In order for the United States to be the center of the universe, it must be ruled from the center. Any threat to govern it from the margins, either the right or left, threatens international stability – which is already weakening under the pressure of non-state forces, led by Islamic extremists.
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Hillary Clinton represents the American center, a solid base for recruiting a political majority that allows it to run the country. Donald Trump is the entertainment after the news, not its replacement. It’s okay to have fun, but you’re not allowed to go crazy.
The United States as a global superpower is a relatively recent phenomenon, only from the second half of World War II. While America’s joining World War I decided its fate, the Republican Senate blocked Democratic President Woodrow Wilson from joining the League of Nations, and the United States retreated to its traditional isolationism of the 19th century.
The novelty of the 1940s, initiated by Democratic presidents, was to dive into a hot war followed by a Cold one. Roosevelt and Truman led U.S. involvement in both campaigns – in battle and in the diplomatic arena. Because the public remained skeptical, suspicious and fundamentally isolationist, it needed the consent of its representatives – especially senior Republican senators.
The United States has traveled in Truman’s middle lane for seven decades. Presidents from both parties came and went, but the differences in foreign and defense policy between Eisenhower and Kennedy, between Johnson and Nixon, and so on, were a matter of subtleties, not substance, fluctuating only according to circumstances.
Deviations were not tolerated. Barry Goldwater, representing the far right in 1964, and George McGovern, from the far left in 1972, were weeded out. In the 1976 election, Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter – a southern governor and former nuclear submarine commander – had a security-minded image, slightly to the right, no less so than the Republican president. However, after Carter disappointed Democratic right-wingers, they defected to Ronald Reagan and returned the Republicans to power in 1980.
The practice of putting on the brakes and maintaining a balance worked. The Democratic congressional majority championed the principle of participation, not silence. The system started going off the rails when Newt Gingrich’s disciples raised the banner of Republican revolt against Bill Clinton in the ’90s. And the screeching grew louder because of the racist hatred toward Barack Obama.
But the expression of this was, and has continued to be, mainly through questions of internal affairs and the economy, society and welfare. On matters of foreign policy and security, continuity was demonstrated, with adjustments made over time. And the more averse the administration became toward putting boots on the ground overseas, the more this reflected a public aversion to paying the price in blood.
People don’t become president by being pure and holy. It is clear that their rival is no less clean, just less talented at leveraging power. Hillary Clinton’s character is better suited to being head of government in the British, German or Israeli parliaments than the U.S. presidency – which has enormous authority yet is helpless if Congress is contrarian and in the hands of conservatives mourning the loss of the South in the Civil War, or still having a hard time accepting the rise of blacks and women to the very pinnacle of power.
The United States did not have founding mothers. The right to vote, and the ability to be elected by people who are not white men, were secured through blood, sweat and tears. But this is the internal test of U.S. society, which boasts of its ability to adapt to new circumstances, grounded by the Constitution. The external test is in holding the centrist line of responsible, bipartisan, non-isolationist and non-adventurous global engagement. It is a line that will be based on the mandate of its president – not an inciting, ignorant person for whom a “mandate” is an encounter with a woman, not necessarily by consent.