In this space I recently wrote that I would be patient and give President-elect Donald J. Trump a chance to show that he understands what it takes to lead this country and to deal with the many issues confronting us today. As we approach the three-week mark from the election, and as Secretary Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote now approaches 2.5 million more votes than what Mr. Trump received, I find that my patience is being severely tested on many levels. I am keeping an open mind, but several troubling incidents surrounding his transition are making it difficult.
One begins to wonder if he really understands what it means to be President of the United States. Admittedly, we are only three weeks into the process and he deserves more time to get his administration and, frankly, his act together. Few (and I suspect that does not include Mr. Trump) truly thought that he would win the election. He did, and now he and his aides are facing a steep learning curve to get ready to serve the country. Not unprecedented, especially since he has no prior governing experience. That said, there are several troubling aspects to his transition that signal that he may not be ready, and even more troubling, unwilling, to assume the responsibilities of the office in a manner consistent with the customs and traditions of our great country. It appears that he has not yet figured out that he now works for us, the citizens that hired him, rather than the other way around. It has become a cliché that he promised to “shake things up” and that he was a non-traditional candidate so expect him to be a non-traditional president. I get it. However there are certain basic norms of good governing and representing our country that need to be appreciated and adopted by him.
Please! Take away his cell phone and take away his Twitter account!
Extremely troubling to this observer is his what can only be called a bizarre Tweet yesterday claiming that he actually won the popular vote. (Why do we call it the “popular vote” since it is the vote? It is the Electoral College that is the “other” vote.) He said that:
“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
No evidence. No proof. Just a reaction to the continued reporting that the gap in the vote continues to grow and another example of his wild and undisciplined need to lash out whenever he is criticized. Fake news presented as a fact. For a president-elect to make such a pronouncement is a serious threat to the legitimacy of our nation and the voting process. Very troubling. Even as he condemns the efforts of Dr. Jill Stein, the candidate of the Green Party to get recounts in Wisconsin and possibly Michigan and Pennsylvania where the margin of victory was very, very thin, he gives the best reason yet for holding such a recount. Investigate the results, in accordance with the law and established procedures, and see if all is okay. Even Secretary Clinton’s senior aides say that a recount is unlikely to change the result. So what is Mr. Trump’s problem?
Further evidence of his thin skin — and let’s face it, Democrat or Republican every president in this day and age is going to be criticized for something by someone every day — is his Tweet about the “totally biased” show that contains “nothing funny at all” when Saturday Night Live did a skit on him after the election (he has gone after them before). Stand by.
But here is what is most bothersome. He goes after SNL and other media presentations, which arguably is beneath the expected stature of the president-elect, but he does not go after the white supremacists that now believe they have a leader in Mr. Trump. He has called for unity and in an interview with, as he calls it, the “failing” New York Times, Mr. Trump said that “I disavow and condemn them.”
My question is if that is so, and he claims that no one reads the newspapers anymore, and that he wants to communicate directly with America by using Twitter, why hasn’t he sent a Tweet, or better yet, a series of them, specifically denouncing them, their leaders and their actions? For that matter, just saying “I want unity” is not the same thing as making a coherent speech to the American people, and I don’t mean on YouTube which appears to be his other outlet of choice. How about a speech that lays out his plan to unite us and specifically denounces the hate crimes that have sprung up around the country following his election? To borrow from the old Nike ads, “just do it.” Incidentally, Mr. Trump has not held a news conference since July. Just sayin’.
There may be a reason why he does not more forcefully denounce the white supremacists and other haters. Another way that we can judge Mr. Trump and his administration is by the people that he picks to fill key jobs. This is still a work in progress, but already some troubling appointments and processes are coming to the fore. To me, it is a bad sign that among his first three appointments were Mr. Steve Bannon and Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, USA (ret.). Before joining the Trump campaign, Mr. Bannon was the chief of Breitbart News, a publication known for supporting the white supremacist movement. (They call themselves the alt-right, but if you’ve seen any of their work, it is just another name for white supremacist filth.) General Flynn is known for sharing fake news in his speeches (such as saying Democrats in Florida tried to impose Sharia law) and his hard-line anti-Islamic rhetoric includes this memorable line in a speech that I am sure warmed the hearts of our ISIS enemies, as it is great propaganda for them:
“We are facing another ‘ism,’ just like we faced Nazism, and fascism, and imperialism and communism. This is Islamism, it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet and it has to be excised.”
