The nation approaches a crossroads with the 2018 election on the horizon. It is likely to be a national referendum on the Donald Trump presidency but it should be more than that. Instead of solely debating the incumbency of the 45th President, the American people need to vote with the long term prospects of the nation in mind. This is critical since the Trump era will likely be remembered as a short lived period of political fever similar to the time after the American Revolution in which hysteria about tumult in France led to un-American laws like the Alien and Sedition Acts that attacked the free press and demonized immigrants. While historically important, the Alien and Sedition Acts did little to impact the long arc of American history which has been more about tolerance and expansion of rights versus fearfulness and restrictions on Americans to express their thoughts. The Trump years will be seen similarly decades from now. President Trump dominates the headlines and airwaves today but his tenure in office will be marked by failure for three major reasons.
First, Americans set a high standard for political leadership. This was established at the founding of our republic. The Founding Fathers were comprised of some of the greatest minds in the realm of political science with the enduring Constitution as proof of their acumen. A short list of names reads like a historical All Star list. Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison and Jay are just a few of the names to which Americans owe a great debt. Missing from this list of great minds is the name of George Washington. The Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and our first President was not known for great intellect. He was, however, a man of action and possessed the important qualities of leadership such as self sacrifice, propriety, civility, modesty and courtesy. With less than 20% of the American people believing that President Trump is honest, he falls short of the Washingtonian values which the American people have come to expect in their leaders.
Next, President Trump continues to harness political rhetoric at odds with the American character. This includes disrespect for the press, immigrants, traditional foreign allies and American political institutions or concepts such as the separation of powers. His campaign slogan and continual mantra of “Make America Great Again” implies America has fallen from its envied place in the political firmament. While the United States is confronted by old powers like Russia and rising powers like China, the nation remains possessed with universities enrolling more foreign students than ever, the strongest national defense in world history, and technology innovators like Elon Musk that could only thrive in America. The country is scarred by towns and cities that have borne the brunt of rising China but Americans remain an optimistic people and have reasons to see their future as bright. Trumpism is at odds with the optimism of the American people despite demographic trends which have made many European Americans susceptible to the nativist aspects of “America First.” Granted, President Ronald Reagan utilized the “Make America Great” slogan in 1980 to juxtapose himself versus an unpopular predecessor but Trump lacks the sunny optimism of Reagan as evidenced by the generally negative “American Carnage” inaugural address delivered last year. The American people see their country as a “shining city on a hill” and will, ultimately, reject prolonged political negativity.
Last, Americans have a low tolerance for political corruption. Real or perceived, it was one of the reasons why many rejected the candidacy of Secretary Hillary Clinton and voted for President Trump. The United States does not have an unblemished record in the area of corruption but its appearance is not widespread or systemic as seen in other parts of the world. The political pundit Gene Robinson of the Washington Post recently compared the Trump administration to the tenure of President Warren Harding that featured the infamous Teapot Dome scandal. It took reaching back nearly 100 years to find an example of political graft in our federal government comparable to what the American people are now being bombarded with on a daily basis. This goes beyond the Mueller investigation into Russian involvement in the Trump presidential campaign. Daily revelations on the business dealings of the Trump family surface a coterie of Russian oligarchs, Chinese princelings, Indonesian insiders and, recently, a business selling “Trump” branded paraphernalia outside of a political campaign for profit. Easily forgotten in this menagerie of abuses is the way domestic lobbyists and foreign agents are using expenditures at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC to curry obvious favor with the administration. The American people expect honesty in public dealings as President George Washington showed in his personal surveying of the land that was to become our nation’s capital. Our first President ensured that he would not benefit personally from the land taken from Maryland and Virginia that became Washington DC. This is an example of the leadership that the American people are missing at present.
What should the 2018 election be if not a referendum on President Trump? As written earlier, President Trump lacks the leadership skills, political vocabulary and incorruptibility that the American people expect from holders of high office. Perhaps it is necessary for voters to demonstrate their discontent with the current government by voting against the interests of its leadership. This, however, is as shortsighted as Trumpism. The American people should utilize the present political mess to reassess and recalibrate the ways our government is viewed. It is perhaps a time for all of us to renew the values upon which the American Revolution was initiated, sustained and brought to successful conclusion. Only by stripping away the veneer and rust of our history to better understand it can the American people renew the virtue of self-sacrifice, the bonds of shared purpose and the sense of optimism upon which the United States was founded. It is time for every citizen to study and reflect upon the unique historical nature of our country, what it means to be an American and how we will sustain the American cause. Then go vote like hell.
Well let’s see now — The Nixon agenda failed, the Clinton agenda failed, the Ford agenda failed, Jimmy Carter never had an agenda as I can tell — the Bush agenda failed …. Obama’s agenda failed — why should we not automatically assume that Trump will fail as well? (And every president who will come after he gone.)? I don’t think America is governable anymore… too big … too divided … to diverse …
John: One could say that previous Presidents failed to implement their agenda but few entered office with the likes of Steve Bannon that attempted to show Donald Trump as something different. The Trump agenda as Bannon put it was very ambitious: “deconstruction of the administrative state.” He called himself a Leninist at one point. Nixon failed domestically but gave us detente and an opening to China. Clinton achieved much of what he wanted particularly in financial industry deregulation. Carter was fairly beleaguered but Obama gave us the ACA which is still with us despite GOP “deconstruction.” Trumpism is an attempt to change America’s operating system and that was what I was writing about more than any specific policy. Trumpism takes positions, not out of an ideological view, but geared to perpetuating Trump. Conservative policies are used when expedient. Same with liberal idea such as the recent jawboning about drug prices. Trumpism is authoritarian and a cult of personality which is much different than our traditional Washingtonian values.
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I see what you are saying and thanks for sharing.
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In the long run, his values are inconsistent with our general expectations of leadership. He will retain his hard core supporters but many will not be fooled again by his promises which included fixing health care for his working class base. The corporate tax cuts were a giveaway to the upper 1% and folks on Wall Street he demonized during the election. He says things that people want to hear but it is not about what I say but what I do.
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The only reason that “Trumpism” will fail is if I and tens of millions of other #MAGA Patriots give up the fight to hold our elected governmental officials accountable. That will not happen. Our Republic will not be destroyed as we’re breathing., and able to teach our children and our friends what will happen if we “throw in the towel.”
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. There are elements of what you call MAGA that I can support. However, this movement is being led by an incompetent pathological liar that has not sold his plans beyond a declining base of support. The people are growing weary of his tweets and his insults. Trump is a person of low moral character and I think you know it as well. His demeanor is a detriment to your movement and it takes people of character and intelligence to create real change. There is more but most of it is in the essay. Once again, I am glad you read my piece then shared your thoughts. Take care.
This is an excellent opinion piece supported by facts and historic events. I believe that most good, non racist, objective thinking, and informed Americans would agree with every point in your article. Thank you for your reasoned analysis and optimism. Do you mind if I post on my FB Page? And do u prefer with named credit or anonymous?
Thanks. I try to support my opinions with facts. Feel free to share using my name. Not one of those that hides behind a pseudonym.
Very much agree with your opion (backed with facts) piece. I’d like to think we will all live to see the day when trump is looked upon as the “Burgermeister Meisterburger” of presidents. Burgermeisters died off and fell out of power and their laws were abolished!
Yes we should be marching to the polls in November and beyond