“We need to show our new president support,” they say. Oh, how I remember trying to convince people of this eight years ago. I urged my friends on the other side of the political spectrum to do this for then President-elect Obama.
“He’ll never be my president,” a friend told me then. “Never.”
“Born in Kenya. Black. Traitor. Muslim,” they said. No matter the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they steadfastly resolved to block his every move. Even when it meant standing in the way of progress for all. It didn’t matter whether logic or reason urged them to reconsider.
They wanted family values, we gave them a man who loves his wife and children, with no scandals to blur the vision he saw for our beloved country. They asked for a man of wisdom, we voted for a constitutional scholar who pledged to uphold and defend this most sacred of our documents. They demanded someone of unimpeachable moral values, we presented them with a man raised by strong and loving people from the esteemed breadbasket of America. We cried out for hope as a middle class long-deserted by decades of an economic theory that had failed numerous tests. Every attempt this president made to try new avenues toward strengthening us all was blocked by an opposition whose only goal was to stymie his vision which helped elect him. We waited, implored and begged our legislative leaders to reach across that aisle and forge compromises, to no avail.
Ronald Reagan had an opposition Congress, and its leader, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, disagreed with the new president on nearly every policy. Yet these two men knew the traditional value of compromise, the integrity of finding common ground. Today, we hear all about “St. Ronnie” achievements, yet his economic policies enriched only the richest and led to the dismantling of America’s Great Middle Class.
Instead of acknowledging the tragic consequences of “trickle down economics,” today’s GOP stubbornly holds onto these ideas as if they are the physiological makeup of our flag. They use and wave the flag as if this hallowed symbol of freedom is solely their own. It flies battered and torn from pickups and motorcycles, incorporated into clothing design too. This same flag, which millions have fought bravely under for two centuries and which solemnly adorns the caskets of fallen soldiers and statesmen, has become a rallying symbol for those whose political affiliation differs from mine. I don’t begrudge them their freedom or beliefs, but I also don’t consider them more patriotic than anybody else just because they proudly fly our flag. Rather than this symbol representing all who live here, it seems to have been hijacked by one political party for dubious reasons.
Each presidential election stirs Americans to loudly proclaim how worthy their candidate is for office. Having studied presidential history since I heard Sen. Robert Kennedy had been assassinated in 1968, it’s painfully obvious that nobody is prepared for this awesome duty. Many have been weak. It has killed others, and the power has corrupted more than a few. Of 44 presidents, only a handful truly stand out as remarkable. Running for this office is one thing, but they all report the incredible pressure they feel once they’ve actually won. Since President Reagan left a note for George H. W. Bush when he left office saying “Don’t let the turkeys get you down,” it’s become a tradition for the outgoing chief executive to leave a note for his successor. It’s a brotherhood of sorts. None of them, despite whatever previous experience they’ve had, is truly prepared to perform the duties of our presidency. Most of them grow with the office, but it isn’t for the weak-hearted. Trump hasn’t had to actually work one day of his life, and has already complained about the massive responsibilities of the presidency. It seems he only ran for the prestige, and now that he actually won the office, he’s afraid of the work involved. He’s a wimp, quite honestly. He brags a lot, insults many without conscience, and tries to push people around. He’s the bully on the playground, and the presidency is about to punch him in the nose.
All through this excruciatingly painful election cycle, I’ve cringed at the thought of a Trump administration. While another Clinton presidency would likely have resulted in one “*gate” controversy after another due to poisonous political venom which follows her every step, Hillary came across as a strong and mostly honest choice. It appeared she would clean up, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Americans know better than to expect the expected. I’ve voted both sides of the aisle in my life, but I’ve never believed one candidate or the other would not be able to effectively lead our nation, regardless of party affiliation. Until now.
The first thing I noticed about Mr. Trump was his lack of a smile. When he does, it looks more like a forced smirk than the trademark of a genuinely decent human. I did not agree with President George W., it was obvious that his smile was genuine. But he understood the strength of the American people and tried to do his best. History will not judge him very kindly, but I never believed his intentions were anything but good. I disagreed with his policies, but he believed his motives were honorable. He did lie us into war and ruin the economy, but I’ll bet this was largely due to bad advice than his intentions to do what he believed was the right thing.
