Alan Zendell, May 5, 2020
Donald Trump may be right that Abraham Lincoln got better press than he did, despite Lincoln taking a principled stand that alienated half the country and resulted in the Civil War. Not that the Civil War was Lincoln’s fault, but tearing the county apart and forcing the southern states to restructure their economies without benefit of slave labor was bound to make enemies, among them an actor named Booth.
We revere Lincoln for his moral courage and basic decency. His enemies hated him for seeking to cleanse us of the stain of slavery left to us by the British, which by omission, we grandfathered into our Constitution when it was not addressed by the Bill of Rights. Lincoln’s bad press was funded by vested interests that were seriously threatened by an economic revolution even greater than what Bernie Sanders’ movement is fighting for.
The divisiveness caused by Lincoln’s policies was a side effect of pursuing the betterment of the American soul. Trump uses divisiveness as a tool for amassing and solidifying power. Trump’s press isn’t worse than Lincoln’s as much as it’s inside out. His negative press stems from his lack of respect for law and the Constitution, his disregard of truth, and his willingness to stoop to depths of immorality in his lust for power rarely seen in our political history. His loudest positive press reflects the racist, misogynist, elitist Tea Party, one-issue (abortion rights) evangelists, the Alt-Right movement, and extremists who believe the Second Amendment gives them the right to defy the government.
Like Lincoln, Trump has a vision for a different America. But while Lincoln’s cleansed the nation of its worst disgrace, Trump’s would dismantle the social safety net that represents the horrifying specter of a level playing field. Trump is an aggressive champion of the fight against the massive transfer of wealth that Republicans have feared since The New Deal of the 1930s. Agree or disagree, but political ideology is not the reason much of the media and a majority of Americans despise our president.
Trump has a desperate need for adulation, yet he behaves in precisely the manner that assures he will never have it. When he panders to the worst elements of human nature, how can decent Americans not oppose him? When he lies or distorts reality whenever it suits him, how can Americans who need to believe they can trust their president not cry out? When he is incapable of facing dissent and opposition without resorting to vulgar insults and slurs, how can decent people respect him?
Trump gambled since he entered the public arena that his ability to distract and create chaos would shield him from the truth. He’s extremely good at it, but every gambler knows winning streaks always end, and every juggler knows there’s a limit to how many balls he can keep in the air. Provoking trade wars, dismantling efforts to protect our environment, and abandoning our allies were problematic, but none of those things was an immediate existential threat to our country. COVID-19 is precisely such a threat, a crisis that requires a president who can see past his self-interest. Donald Trump fails that test daily.
Rather than grow into his responsibility, he uses the pandemic to increase his hold on power. He’s still trying to cripple the oversight role of the Congress, and he continues to retaliate against everyone in the Executive Branch who attempted to bring truth to light.
You want good press, Mr. President? Start by not vilifying honest journalists and labeling anything that doesn’t support your version of events fake news. The First Amendment was passed for a reason. Most journalists do what they do in the pursuit of truth and transparency. The same left-wing media you despise is now pursuing sexual harassment allegations against your probable opponent as vigorously as they look for truth in your administration. And you might notice that Mr. Biden handles the situation with class and dignity.
Stop approaching every issue with personal animus and playing the victim whenever someone disagrees with you, lashing out like a spoiled brat having a temper tantrum. And most of all, learn to express compassion even if you’re incapable of actually feeling any. In short, start behaving like a president.
The Old Testament God demanded constant praise and tribute. Fail to pay proper respect and offer daily sacrifice, and you’d find your towers collapsing around you or washed away by a Great Flood. This may come as a shock to you, Donald, but you’re not God, and you’re not a king, either. You’re not superior to everyone else. In many ways, you’re the worst of us.