This column has argued for a while now that there is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy. At least a one-party autocracy can order things to get done.
A one-party democracy — that is, a two-party system where only one party is interested in governing and the other is in constant blocking mode, which has characterized America in recent years — is much worse. It can’t do anything big, hard or important.
We can survive a few years of such deadlock in Washington, but we sure can’t take another four or eight years without real decay setting in, and that explains what I’m rooting for in this fall’s elections: I hope Hillary Clinton wins all 50 states and the Democrats take the presidency, the House, the Senate and, effectively, the Supreme Court. That is the best thing that could happen to America, at least for the next two years — that Donald Trump is not just defeated, but is crushed at the polls. That would have multiple advantages for our country.
First, if Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we will have a chance (depending on the size of a Democratic majority in the Senate) to pass common-sense gun laws. That would mean restoring the Assault Weapons Ban, which was enacted as part of the 1994 federal crime bill but expired after 10 years, and making it illegal for anyone on the terrorist watch list to buy a gun. I don’t want to touch any citizen’s Second Amendment rights, but the notion that we can’t restrict military weapons that are increasingly being used in mass murders defies common sense — yet it can’t be fixed as long as today’s GOP controls any branch of government.
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If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we can borrow $100 billion at close to zero interest for a national infrastructure rebuild to deal with some of the nation’s shameful deferred maintenance of roads, bridges, airports and rails and its inadequate bandwidth, and create more blue-collar jobs that would stimulate growth.
If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we will have a chance to put in place a revenue-neutral carbon tax that would stimulate more clean energy production and allow us to reduce both corporate taxes and personal income taxes, which would also help spur growth.
If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we can fix whatever needs fixing with Obamacare, without having to junk the whole thing. Right now we have the worst of all worlds: The GOP will not participate in any improvements to Obamacare nor has it offered a credible alternative.
At the same time, if Clinton crushes Trump in November, the message will be sent by the American people that the game he played to become the Republican nominee — through mainstreaming bigotry; name-calling; insulting women, the handicapped, Latinos and Muslims; retweeting posts by hate groups; ignorance of the Constitution; and a willingness to lie and make stuff up with an ease and regularity never seen before at the presidential campaign level — should never be tried by anyone again. The voters’ message, “Go away,” would be deafening.
Finally, if Trump presides over a devastating Republican defeat across all branches of government, the GOP will be forced to do what it has needed to do for a long time: take a time out in the corner. In that corner Republicans could pull out a blank sheet of paper and on one side define the biggest forces shaping the world today — and the challenges and opportunities they pose to America — and on the other side define conservative, market-based policies to address them.
Our country needs a healthy center-right party that can compete with a healthy center-left party. Right now, the GOP is not a healthy center-right party. It is a mishmash of religious conservatives; angry white males who fear they are becoming a minority in their own country and hate trade; gun-control opponents; pro-lifers; anti-regulation and free-market small-business owners; and pro- and anti-free trade entrepreneurs.
The party was once held together by the Cold War. But as that faded away it has been held together only by renting itself out to whomever could energize its base and keep it in power — Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party, the National Rifle Association. But at its core there was no real common dominator, no take on the world, no real conservative framework. The party grew into a messy, untended garden, and Donald Trump was like an invasive species that finally just took over the whole thing.
Party leaders can all still call themselves Republicans. They can even hold a convention with a lot of GOP elephant balloons. But the truth is, the party’s over. Thoughtful Republicans have started to admit that. John Boehner gave up being speaker of the House because he knew that his caucus had become a madhouse, incapable of governing.
A Clinton sweep in November would force more Republicans to start rebuilding a center-right party ready to govern and compromise. And a Clinton sweep would also mean Hillary could govern from the place where her true political soul resides — the center-left, not the far left.
I make no predictions about who will win in November. But I sure know what I’m praying for — and why.
Thomas Friedman writes for The New York Times.