Alan Zendell, March 6, 2017
Most of us have been conditioned since childhood to recognize warning signs and heed them before the trouble they portend hits us in the face. Most Americans are optimistic by nature. It’s one of our great strengths unless it morphs into denial about impending problems.
There’s a nearly irresistible temptation to assume that the brake fluid puddled under your car must have come from someone else’s vehicle or that the baggie filled with a suspicious substance you found in your teenager’s pocket must have been planted there by someone else. How many red flags does it take to wake us up? I’ve even been shocked, lately, by the number of people who ignore tornado warnings.
I’m old enough to remember Watergate, when President Nixon’s denials of wrongdoing and his increasingly aberrant behavior over many months resulted in a crisis of confidence even among his most ardent supporters. By the time they realized the situation couldn’t be salvaged, it was too late. We had a dysfunctional president whose Chief of Staff, retired General Alexander Haig, had to build a firewall around him. In the end, Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace to avoid impeachment.
My friends and family are sharply divided. Some are convinced there are already sufficient warning signs that President Trump will severely damage the country; others repeatedly say, “Give him a chance”. I confess that I am in both camps, the first because after a lifetime of exposure to Donald Trump’s antics, I see no reason to believe he has what it takes to succeed as President. But I also think we have to give him a chance – either to show he can succeed or to hang himself. Like the parent who knows his kid is lying when he confronts him with the illegal drugs he found, part of me wants to wait and see while another part is screaming that I have to do something before it’s too late. Seven-and-a-half weeks into this administration, the second voice is beginning to overwhelm the first.
A president swept into office on a wave of populism whose party has firm control of both houses of Congress should be sailing on smooth waters. With two years to go before the next Congressional election, they have plenty of time to get their ducks in a row to pursue the agenda for which they believe they’ve been given a mandate. But what has this administration done?
It rushed to issue an attempt to obstruct immigration by specific religious groups thinly disguised as a security-related travel ban, when a more thoughtful and deliberate approach could have passed muster easily. They set about dismantling regulations and defunding NOAA, both of which we desperately need to protect our deteriorating environment, removed a federal objection to an obviously discriminatory voter registration law, and intervened in a civil rights discrimination case already decided by the courts. And the President himself, while being advised by his own party to get his personal behavior under control, continues to makes outrageous accusations against everything and everyone he dislikes, with not a shred of evidence to support them. He’s a master at changing the conversation when he doesn’t like the subject, but where will that get him if nothing is accomplished? Worst of all, he hasn’t shown me that he possesses the moral center essential to being an effective leader.
His own party seems more terrified of him than the opposition. I never imagined I could feel sympathy for Senator Mitch McConnell after he announced, shortly after President Obama took office, that his goal was assuring that Obama failed as president. Or for Paul Ryan, who despite his vaunted integrity, could never bring himself to tell the truth about Trump’s outlandish and immoral behavior. But such is the disarray that Trump has created in his own party, I wouldn’t be in either of their shoes at any price.
There is no reason to believe the Republican led Congress will fund any of the major initiatives Trump promised during the campaign. Not the $3 trillion plan to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure or fulfilling Trump’s promise of affordable health care for every American, and surely not his Mexican border wall. They’re all pipe dreams doomed to fail. And jobs? Let’s see what happens when he tries to get Congress to impose penalties or tariffs on companies that have already shipped millions of jobs overseas, when their billionaire corporate patrons tell them to vote “Nay”. What will his supporters do then?
More importantly, what will all of us Americans do at the ballot box in 2018? How long will we wait before we accept that our national train is going off the rails? Will we simply bemoan our options as we did in 2016, or will we recognize that some paths are far worse than others?