Mr. Trump has done his best to insult a great number of those he will vow to protect in two months. The popular vote appears to favor Sec. Clinton, but the Electoral College is going to promote this vain egomaniac to our most sacred office. I shudder at the thought of his making good on promises designed to promote the wealthy and exploit the hard-working folks who gave him their vote. It’s like electing the jock in high school to class president because he’s more popular than the smart kid who actually has ideas about how to help his fellow students.
Some of Mr. Trump’s supporters have taken the opportunity to boldly proclaim their “right” to threaten their fellow Americans they deem unworthy or unholy. A friend of mine reported her friend was called a “nigger” in Bend a few days ago. She says the bigot told her it was “okay to do that again” now his candidate had won the presidency. Does this mean all the hard work to proclaim racism as unacceptable has been in vain? Will Mr. Trump be escorted by an honor guard of the KKK wherever he travels? Does this fool believe the millions of Americans who don’t share his pale skin deserve less than he does? If this is the attitude of half our electorate, we face a horrific and grim future together.
Each president has a certain measure of vanity, yet the most successful have managed to balance it with a heavy dose of humility. Will Mr. Trump finally find the decency we expect a president to possess? Perhaps he will, but if the campaign was any indicator, I sincerely doubt his ability to heal the wounds of half the voters.
I watched the returns come in election night in total disbelief. The anger of our electorate exploded the next day in shows of protest and violence never before witnessed in our country. While many protesters felt duty-bound to voice their First Amendment rights to demonstrate, they were infiltrated by the infuriated masses unable to control their emotions. This led to police moving to protect as they are sworn to do, which further enraged the protesters who felt they were being denied their freedom to protest. For nearly an entire week, I’ve watched my city of Portland erupt, along with many other American cities, into fiery storms of fury. This is sadder than the election results, because it further illuminates the split between our fellow Americans. We blame each other, we accuse people of heinous acts even when the evidence doesn’t support such claims.
Today’s political climate is comparable to what Abraham Lincoln (my personal favorite) faced after being elected. Families were split, torn apart by political ideology and the issue of slavery. I’ve read many books about this man, and I’m still amazed how by using his abilities of strong reason and true humility, combined with a passionate and steely resolve, he was ultimately able to protect our union. He paid for this victory with his life, but he knew it would happen. It had to. Simply winning a war cannot be the sole ointment to heal a country torn apart. How can a man with no outward appearance of justice believe he can “Make America Great Again?” By all reports I’ve seen, we’ve been working toward greatness for over 240 years now. We’ve achieved this many a time, but we’ve also stumbled. Mr. Trump has a lot of work to do, but he appears to lack the tools to bring us together and ensure domestic tranquility.
In order for this republic to succeed, it desperately needs to renew its ability to compromise. I’m not always right, and you’re not always wrong. Good laws are made through hearing all sides of an issue, not just those of a legislative majority. The greater good is usually served by finding common ground, fixing errors as they are found, and always striving to leave a lasting and decent legacy for those who follow. It is not served when policies are totally reversed every term of office, depending on the prevailing winds of our wayward voices. It takes intestinal fortitude, divine guidance and immense humility to do the right thing, even when it pisses people off.
President Lincoln understood his choices had grave consequences, but he made decisions he felt were best for our country. Many people misjudged his intentions but he didn’t allow this to cloud his vision. He knew he would be judged later based on what ultimately was the right thing to do, rather than what was currently popular. “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time,” he once mused.
When President Obama leaves office, he once again becomes a private citizen. History will, like it has with each who served before him, be both kind and cruel. To consider what he’s accomplished in the face of numbing hatred and stubborn obstruction, is worthy of respect. His intentions have been good. He hasn’t solved all our problems, but he has achieved success in many others. As our Constitution dictates, he will leave office. As tradition mandates, he has vowed to help Mr. Trump in his transition to the presidency. In this instance, our democracy still works. It’s up to the new guy to convince us he’s capable of performing the duties he’s been hired to fulfill. Not even if President Obama’s traditional letter to his successor is a textbook-worthy instruction manual will Mr. Trump rise to the complex mission he’s been given. Unfortunately, he will ultimately fall victim to those who supported him. He’s not morally capable of competently doing the job, and it’s frightening. The wolves are waiting for him to falter, and he probably will.
I pray for a miracle, but I lack confidence one is coming. We’re going to need all the help we can get. God Bless the United States of America.