So he believes a religion is the same as fascism and communism? 1.7 billion people need to be “excised”? Does that mean kill them all?
Both men are favorites of the white supremacists and so it is more than a little scary that the two most influential men in his administration that do not need Congressional approval to serve, are both haters of segments of our nation, and a larger segment of the world.
Published reports recount that Mr. Trump has been offered the same daily intelligence brief that the current president gets. In three weeks, he has received the brief only twice, rather than daily. (Vice President Pence, thankfully, is reported to take the brief almost every day.) The stated reason is that “he is busy.” I suspect that it has more to do with the influence of General Flynn who claims to know more than the briefers, and supposedly told Mr. Trump that the intelligence he was getting as a candidate was “wrong”. If Mr. Trump has time to meet with business associates from India and elsewhere during his working days, much less to Tweet so much, it would seem he could take a brief more than twice in twenty days. I fear that it reflects his lack of intellectual curiosity and his propensity to “wing it” rather than to have, you know, actual facts.
Other potential Cabinet appointments announced or considered by the Trump administration, such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) may not have vast national or international experience, but I am at least confident that they are principled, earnest and respected individuals. As Mr. Trump fills out his Cabinet, I hope that we see more nominations in line with the likes of Governor Haley and none in the line of General Flynn.
Surprisingly there is a very public battle over the nomination for Secretary of State. This will tell us a lot about the future of the Trump administration and their methods of governing. Mr. Trump seems to be favoring former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) as his choice. The Governor is another individual that I can respect as having principles and a love for our country that is greater than his own ambitions. In a nearly unprecedented move yesterday, leading Trump transition team advisers such as Kellyanne Conway were on the morning news shows publicly campaigning against Mr. Romney’s selection. Statements and reports indicate that the Trump insiders, with the exception of Vice President-elect Pence, are pushing hard for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R). Mr. Giuliani’s credentials are thin at best and if voters thought that Secretary Clinton’s speeches were over paid and to the wrong people, look up Mr. Giuliani’s record of having given speeches at very high prices to some not-so-nice folks around the world. If Mr. Trump picks Mr. Giuliani over Mr. Romney (or another equally qualified individual) that will be a tremendous signal that he cares more about “loyalty” to him personally rather than what is best for the country.
Finally, and equally trying of my patience, and I really am trying because if he does well, we all do well, is his refusal to divest or otherwise separate himself from his business dealings. To questions about releasing his tax returns and his intent to divest himself of his businesses, he basically said in interviews, “I don’t have to. I won.” He further pointed out that under the law, he has to do neither, which is true. The president and vice president are exempt under the law.
One would hope that a great leader would recognize the inherent doubt and constant conflict that will ensue if many of our citizens wonder about his decisions — are they based on the nation’s needs or on his personal business needs? Importantly, a great leader would recognize that although perhaps legal, it is not ethical. If everyone that will serve in his cabinet and below will be required to follow the law over conflicts of interest, tax returns and the like, shouldn’t the man at the top also reveal this information? To me, this will be another test of his character. Does he hide behind the law and continue with his “I won” mantra, or does he man up and do the right thing?
Placing his business dealings with his children, while they continue to sit in on high level meetings with foreign leaders, as has happened twice already in the last ten days, does not solve the problem. There are so many twists and turns in this story that the more he enlightens the nation, the more credible he becomes and the better able he will be to focus on the nation’s issues. We shall see.
It is early and there is still a chance for Mr. Trump to demonstrate that we should trust him and his decision-making ability. Unfortunately, the early signs are not all positive. The time between now and the first of the year will tell us a lot about the fate of our country in his hands over the coming years. The early signs seem to indicate that it will be a bumpy 2017. Hold on to your hats.
“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” — Hillary Clinton in her concession speech on 9 November 2016
In her concession speech, Secretary Clinton exhibited the best of our electoral traditions and history. She lost and he won and it is time to keep an open mind about the future. Like it or not, he’s the guy.
But, man oh man, I didn’t think it would be this hard.
There is one thing that sticks in my mind as I try to get my head around the idea of a President Donald J. Trump, and that is that he is the same person on 9 November that he was on 7 November. That may not be a good thing.
So many things come to mind about the election and about the future of our country under a President Trump. I could write multiple pages, and indeed I am sure people already have and any number of books will be written about this campaign in the coming months and years. However, I won’t go into all of that now. At the same time there are a few things that I do want to mention as I, and millions of others, try to make sense of this election.
