A Quiet Past, a Stormy Present

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

- Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln's 1863 observation is perhaps more apt for future generations than when he delivered those words to a joint session of Congress shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. They are particularly appropriate for examining the 2016 presidential campaign, especially when it comes to Donald Trump.

The chattering class, while consistently predicting Donald Trump's demise, is enthralled by his antics like a month to a flame. The verbose, ill-informed and narcissistic musings of Trump make former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, at times, look like Winston Churchill.

In the previous presidential election cycle, it would have been inconceivable to believe that someone running for the nation's highest office could have disgracefully lampooned an individual with uncontrollable arm movements caused by a congenital joint condition. But the Trumpster did it, openly mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.

Is there a large enough swath of this country desiring an outsider to be elected president so strongly they are willing to ignore behavior reasonable persons would consider uncivilized?

If I were a betting man, I, too, would lay odds on Trump's eventual demise. The fact that it hasn't happened yet may reflect that what we once thought were the rules have changed.

Are, as Lincoln surmised, the dogmas of the quiet past inadequate to the stormy present? Could it be our examination of the current process is through a lens that is antiquated?

Perhaps it is too early to call it an indicator of change, but Democrat John Bel Edwards' recent convincing victory over his Republican challenger Sen. David Vitter in the Louisiana governor's race should draw attention. To put it bluntly, it's been a long time since a Democrat won statewide in Louisiana.

Once considered a slam-dunk in the GOP column, political prognosticators scrambled at the 11th hour to alter their assessments. It has been commonly accepted by many that Vitter was not exactly a stellar candidate.

Marred by a 2007 prostitution scandal, where Vitter's phone number was found on a list kept by Deborah Palfrey, the so-called "DC Madam," who was convicted of running a prostitution ring in the U.S. capital, he did not project the requisite confidence with voters to be granted the keys to the Baton Rouge governor's mansion.

But the unpopularity of incumbent GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, which, at the time of the election stood at 20 percent, according to a poll conducted by the University of New Orleans, also factored in the race. Last spring, Jindal and the Republican-dominated legislature were forced to raise taxes, rolling back tax breaks in order to close a massive budget hole.

Although one election does not a trend make, a deeply flawed candidate, seeking to replace an unpopular governor, offering the same policies that forced a tax increase (tantamount to blasphemy in GOP circles), opens the door for change.

Moreover, the portion of the narrative that should be most disconcerting to Republicans is that the results occurred in an off-year election. In recent years, this has been the area that Republicans have dominated.

Edwards' convincing victory is also noteworthy because he has pledged to sign an executive order authorizing the expansion of health-care insurance on his first day in office. If Edwards makes good on his campaign pledge, it would provide coverage to about 225,000 residents in one of the poorest states in the nation.

The significance of this pledge is that Edwards was willing to openly run on an issue (the Affordable Care Act) that for years had Democrats in fear for their political lives.

Does this mean that Louisiana will be competitive in 2016 or that Trump will still be viable when Republicans hold their national convention in Cleveland next year? Maybe the Trump phenomenon and Edwards' gubernatorial victory are nothing more than aberrations, taking center stage until the status quo is ready to assume its rightful place.

My guess, and only a guess, this is much ado about nothing because the only poll that matters is the one conducted when votes are actually cast.