A defining election?

In his speech to the Democratic National Convention this year, President Obama declared:

I think it’s fair to say, this is not your typical election. It’s not just a choice between parties or policies; the usual debates between left and right. This is a more fundamental choice — about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.

(Emphasis added)

But now that the Democrats have lost, it’s no longer in the Obama administration’s interest to say that anything fundamental has been decided. Thus, we find Jen Psaki, former spokesperson at the Clinton State Department and now the White House communications director, saying:

An election is a comparison between two people and two candidates on the ballot. It’s not an evaluation of who we are as a society.

(Emphasis added)

I suspect that Psaki’s former boss would disagree. Hillary is probably uncomfortable with the idea that she came out the loser in a straight up comparison with Donald Trump.

Which was it? Did America simply adjudicate between two people or did we decide who we are?

Psaki is partly right. To some degree, an election is always a comparison between the candidates on the ballot. Moreover, it’s surely rare that any single election defines who are as a people.

I don’t believe that by electing Trump we said who we are. However, we may have said who we aren’t.

As a society, we aren’t comfortable with the Democrats’ statist vision; with their attacks on individual freedom in the name of “social justice”; with their favoritism towards certain classes of people; and with the way they enrich their friends while treating many of us as their moral inferiors.

If these Democrats had won three consecutive presidential elections, it would have gone a very long way towards determining “who we are as a people” and “whether we stay true to this great experiment in self-government.” Thus, President Obama wasn’t wrong when he emphasized the importance of this election in those terms.

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