I have been around the block a few times, and have believed strongly in other candidates that lost elections. I was disappointed but did not think badly of the candidates that won. I merely disagreed with their policies compared to my candidate, but as the Rolling Stones proclaim (and apparently Mr. Trump agrees as he used it as his theme song),
“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need.”
I am not so sure this time around.
To me, this time it is not about whether a Republican or a Democrat won or even that Secretary Clinton lost. It is that Mr. Trump won. Or at least he won the Electoral College, which in our system is all that counts. But lest we forget, for the second time in 16 years a candidate lost the election even though they won the popular vote. I will save for another time a discussion about the Electoral College. It could be anachronistic, but it is probably a good thing over all in that candidates must think about the nation as a whole, rather than individual centers of population.
So, no, it isn’t that my candidate lost. You have read in this space before about how I am confounded by Mr. Trump and his apparent lack of understanding of the important issues of our time, of the language he used while campaigning and his demonizing and/or demeaning every segment of our society save white men. That is well documented and I won’t rehash all that here. But it does have consequences.
Even though more people voted for Secretary Clinton than for Mr. Trump, I am worried that I thought the United States was something that apparently it is not. Many good people, Democrat and Republican, did not feel that Mr. Trump reflected or represented American values. What if we are wrong? What if his words and actions represent the America that we have become? That is truly chilling and worrying to me. His approach was validated. He gave validation to a worrisome fringe element in our society that now thinks it is mainstream. Before you blow a gasket, I am not inferring that all of Mr. Trump’s supporters were on the fringe. People voted for him for a vast number of reasons. But it remains a fact that his persona is not what we think of, or maybe I should say it is not what I think of, when I think of America. He took the politics of fear and anger and turned it to his personal advantage in the worst possible way. I will try to keep an open mind as his administration forms, but I will struggle to get beyond that fact.
I am particularly upset by the reaction of people close to me, and others that I have observed. Primarily women that worked in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s in an era where sexual harassment was a part of going to work. Those women experienced some form of harassment and discrimination almost daily, worked through it, and worked very hard to change the system. To them, Mr. Trump symbolizes every male that harassed them in the work place or on the streets. The women coming of age today face a totally different work place environment than their mothers and grandmothers faced. Thankfully. Unfortunately, the election of Mr. Trump in spite of his known actions, his recorded remarks and his crude on-the-record comments seem to many of these older, experienced women, to give the green light to go back to a time where women were judged on their appearance and not on their ability. It is a very sad and difficult time for them to see Mr. Trump in the White House.
One potential positive outcome of the election is that Mr. Trump, who in reality is neither a Republican nor a Democrat but more of third-party candidate that managed to get the Republican nomination, will have his opportunity to govern with the support of a Republican controlled Congress. To all of those disaffected voters who put him in the White House, stand by. In my mind this is a domestic version of President Nixon going to China. There will be no excuses if the lot of those supporters does not improve. Mr. Trump and the Republicans are in charge. They can only blame themselves if things don’t go their way. After years of “just say no”, anger and obstructionism, they have the chance to do all of the things that they promised.
But I am extremely skeptical that they can deliver. Most jobs in the Rust Belt and elsewhere were not lost to “deals” and trade pacts. They were lost to automation and technology. They aren’t coming back. The coal industry is not coming back. Steel mills are not coming back. One industry towns are not coming back. All of the things that white working class Americans think they will now see restored are extremely unlikely to return. We cannot turn back the clock to a nostalgia tinged 1950’s era. Perhaps in the coming years when the realization sets in that none of that will ever come back again, we can move forward into the 21st Century. We don’t need to bring back the old jobs, we need to educate and train our citizens for the jobs of the future. We cannot hold out for a white dominated society, we are headed for a multi-cultural society, like it or not, and no amount of anger will change that. So, perhaps when their guy is unable to deliver the goods, people will remember those days fondly, but finally move on and face reality. Perhaps that is the positive side of Mr. Trump as our president.
I suppose a true test of how willing Mr. Trump will be to bring the nation back together again will be two-fold. First, does he reach out to all of those he has offended during his campaign, and more importantly does he send a message to those that think it is now okay to demean and demonize portions of our society and tell them that he will not accept that?
Secondly, I think we will learn a lot about the direction he intends to take the country by his cabinet nominations. He hasn’t made any yet. Will he pick serious, qualified individuals willing to do what is right for our country even if it means disagreeing with the President, or will he pick a series of sycophants and has-beens? Only time will tell, but it isn’t a good sign that many of the names floated as trial balloons so far fall into the latter category.
