As the countdown for tonight’s Republican debate enters its final hours, American politics—and to a greater extent–America stand at a crossroads. After nearly seven years of Barack Obama’s stoicism and “Mr. Spock” approach to governing, a cast of characters so illogical, over-emotional, and downright anti-intellectual will grace the stage in Cleveland, Ohio. They will no doubt castigate Obama’s legacy as president, lambasting every policy, executive action, and statement ever uttered by the two-term president. For this group of candidates, they are not looking toward the future, but a way to bring the nation to a screeching halt before putting the car in reverse.
The prospect of reversing the nation is truly terrifying. The country remains at the precipice on a host of defining issues that could make or break these United States. Climate change, unabated economic, social, and racial inequality, and the prospect of continued ground wars in west Asia must be addressed by Obama’s successor and thus far, every Republican firmly stands in opposition to any progress made over the last six and one half years.
However, what’s scarier than the ten anti-science, anti-progress, anti-equality candidates that will grunt and roar are the sheep that follow them. Whether it’s due to almost universal name recognition or his inane politics, Donald Trump is clearly the GOP frontrunner, with a year until the nomination is bestowed upon someone. In Trump we see a reflection of the very Americans who support him: anti-intellectuals, hell bent on regressing the nation. Perhaps it’s our obsession with the Internet, cable news, or the lack of factual information available nowadays, or perhaps it’s that many no longer read a book not written by a conservative talking head or politician. Regardless, the prospect of widespread anti-intellectualism fueled by conservative rhetoric is frightening and perhaps damning us to our end.
As it stands now, it seems likely Hillary Clinton will capture the Democratic nomination for president and more than likely, the White House. Will that may disappoint many of our progressive readers, Clinton serving as president is a far better prospect than the Donald, Scott Walker, or even Jeb Bush. The conservative minority committed to taking our country over the cliff will not stop and having their “guy” in the White House will only expedite the process. Their goal is simple: stop progress and erase any legacy Barack Obama will leave when he departs the White House of January 20, 2017.
That cannot happen.
Right now, wildfires rage in the West, with extreme droughts a contributing factor. Tampa found itself under water as a result of torrential, seemingly endless rain in recent days. Neither story is an isolated incident and simply marks the beginning of the new normal. If we do not act on climate change, it is unlikely my children or grandchildren will get to enjoy the same quality of life we enjoy today. If a Republican candidate finds himself in the White House come 2017, the worst-case scenarios are likely.
The situation is similar in the Middle East. While the current administration is using a combination of airstrikes to defeat ISIS, while using diplomacy with adversarial nations when possible, we can hopefully avoid another large-scale long-term war in the Middle East. However, given the rhetoric Republican candidates used in reaction to the deal with Iran, a GOPer in the White House surely means a strong possibility that sizable numbers of ground troops will return to west Asia in the coming years.
None of this factors in how unlikely it is a Republican will want to tackle economic, social, gender, or racial inequalities, that continue to plague our nation. Gun violence in our movie theaters, schools, and churches will remain off the table, and it seems likely a Republican administration will move to repeal the Affordable Care Act, thus stripping health insurance from millions of Americans in one fell swoop.
For the future of our country, none of these actions are tenable. The next president must continue the march toward progress, but there remains a problem. Remember the anti-intellectualism I mentioned? They’re not going anywhere and if the Democrats retain the White House, it’s unlikely the hostile atmosphere faced by President Obama will abate. Thanks to gerrymandering by conservatives across the country, right wing Republican will hold the House and likely put up the same combative obstructionism under a President Clinton or Sanders as they’ve done under Obama.
So, as you watch the debate tonight, playing drinking games and munching on popcorn, remember that tonight’s entertainment could become our nation’s future if we’re not careful. It’s not a future we—or the next generation of Americans—can afford.