At long last, today is Election Day. After 18 months of the craziest, most stomach-churning election antics in modern history, tonight the Obama Era begins to draw to a close and we’ll get a brand new president of the United States.
If you haven’t already voted, then I humbly suggest you take care of that before the polls close at 8 p.m. You can read the rest of this column after you’re done.
The sobering truth is that no matter who prevails today, the deep wounds ripped opened by this contentious, poisonous campaign season won’t just magically be healed now that the election is coming to an end.
Neither side will calmly accept a win by the other side and go gently into that good night.
If Hillary wins, many Republicans will refuse to accept her victory as legitimate under any circumstances. This is largely due to Trump spending the last several months planting the face-saving idea that it’s impossible for him to lose unless he’s cheated out of the win by massive corruption and voter fraud.
Never mind the reality that fixing a national election in America is made virtually impossible by the fact that the election is decentralized, with all 50 states working independently of one another to hold their elections and count their votes.
It’s also worth pointing out that Republicans control the majority of state houses in the country, which means that the only plausible way for Hillary to rig the election would be if she somehow convinced 33 Republican state legislatures to betray their party and anoint her president.
That scenario seems more than a little unlikely.
And if somehow Donald Trump winds up running the table, winning every battleground state as well as flipping a blue state and beating the odds to become president, the cultural and international shockwaves of such an upset could have huge unforeseen ripple effects, from the financial markets to our alliances with dozens of countries around the world.
If Hillary wins, the Republicans have already made clear their strategy: doubling down on the relentless obstruction that caused paralyzing gridlock in Washington for the past six years.
They also plan to tie up Hillary in a series of rolling investigations to generate an unending cloud of doubt around her presidency, a strategy that could derail her administration’s focus and prevent her from getting anything accomplished – and perhaps end in an impeachment.
Oh, and the Republicans’ insistence that the American people should get to weigh in on the next Supreme Court appointment through their election of the next president? Apparently, Mitch McConnell neglected to specify that this deal was only valid if the next president was a Republican.
If Trump wins, he’ll be expected to make good on his big election promises of building a massive Escape From New York-sized wall across the Mexican border, and following through with the expulsion of 12 million undocumented immigrants through some sprawling new deportation force yet to be determined.
Both proposals would present huge practical challenges for our country.
If Hillary wins, the ominous talk of revolution we’re hearing from some white working-class individuals in social media could grow louder still. Expect gun sales to soar again on fears that the Second Amendment remains in jeopardy.
And if Trump wins? Expect the Black Lives Matter movement, the LGBTQ community, Muslim-Americans and other minority activist groups to push back against the perceived victory of white-grievance politics that threaten to reverse social progress and silence their diverse voices.
It would be nice to believe that our elected leaders could acknowledge just how close to the brink this election has brought the nation and exercise some sense of civic responsibility, encouraging them to work together for the good of the nation.
Unfortunately, in the current toxic political environment, compromise of any kind is seen as appeasing the enemy. Heaven forbid the minority party help the majority party get anything done nowadays. You can’t allow the other side a “win” under any circumstances. And if you do, then get ready to be primaried in the next election in favor of a more “pure” candidate.
Thing is, the path we’re on is unsustainable for a functioning democracy and getting worse with every election cycle. The polarization is deepening and the divisions are hardening.
In the old days, a war would pull the entire country together. Today we generate our own ideological wars, and the fallout is as bad as anything a foreign enemy could inflict.
It’s within our national interest to overcome the partisan rancor, respect our friends and neighbors, appreciate that everyone wants what’s best for his or her family and work together to find common ground to build upon.
Today, our country goes to the polls and votes for the vision of America its citizens most believe in. Tomorrow, the hard work of making that vision a reality begins.
Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.