In the end, I hope he surprises all of us and ably and well leads our nation. If he does well, our country does well. I am willing to keep an open mind and give him a chance, but it will be a short window of opportunity for him to convince me that he can keep America great.
As we wake up on the morning after one of the most divisive campaigns in our life times, some of us are elated, some disappointed and a lot of us are probably simply amazed at the results. Whatever we feel, as is our custom and history, it is time to move on and actually get things done.
Yesterday I had a big dose of what is best about our country. I was a sworn election judge in the state of Maryland. Other states may have other titles, or you may simply know us as poll workers. It was a great civics lesson and a great lesson in what makes this country continue to be great.
It was a very long day (nearly 15 hours on the job) but a very positive day. Election judges in Maryland are regular citizens who come forward every two years to work for their country and for their fellow citizens. They cover the spectrum of our national make up. Young (one can be a judge at 17) and old, from every ethnic group and socio-economic status, and of differing political parties, the judges are a true cross-section of America. Throughout our training and while on the job, each and every person I met was courteous, friendly, conscientious and dedicated to doing the job correctly. It was inspiring.
I can also assure our fellow citizens that the election judges on the job, at the individual polling places, are serious about the importance of their work and that they took joy in doing the job the right way. I can also assure you that both the polling process and those working on site are dedicated to allowing for each and every qualified citizen to vote. It is a great, and dare I say, satisfying process.
Even as the day wore on and we all began to sag a bit in body, there was never a let down in spirit or determination to do things correctly, by the book, and in compliance with the law. It may surprise a voter who has not had this opportunity to know the meticulous way that the process unfolds. Maryland uses paper ballots that are electronically scanned. There are three ways that they can be counted and compared and the paper ballots are retained in case of a recount or an anomaly in the electronic tabulation. There are written procedures followed meticulously that include keeping track of each and every ballot, with double and triple checks and balances and total chain of custody requirements. Every scrap of paper (ballots, multiple forms for record keeping, and polling material) are accounted for, catalogued and returned to the Board of Elections. Every two years, these workers take time off from school, work, retirement or whatever to serve their fellow citizens and to help them through the process. It was a good sign for the future of our nation.
Equally gratifying was to work with and observe the voters that came into our precinct to vote. Just as the workers represented a cross-section of our nation, so did the voters in every way imaginable. That includes the processes to ensure the visually impaired, physically challenged, and just about every other condition imaginable was able to cast their ballot. Uniformly, the voters were cheerful, excited about exercising their right to vote (even if not uniformly excited about the campaigns themselves), and demonstratively appreciative of the work being done by us at the polling place. In a particularly memorable way, whenever a young person came in and was identified as a first time voter, the judge working with them would announce it to the rest of us and all of the judges (there were about twelve of us) would shout and clap in congratulations. The smiles on those first time voters when we did that was priceless. In a campaign season that did not always highlight the best of our nation, it was exciting and refreshing to see that the voters, our neighbors, were understanding of how little acts of courtesy and kindness can transform a situation.
As we move forward into somewhat uncharted territory in our nation’s history, my hope is that the values, spirit and cooperation that I observed on election day continue as we move on to the next great adventure in our national life.
In my lifetime, an election was usually a beginning. Most of the time, it was a positive beginning as proponents of opposing candidates and political parties were happy or sad, justified or disappointed, but generally supportive of the process and willing to give the new president a chance to see what he could accomplish. The election was over, and so most folks took a time out and turned towards the holidays and the approaching new year, and didn’t think much about politics again until Inauguration Day or later.
This year I worry that the most fractious campaign in our lifetimes will not end on Tuesday at the voting booth. Two flawed candidates are limping towards the finish line, but I am not sure how things will play out when the results are tallied. I am out of the prediction business as I have no idea who will win on 8 November but you already know what I think as to which of the two will do less harm to our country. That said, I do try to be balanced, or at least fair, in presenting my views in this space. I will endeavor to do so again today, but I am concerned that not everyone involved in the two campaigns, the most ardent supporters or haters as the case may be, will be satisfied with the outcome. I am worried that some will not only be upset about the results but that they will act on their dissatisfaction in negative ways. And let’s be blunt, when one candidate whines about the election being “rigged” because he is losing, suggests that “poll watchers” go to the inner city to make sure that voters are not “cheating” and other similar statements, the probability of a conflict increases greatly. (And I note that he only cites the “inner cities” — code for minority areas — and not rural areas or small towns. He often suggests that they exercise their Second Amendment rights while watching the polls. Can you imagine what would happen if a group of armed African-Americans showed up in a small town in Kansas to watch the voters vote?)
