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Editorial: Divided nation

It’s looking less and less likely that the United States will be able to heal its divisions. —
It’s looking less and less likely that the United States will be able to heal its divisions. — 123RF Stock Photo

About the best thing you can point to in the leadup to today’s midterm elections in the United States is the dramatic growth in the number of people taking advantage of advance polls.

After that, it’s pretty much downhill.

Race-baiting, brutally offensive attack advertising, deregistration of hundreds of thousands of voters, appeals to the worst in people, outright lying about the policies and pasts of candidates — the mid-term elections have had all of that and more.

After today's election, the best that can be hoped for is that the hate will at least come off the boil and head for something like a simmer.

There was a time when, after a brutal electoral cycle, you could at least hope that a country — especially one that saw itself, as the U.S. did, as a “melting-pot” welcoming immigrants from around the world — could find a way to heal its divisions. In the United States, that looks less and less likely. When you have a nation where 31 per cent of Americans sampled in a June public opinion poll believed a civil war was likely within the next five years, there’s not much hope of healing.

It’s easy to understand why: depending on which flavour of media you follow, Americans can have vastly different understandings of what is actually happening out of any event. Couple that with a president who simply says the media is lying, and you quickly run out of anything that looks like a middle ground.

What’s it all matter here?

Obviously, what happens to our nearest neighbour and largest trading partner is crucially important to our future.

But also important are the things we don’t want to import from the south of us.

And this is a message that bears repeating, again and again.

It is now eminently clear from Donald Trump’s U.S.A. that you can leverage electoral wins by deliberately polarizing your nation and pitting citizens against each other — in a way that may eventually spell a once-great nation’s downfall. As a different Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, put in in 1858 during the battle against slavery, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

In any democracy where a limited number of people actually get out and vote, a small, organized faction of the electorate can tip the balance of an election, and in the process, garner ongoing support, even if its central message is hate.

Hopefully, our politicians will feel that the good of our country is more important than the short-term personal political benefits of setting Canadian against Canadian.

Hopefully, ordinary Canadians will feel that voting is a civic duty, a responsibility, and a necessary hedge against the hijacking of our country by reactionary elements within it.

Today is an interesting day for the United States. Tomorrow may be much worse.

Let’s not go down that road.

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