An election dominated by a man who wasn’t running

by | Nov 13, 2022 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I looked. Really hard. I went up and down my ballot in the voting booth last Tuesday, scanning all the candidates.

I never saw Donald Trump.

Yet here we are, almost a week after the election, and if you surveyed coverage of the results so far — and the reasons given for the results so far — “Trump” is the name mentioned more than any other.

“Is Trump To Blame? asked USA TODAY.

“Trump is a Bust for Republicans,” Politico shouted.

“Trump is the Chief Obstacle to a Republican Revival,” said the New York Times.

Not an hour passes in the news cycle where his name isn’t invoked. Whether you think he helped get Republicans elected (J.D. Vance) or defeated (Tudor Dixon, Mehmet Oz), you can’t escape the endless debate over Trump’s effect. How his rallies made people pull certain levers. How his promise of a “major announcement” spooked people’s decisions.

Has everyone forgotten that for the last 22 months, the man has been OUT OF OFFICE?

You’d never know it. Left, right, center, it’s hard to reach any other conclusion:

This election was dominated by a ghost.

He’s everywhere

Now, it’s clear that those who love Donald Trump him love him love him a lot, those who hate him hate him a lot, and most folks in between are wary about even mentioning his name, for fear of losing their seat at the Thanksgiving table.

But we should be asking ourselves this: Should one man matter to us so much?This is America. A democracy, not a kingdom. Why should one person so thoroughly disrupt the American thought process?

Honestly, I think back on every election in my lifetime and I can’t find a non-active politician ever having this effect.

Sure, there was some churning over Bill Clinton when Hillary Rodham Clinton decided to run. And Ronald Reagan’s name has been invoked by those wishing to mimic his governance, as well as those wishing to avoid it.

But those are tepid examples. Sidebars. Filler. Trump, out of office for nearly two years, still feels like the main event. His feuds, his name calling, his threats, his promises, his predictions, his legal battles, his endless preoccupation with the results of the 2020 election.

I’ll say it, if no one else will.

I’m worn out.

Living in the past

Trump’s raison d’etre is to have everyone talking about him all the time. But ask yourself: Are we a better country for doing so?

Both parties are guilty. Democrats won’t stop fixating on Trump because they see a template to power: Joe Biden was elected largely because he wasn’t Donald Trump, remember?So Dems frame as many Republicans as possible through Trump prisms — calling them “MAGA,”  or “extremists,” in some cases even funneling support to those Republicans to help them win primaries,in order to cripple them in the main event.

Meanwhile, Republicans who might privately rebuke Trump keep silent when pressed, for fear of losing standing, enraging a certain faction, or seeing an opponent endorsed.

But think of how deeply this infatuation has robbed us. How many candidates couldn’t be evaluated for their true potential because they were draped by the label “election denier”? How many candidates missed opportunities to express new Republican ideas for fear of straying too far from the Trump path?

How much time was spent screaming about candidates’ views of a 2-year-old election that wasn’t spent on issues of today — like inflation, crime, the border or the war in Ukraine? And behind all those 2020 revisits loomed a single, preening figure, arms crossed, enjoying all the fuss.

Is this the best we can do?

Why can’t people just walk away from Donald Trump? The likelihood of him winning office in 2024, at age 78, seems unrealistic on several counts. First of all, an American president being gone for four years and winning another term has only happened once in history. Grover Cleveland did it in the late 1800s. But he won the popular vote three straight times, losing the Electoral College vote in between.

Trump, by contrast, has never won the popular vote. With him in the picture, his party has lost the House in 2018, all three branches in 2020, and the inertia the opposing party usually claims in the 2022 midterms. Does that seem like a winning trend?

Then there’s the American psyche, which doesn’t relish going backward. Our appetite for the new thing is insatiable. Trump already feels, to some, like old news desperate to be relevant again. Imagine how he will come across in two years.

I know polls today suggest Trump would be the GOP frontrunner if he announces for 2024 (as we all know he will). But polls have been proven rather useless lately. And a poll now does not reflect the country a year later.

I can’t be the only person who wonders why our political potential seems so limited. America is chock full of brilliant minds, creative thinkers, innovators, motivators, philanthropists, people who truly impress.

But while they lead in their fields, they rarely show interest in leading the country. Why? Is it because they fear that in the end, all things funnel down to a personality showdown with whoever can fight the nastiest?

If that’s the case, we really need to rethink things. One person should never dominate an American political system so brilliantly conceived by our forefathers to spread the power around. Ghosts are only good for haunting. Trump’s just haunted an entire election.

Contact Mitch Albom: Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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