Now Americans get to decide. Our democracy is corrupted by big money, scarred by efforts to suppress the vote or to gerrymander districts, and stained by scurrilous campaigning, led in this instance by the president himself.
Yet, in the end, democracy empowers us to decide who will lead us, who we will reward with our support and who we will spurn.
In Tuesday’s election, no matter who wins or loses, some things have become crystal clear.
We do not live, the Bible teaches, by bread alone. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, Jesus taught, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. The fundamental judgment weighs not how much money you have amassed, but what values you have professed and practiced.
In this campaign, unemployment is low and wages have begun to tick up. President Trump may be riding a recovery begun under Barack Obama, but he takes the credit.
Yet even Trump understands that low unemployment figures are not enough. The question still is one of values.
Trump and his Republican followers argue that Democrats are lurching to the left, denouncing some as socialists, others as radicals. Yet these candidates — such as Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams, running for governor in Florida and Georgia, respectively — represent mainstream opinion.
The right to affordable health care. The right to a quality public education. Equal opportunity under the law. A secure retirement after a life of work. A living wage. Sensible control over who can buy guns, and what armaments are for sale.
This is the moral center. Our politics have gotten conservative over the years, and entrenched interests like the drug companies, the National Rifle Association and Wall Street have so rigged the rules that what is the moral center — and reflects mainstream opinion — is scorned as radical or impossible in Washington.
Trump was smart enough to know that unemployment figures are not the measure of the economy. People want not just a job, but a job that offers secure employment, good wages and benefits, enough to raise a family on. They want health care for their families, college for their children, a secure retirement for themselves. They need wages that are rising at least as fast as the cost of necessities.
Trump realizes this economy is still not providing that for working people.
So he chose to campaign on his values. He purposefully sought to drive us apart; he sought to generate fears of the stranger, fuel racial and ethnic hatreds. Even the pipe bombs sent out by a disturbed supporter and the horror of the murders of Americans praying in their synagogue did not deflect him.
He’s been clear about what he’s doing. He is rousing his base and getting Republicans out to vote. We’ll see about that. But whatever the vote totals, these are not the values of most Americans. We expect more from our leaders.
One of the biggest tells of this campaign was the big lie that Trump and Republicans tried to sell. After promising for years to kill Obamacare, failing by only one vote in the Senate, and launching a lawsuit to abolish it, Republicans discovered that Americans want affordable health care.
Republican-led states face ballot initiatives to force expansion of Medicaid. Republican candidates started scrubbing their web pages of any mention of repealing the ACA.
Trump capped this off, characteristically, with a blatant lie, tweeting that Republicans would protect pre-existing conditions and Democrats won’t. The Justice Department told a federal court in June it would not defend ACA provisions that protect patients with pre-existing conditions.
Black is white; up is down.
Whatever the result of the election, I suggest that America, in the face of the Trump campaign and Republican control, is returning to the moral center. Working families have now lived through two recoveries that haven’t reached them. They are increasingly clear that, in this richest nation in the world, basic human rights should be protected.
We can be fooled by the flood of attack ads. We can be distracted by the president’s rhetoric and stunts. We can fall for a con more than once. In the end, however, we will seek to make America better —not simply wealthier for the few, but richer in values for all.
Trump may be able to rouse hate. But there are more healers than haters in this nation, and the time for healing has come.
Reach Jesse Jackson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RevJJackson.
Send letters to email@example.com