Having said that, I am more worried about the impact on our form of government, our law makers ability, indeed their desire, to do their jobs and the unpredictable actions of our fellow citizens. Which ever candidate wins, there are huge problems ahead. Let’s look at a Hillary Clinton victory first.
Votes are yet to be counted, results are yet to be certified, and no one knows who will win on Tuesday. Yet, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Michael McCall (R-Texas) Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, as well as Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), among others, have already stated publicly that they plan to begin impeachment proceedings against Secretary Clinton should she be elected. Additionally, Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), among others, have clearly stated or with a wink and a nod hinted at confirming none (repeat: none) of Secretary Clinton’s appointments to the Supreme Court. Wow. Even with a sense of leavening that these statements were made under the stress of campaigns and the emotions of the moment, these men still made astounding, and frankly, un-American statements about using the law of the land to punish an election winner that they do not like. The will of the people be damned, I suppose. You will note that there is a pretty good likelihood that the Democrats will regain control of the Senate, yet I have not heard a single Democrat running for office promise not to confirm Mr. Trump’s nominees or that they will begin impeachment proceedings against him as soon as he is sworn in as president.
Some argue that there is no need for nine justices and that we have had different numbers on the Supreme Court over our history. True. But there have been nine since 1869. With Justice Scalia’s untimely death early this year, the Court has been functioning (although deferring some cases until a ninth judge is confirmed) with only eight. However, if the Republicans follow through on their threat, what is the right number? Seven? Six? No one knows what deaths may occur, or retirements may occur, or other unforeseen circumstances that would further reduce the number of Justices. Really? And what happened to the current Senate Majority Leader’s, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), promise that the next president gets to nominate a Justice, and of course the fact that our current president (we only have one at a time) has a nominee on the floor for going on seven months?
As if that is not enough, Mr. Trump himself made a similar promise in the second debate this fall. In the context of the “lock her up!” cries at his rallies, he made the following statement in response to a debate question about it should he be president.
“I am going to instruct my Attorney General to get a Special Prosecutor to look into your (Clinton’s) situation.”
The next day he reiterated his plan to prosecute Secretary Clinton when he is president. Besides being unheard of in American politics — no winning president has ever threatened to jail his losing opponent in our history like we are some kind of third world banana republic — it also exhibits Mr. Trump’s desire to use the government for his personal vendettas. It also demonstrates his lack of knowledge in that president’s are not authorized to order specific criminal investigations of individuals, not to mention political opponents. To lose the impartiality of the Department of Justice in order to pursue his own ends would undermine the very fabric of justice in our country.
These examples alone would be cause for alarm as to what will happen after the election. Actions that could destroy the delicate balance between a functioning two-party system and one where the rule of law and our Constitution is used only as a prop when it suits one’s purpose.
Of additional concern, and this really really bothers me, is the ongoing hacking of Secretary Clinton’s campaign. By the Russians. And I have heard very little concern expressed about it by any Republican, and especially none by Mr. Trump himself. Indeed, last summer he invited the Russians to hack Secretary Clinton. This is serious, people. And yet all I hear about is what is in the emails and not that they were illegally stolen by a foreign government and used to disrupt our election. (By the way they may be embarrassing but there are no “smoking guns” about illegal activity and I would argue that any large organization or campaign would be embarrassed if their internal discussions and unvarnished proposals were made public.)
Intelligence and law enforcement officials are preparing for some kind of additional cyber attack before, or on, election day. The attack could come in any number of ways, but will probably be designed to further undermine the perception of a free and fair election process. Democrats and Republicans should both be deeply concerned about this prospect. But it seems to be of little concern as compared to petty fighting over minor issues.
Let’s look at a Donald Trump victory. My concerns for our nation are not in any way lessened should Mr. Trump win. As hard as it is, I will momentarily forget that the man is temperamentally unsuited for the office, and that he has shown a remarkable lack of intellectual curiosity to learn even the basics of how the government works under the Constitution or our most basic foreign policies.
Mr. Trump currently has approximately 75 lawsuits actively pending against him. Many are long-standing complaints against him ranging from discrimination to failure to pay contractors. Most notable, a trial in a class action lawsuit against him for fraud surrounding Trump University starts 28 November. That is one of three state lawsuits against Trump University. The Trump Foundation is also under legal scrutiny for illegal fund-raising efforts and for violating laws on how such money may be spent. It is a long list. How does that impact his ability to carry out the duties of his office? How will the trials be impacted if he is president? This creates yet another opportunity for the public perception of justice to be tainted by politics.
