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Electing a president of a divided nation


That was quite a show the Democrats put on in Philadelphia last week. And it’s hard to imagine anything that better displays the differences between the Democratic and the Republican parties – and anything that better spells out the dangers Donald Trump presents.

All in all, it was an emotional, inspirational four days, highlighted by Khizr Khan’s powerful Trump take-down. Khan, a immigrant from Pakistan, defined the Republicans’ candidate – and laid out what America should be, and can be – in a way no one else could.

By the convention’s end, I was relaxing a little, easing back from the dread the Trump show had inspired:
The Clinton campaign has it under control. The America on display at the Democratic convention was the America that we know and want. Put all those folks on the road, air clips from their speeches for the next three months, and a Clinton landslide in November isn’t out of the question.

And yet… it’s too early to know whether the Democrats can persuade enough people to get Clinton elected. It’s too early to know whether they can convert Bernie Sanders’ unhappiest supporters. Too early to tell whether they can sway the anti-Clinton voters who plan to support Green Party candidate Jill Stein as a statement of principle. Maybe all of those people on the stage at the DNC convention were simply preaching to the choir, there and at home.

Let us hope not. Because Hillary Clinton is right: This is a moment of reckoning. Donald Trump is a dangerous person, and it would be a disaster, for this country and for the world, if he were elected.

That any of us are even worrying about that, and that Donald Trump has the support he has, is a sign of a problem that’s much deeper, and much more serious, than the flaws of this single candidate. We are a deeply divided nation. But for the country to succeed, and for the experiment of American democracy to succeed, it will take all of us, not just a bare majority of voters.

We have become a multi-cultural country. That is fact. Many Americans were not happy with what they saw at the Democratic Convention. Many of them wish we could be what they imagine we were decades ago. No political candidate or president can force them to change their mind.

We need a president who can educate us – educate all of us – help us begin to heal, help bring us together. Barack Obama hasn’t been able to do that. I don’t see how Clinton will be able to, either, given her abysmally low “trust” ratings.

Still, bringing us together will be a long-term effort; the country has a multitude of immediate challenges, domestic and foreign. Hillary Clinton is clearly qualified to be president. And she is the sole sensible alternative to Donald Trump: the “sane, competent” alternative, as Michael Bloomberg put it last Wednesday night.

It will take more than getting Clinton to the White House, though. She has to get things done. That means that she’ll have to have a cooperative Congress.

Journalists on last Thursday’s Diane Rehm show suggested that there’s a lot of support among Americans for ticket splitting – that people may be so appalled by Trump that they’ll vote for Clinton but because they don’t like her, they’ll vote for a Republican for Senate to keep her in check.

And the Republicans in Congress may be satisfied with that; too many of them have accepted the Trump take-over for us to think otherwise. They despise Clinton, but if they keep control of Congress, they can insure that she doesn’t accomplish much. They can ride out the next four years and run a better candidate against her in 2020.

If that’s the case, we’re facing a threat to the country’s future that is second only to that of a Trump presidency.