Alan Zendell, May 9, 2017
As President Trump settles into his second hundred days in office it’s important that those of us who were shocked and distressed by his victory are clear about what we want to happen during his term in office. I shall never forget seeing and hearing then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell address that question shortly after Barrack Obama’s first inauguration. He said, with no equivocation, that his job for the next four years was to assure that Obama would fail as president.
I was stunned, then angered by his words. The country was caught in the depths of a nearly unprecedented financial crisis caused by the government’s failure or inability to regulate the activities of the largest banks, and we were embroiled in an ill-conceived six-year-old war in Iraq and Afghanistan that seemed to have no end game, was destroying thousands of American lives, and causing deep divisions throughout our society. In that context, McConnell’s words sounded almost treasonous to me.
Forget that Obama was our first black president in a racially divided country. Forget that he had pledged to bring our troops home, repair the economy, and revolutionize our health care system. Whether McConnell agreed or disagreed with any of that, his words suggested that he didn’t perceive the difference between political opposition and lack of respect for the Constitution.
Of course, Senator McConnell knows better than that. Consummate politician that he is, I still cannot imagine why he chose those words. The point is that I don’t want to make the same mistake. I do not like the way President Trump conducts himself, and I am shocked by the implications of most of his cabinet appointments. I do not want to see most of what he has proposed enacted into law, but does that mean I want him to fail as president?
In a word, NO.
To wish for him to fail is to wish for our country to be weakened at a time when any number of potential enemies would like nothing better than to see us divided and indecisive. I want the progressive opposition in this country to stand up and fight against a law that would deprive millions of Americans of health insurance and a budget that would strip money from social and education programs to put more in the pockets of billionaires. I want every right-thinking American to fight against any proposal that deprives anyone of his or her basic rights or that redefines our immigration policy based on bigotry or intolerance.
I want us to defend our free press, while pressuring them to focus on professional journalism independent of ratings and sponsors. And I want the President to respect the Judiciary and stop acting like a petulant child every time someone says something he doesn’t like. We don’t need tweet storms and absurd allegations of fake news. And we don’t need to be denigrating people like Sally Yates, whose only failure was living on the wrong side of the aisle.
I want a president that reminds me of why I grew up so proud to be an American, feeling lucky to live in a country that cared about doing the right things. That may have been no more than a naïve fantasy back then, but it doesn’t have to be now. We needn’t pander to hate and fear. We needn’t talk out of both sides of our mouths on every issue.
Most of all, if we’re to defend ourselves against those who want to destroy us, we need first of all, for the rest of the world to see that we’re united in our commitments. Our allies need to know they can depend on us unconditionally when the need arises, and our enemies need to see that internal disagreement is our greatest strength, not a sign of weakness.
For that to happen our president must behave like an adult, and the rest of us need to be clear about the difference between being a loyal opposition and disrespecting the office of the presidency. So I’ll continue to challenge what I think is wrong, and hope that next year’s election restores some balance and credibility to the Congress. But I will never say what Mitch McConnell said.
I want a strong united country behind a president I can respect.