Mr. Trump continues to refuse to release any of his tax returns so we know nothing of his business dealings, except for what he chooses to brag about. Multiple responsible inquiries have shown him to be far less successful in business than he gives himself credit for having accomplished. (By the way, it was pointed out that his final 2015 tax returns were due about two weeks ago. There is nothing to stop him from releasing those as he would not know if they were going to be audited. Not to mention that the Internal Revenue Service repeatedly stated that there is nothing stopping him from releasing them while under audit.)
The primary reason this is important, among many reasons, is that he claims to have extensive business dealings overseas, which is the basis of his claimed knowledge of foreign policy. If so, we should know what those dealings might be so that potential conflicts of interest may be identified. What checks and balances would be in place to make sure that foreign policy decisions were made to further the interests of the United States and not merely to help his business? Without this knowledge it is possible that foreign agents could compromise our interests overseas.
In this vein I find his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin troubling. I am not so bothered by Mr. Trump’s claims that Mr. Putin is “a great leader.” Strange, but less troubling than the fact that the Russians are hacking and attempting to influence our election. The Russians, and others, are using propaganda, psychological operations (PSYOPS) and intelligence to undermine our election and thereby demonstrate to their own citizens that there is no such thing as a real democracy, it is all a sham and rigged by the powerful. This message to their own people, by using us as an example, can be very effective in keeping their own power. Mr. Trump received classified briefings on this effort. And yet, in the debates, he claims that there is no evidence that the Russians are involved and further claims that he does not trust the U.S. intelligence agencies. Wow again. He either willfully ignores the information he is given, or he is frighteningly uncaring, or he is glad that it is going on, especially if it helps him. Any one of those reasons are scary. Perhaps most scary would be that he does not believe the information because he already knows it all — a statement he has repeated concerning foreign policy, military affairs, and a host of other issues. (“I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.” — 12 November 2015)
Here is the kicker and perhaps the most dangerous of all the unknowns. How will the American people react over the long run? My question reflects how we ended up in our current presidential predicament. In my view, the current atmosphere was created by politicians promising to do things that they could not, or in some cases, never intended to deliver. Many of our fellow citizens feel abandoned by their government and suspicious of the leaders in Washington. Mr. Trump tapped into that and we are now on the verge of being one vote away from him as president. Many will rejoice and think “finally, we have someone to change things.”
That is what is worrisome. Hear me out, please. First, we have prominent Republican law makers promising that if Secretary Clinton is president they will block essentially everything she tries to do and tie her up in impeachment hearings and other vindictive investigations and hearings — mostly about things they have been investigating for four years or more and have yet to find anything of substance. In other words, more of the same from the last six years. Lots of promises but no substantive action. Isn’t that how we got here in the first place? What makes Republican law makers think that more dysfunction and lack of, you know, actual governing is going to make things better? Four more years of doing nothing is not going to heal the country and it will not endear the Republican party to future voters. Such an approach is more than a little short-sighted politically and not good for the future of our nation.
The first test is coming up soon. On 29 September 2016, about 36 hours before the government would shut down, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded until 9 December and then promptly left town and haven’t been in session since. They must now come back in a lame duck session to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. However, the members of the Freedom Caucus, the Republican Tea Party group, are threatening to block all federal funding unless certain of their pet demands are met. They are also threatening to unseat Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) as Speaker of the House if he doesn’t go along with their demands, which run counter to the overall objectives of the Congress as a whole. Welcome to the post-election honey moon.
Most disturbing to me is that during his campaign Mr. Trump promises many things that he cannot do under the Constitution or that are unlikely to be supported by the Congress. When that happens, will the country react with more disappointment and lack of trust, or will something else occur? Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric has often bordered on inciting violence and I fear that rather than finding himself frustrated in not being able to do what he wants, he will put out “a call to action.” No one knows what form that call may take, or more to the point, how some on the fringe may interpret it. Whatever the case, it will not be good for our country.
I hope that I am wrong and that my worries are unfounded. But the indicators are not good. There will be no post-election honey moon and the prospects for civil political discourse to address urgent issues and to keep our nation on track are not promising.
Or as cartoonist Walt Kelly said in his comic strip Pogo:
“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”