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Herb Rothschild Jr.: My election reflection

Well, I’ll have a go at election commentary, from which I’ve largely refrained this fall. My first comment: Thank God! My second: Alleluia! Those are my best offerings. The others are anticlimactic, but I’m obligated to fill my allotted column inches.

How predictable that Trump accused Democrats of stealing the election. Loading his own sins upon his opponents — “Lying Ted Cruz,” “Crooked Hillary” — is so habitual a projection you wonder why even he hasn’t tumbled to it. It failed with Joe Biden, though. The man’s decency shines. Republicans will have a hard time whupping up on President Biden, harder than with Bill Clinton because he’s a weasel and Obama because he’s black.

We’re indebted to the officials responsible for the election process in their states and municipalities for depriving the Trump campaign of any basis for claiming fraud. Regardless of their party affiliation, those functionaries were indignant that the campaign impugned their integrity. The flurry of lawsuits arguing skulduggery will prove embarrassing to lawyers for the plaintiffs. I hope Giuliani argues one of them in person.

Americans always use “bureaucrat” pejoratively. Do we ever bother to ask why? People who carry out their designated public functions in disregard of who’s in power are a bulwark against the abuse of that power. That’s why the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 was a major victory for democracy. Thanks to it and several subsequent revisions, by 1909, the appointments of almost two-thirds of the federal civilian workforce were based on qualifications measured by tests, and civil servants were shielded from politically motivated dismissal.

No wonder that Trump moved on Oct. 21 to strip hundreds of thousands of federal civil servants of those protections. He claimed his executive order was meant to improve efficiency and accountability. Given that he’s repeatedly dismissed unprotected federal employees for refusing to knuckle under to his demands, his true motive was obvious. That order is one of several reasons to believe that four more years of Trump would have meant the triumph of authoritarian rule. I’m sure it will be among the first of many Trump executive orders that Biden will countermand.

Looking at the map of this year’s election results, one sees a growing number of battleground states. The GOP can no longer take Arizona and Georgia for granted, and they lost the Congressional district centered on Omaha. Texas will require them to spend time and money there henceforth, and Iowa is getting more purple again. Regarding Democrats, 2016 taught them that they can’t take Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania for granted, and this election confirmed that lesson.

Add all these states (and one Congressional district each in Nebraska and Maine) to the perennial battlegrounds of Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, and we see an expanded challenge for both parties in presidential elections. I regard this development as potentially beneficial. It may force both parties to move beyond base politics.

Democrats can’t remain the party only of the college-educated plus African Americans. They will have to win over more white working-class voters and also more Hispanics, many of whom have the same sense that their hard work isn’t being properly rewarded. Republicans will have more difficulty expanding their base because Trump consolidated and magnified the identity politics of his party. He did remarkably well by gaining the fervent loyalty of a minority of voters, but he may have put his party astride a half-wild horse that only he can ride.

Herb Rothschild’s column appears in the Ashland Tidings every Saturday.