I usually experience a high level of excitement on voting days. On the occasion of the Super Tuesday primary I am instead feeling fear and foreboding. Back in the summer when everyone who has ever been a member of the Republican party decided to run for a shot at the head job in this country it seemed ludicrous to believe that Donald Trump would be anything other than an amusing distraction in the nominating process. There were the usual flakes in the Republican pack who would no doubt be ignored by thinking party members but Trump was in a league of ridiculousness by himself. The most serious contenders gave him little or no attention back then because, like me, they viewed him as little more than a buffoon. Soon enough all of us who had been convinced that there was no meat to the Trump campaign would realize that somehow he had managed to capture the hearts and minds of a considerable number of Americans. Today he is poised to emerge as the winner of enough delegates to essentially make it mathematically impossible for anybody else to emerge as a contender for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
I sincerely feel like Rip van Winkle. I wonder how I missed all of the cues that something was terribly amiss in the concerns of a sizable number of citizens, many of whom are relatives, long time friends, and even neighbors. I know them to be sincerely good and rational individuals, so realizing that they support a mean spirited candidate like Donald Trump leaves me dazed and confused. When I ask them why they would even consider voting for such a con artist they repeat many of the soundbites that the candidate himself has voiced over and over again without any real plans or substance to back up his boasts. They speak of concerns that the country that they so love is moving in the wrong direction and they actually believe that Donald Trump is the man to make it great again. When I listen to them I feel their sincerity but shudder that they think that they have found their savior in a man whose ugliness knows no bounds.
Pollsters tell us to expect a Trump triumph today. I am only now beginning to realize that the Donald may have been right when he bragged that he could kill someone in Times Square and still win the votes of many angry Americans. Nothing appears to wound his campaign. He can call all immigrants rapists and criminals, use insulting language to describe women with whom he disagrees, call a war hero a coward, be embroiled in a lawsuit for fraudulent business practices, and generally behave like a barbarian. His supporters not only remain confusingly loyal but the ranks of those who see him as a standard bearer for their frustrations only grows. Just this past weekend he was endorsed by Governor Chris Christie, a man that I once thought of as a person of exceptional thoughtfulness and character. His support for Trump is incongruous and outrageous to me. I find myself feeling aghast and rather depressed by what is unfolding.
I am a true believer in having a strong two party system in our country. I not only like competition but think that it is necessary to keep everyone a bit more honest. I have often said that on the day that we all think alike I will be quite frightened for the future of our country. Dissent and even a bit of divisiveness is actually good for our government. It insures that even the smallest voices will be heard. I’m happy that Bernie Sanders is challenging Hillary Clinton. I don’t like the idea of coronations or the inevitability of a candidate. I think that we all need to know and even consider the many different opinions that abound in our society. That is the foundation of our government. We may wholeheartedly disagree with a particular sector of the population but even the most extreme views have the right to be voiced. Democracy and the First Amendment guarantee that nobody will be persecuted for simply expressing their feelings, even when those thoughts are difficult to hear. Donald Trump has every right to be insulting and crass but it is up to those of us who vote to be discerning, educated and willing to choose an individual for President who will work for the good of the majority of people in the country, not just a designated few. The job of Chief Executive requires management and people skills that Donald Trump just doesn’t have.
As I sit here on this cloudy day I sense that come next November we will have the choice of voting for either a demagogue or a woman whose decision making abilities have proven to be highly questionable. Those of us who once thought that Hillary was equal to her husband now see that we may have been wrong. We are as divided as a nation as we have ever been. Those who attempt to bring the differing sides together end up being condemned by everyone. Compromise has become a dirty word and even the hint of working together dooms an individual’s reputation. I have even been a victim of ugly rhetoric from both progressives and conservatives simply for suggesting that we do not need to despise one another, but rather that we must begin to hear one another and find ways to balance our differences. Since suggesting such ideas the number of individuals reading my blog has plummeted. There is a current tendency among the electorate to run from discussions of differences.
There is much talk of people wanting to leave the country if this person or that is elected in the fall. When I hear such things I am reminded of a conversation that I once had with our family priest who had baptized me and both of my daughters. I told him that I was becoming quite disturbed by things that were happening in the Catholic Church and I was leaning toward adopting a religion more in keeping with my own beliefs. He remained quite calm and even encouraging as he suggested that if everyone like me were to abandon our Catholicism the church would indeed be doomed. He argued that in times of distress it is more important than ever that there be voices in the desert shouting contrary points of view. He suggested that I was a more important member of the faith than even those who willingly went along with everything that they were taught. He reminded me that Jesus was a rebel who constantly challenged the status quo. He convinced me that running away would only strengthen the imperfections that I saw within my church. Instead of leaving I became more active. My influence was minimal but I have watched many of the problems that so worried me being slowly but surely addressed.
I feel the same way about the United States of America. We are engaged in an era of grave discontent. I suspect that it began long ago, before President Obama, President Bush, or President Clinton. Perhaps its source can be traced all the way back to our founding when we had to compromise between those who believed in the rights of the individual states and those who desired a strong federal government. In their effort to conceive a new nation some of our forefathers grudgingly agreed to allow slavery and to deny women to have the same rights as men. Even then the rhetoric was intense, causing rifts between equally great men. Our nation was eventually torn asunder in our Civil War which left great chasms of anger and far too many unanswered questions between brother and brother. We were eventually distracted by two World Wars, conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and a battle of wills with the Soviet Union. The differences in beliefs continued to seethe just below the surface of our national psyche. At the present time Donald Trump is yet another incarnation of our unwillingness to fully address our nation’s problems in a spirit of unity. I won’t even get started on the guilt of both of our political parties in this regard.
I suppose that we will all have to watch the current story of our nation unfold. There is no telling what will ultimately happen. All that I can recommend is that each of us hold out an olive branch to one another, individual by individual. Even if our politicians refuse to work together we can lead from behind. We must all become informed not just by reading Brietbart News or Salon but by considering the points of view of both. Finally it is more important than ever that we exercise our duty to vote and that we work to keep our country strong. I still have faith in the people. We weathered the perfect storm in the darkest days of our history. This too shall pass.