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh and a Trump supporter mailed bombs to the president’s top targets in politics and the media, including two former presidents.
But it is a measure of the country’s volatile political climate and the lessons of Trump’s logic-defying win in 2016 that no one can say for sure how Tuesday night will unfold.
At times on Sunday, it almost felt like Trump was running a campaign against the man whom he has defined himself against, his predecessor in the oval office, Barack Obama.