A close friend of mine, who is no fan of President Donald Trump’s, sent me a text last week that said “I am cautiously optimistic that the toddler in chief’s reign may be coming to an end…don’t get me wrong, whether that happens or not, what he has created we will be living with for a long time.”
I began to respond to him and then I realized that he’s far from alone in that thought, while simultaneously completely misguided.
My very first thought was what President Barack Obama said about Trump in 2018:
“It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years. A fear and anger that’s rooted in our past, but it’s also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kky0XDnBfFk https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/09/07/president-barack-obamas-speech-transcript-slamming-trump/1225554002/
If you share the view of my friend, Trump wavers between being the worst president in modern history, and the root of all evil. These words of Obama’s should serve as a soothing balm; for they remind you that no one man has ever been capable of bringing down America, nor will they ever be. We will bring the nation down, as it should be. It will end where it all began, with “we the people.”
The second thought that flashed through my mind was the extraordinary five minutes of cinema that was gifted us through “The American President,” when actor Michael Douglas, portraying fictional President of the United States Andrew Shepard, explained politics and elections perfectly: (edited slightly for bi-partisanship):
“We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, (no politician in America) is the least bit interested in solving it. (They are) interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character…and you scream about patriotism.”
Sound familiar? Sound accurate? It should, even though that movie was released 25 years ago, at a time when America was beginning its’ biggest economic boom of the 20th century. We all love to wax nostalgically about “the way things used to be,” but we ignore the needed context to remember that we’ve been spiraling down the proverbial drain for lifetimes in this nation.
Quick aside; there were edits and deletions to that speech which, when added in, are even more appropriate for 2020:
“This is a country made up of people with hard jobs that they’re terrified of losing. The roots of freedom are of little or no interest to them at the moment. We are a nation afraid
to go out at night. We’re a society that has assigned low priority to education and has looked the other way while our public schools have been decimated.”
Aaron Sorkin wrote that in the original screenplay, but it never made it to the final cut; how eerie it is that it is so descriptively true of America in 2020. And again, it’s a reminder that this all existed long before President Donald Trump. http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/american_president.html
In the end, though; it was another quote from the end of another of my favorite movies, “The Dark Knight,” that led me to the truth of the matter that my friend is missing. As Batman runs from the police for a crime he didn’t actually commit, Commissioner Gordon famously says:
“…he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”
Of President Trump I say, to both his followers and his detractors:
He’s the leader America deserves, but not the one it needs right now.
Now, I know the second half of that supposition doesn’t sit well with Trumpsters. Loyal listeners know that, like I did with Obama, I have been tough, but fair, on President Trump. While I am no fan of his personal past, his long, undeniable racist history, and his total inability to formulate coherent sentences, I have also sung his praises for signing the “Right to Try,” act, which allows people the freedom to choose experimental medicines under otherwise dire circumstances. His ability to pass “The First Step” act is his shining lone star of bipartisanship and is truly the first step to reforming our criminal justice system and its’ racist bias. And, since the president, regardless who it is, always gets most of the credit or blame in good and bad times, it is asinine to ignore the roaring economy and its’ benefits to all Americans under Trump prior to the virus.
Ah, yes…the virus! This, to me, is the most unfair stone cast against Trump of them all, and it’s a stark reminder of Americans’ total inability to remember that we’re merely a blip on the screen. One nation amongst 193 on a giant floating globe of mostly water, whose presence we can’t even explain.
Show me a nation whose leader is the shining star of managing the pandemic. Show me a free population that is singing the praises, in unison, of their government’s handling of the last 7 months. The only possible answer would come from parts of Asia, with great caveats. Half a dozen of those countries must be eliminated immediately as they are far from free people. Meanwhile, in places like Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, a major study released last month said it all: “Asian countries peoples have been better conditioned to cooperate with strict rules and invasive surveillance in times of crisis.” That, put simply, is never going to happen in the United States of America. Side note; the approval rating of South Korea’s president is hardly anything to brag about. Just because people are compliant, doesn’t mean they approve of it. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32007-9/fulltext
In countries more comparable to America, mirror images of what’s occurring in the U.S. are happening there. Europe is imposing new lockdowns as cases of Covid skyrocket and people are protesting and rioting against such measures. And the objection to masks is hardly an American novelty. Blaming Trump for the virus and America’s handling of it is just lazy. In a nation of 50 states, with exactly half of them having Democratic and Republican governors, and an American system that relies on states rights, Jesus Christ himself would not have been able to coordinate a national response to the pandemic. Look no further than California and Florida; two of our largest states controlled, respectively, by perhaps the most progressive and most conservative governors in the country, which have had almost identical results to the virus, despite having universally different methods of trying to handle it. https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/05/europe/ursula-von-der-leyen-self-isolates-intl/index.html
As for the social and racial strife in America, one could easily argue that Obama lit that match during his presidency with his piss-poor handling of the events in Ferguson and his public shaming of police officers as “acting stupidly” in Cambridge. Some argue Vice-President Biden bears the brunt of the blame for authoring the 1994 crime bill which flooded the streets of America with literally hundreds of thousands of police officers who saturated minority neighborhoods and incarcerated an imbalance of African Americans.
America doesn’t have a Trump problem. America has an Americans problem. There is literally not one thing that unites us as a people any longer. If we were to be attacked by a foreign enemy, we would not rally around our president, whether it be Trump, Biden, Pence, or Harris. We would blame the leader in charge, or the nation itself for “deserving” it. Hell, even when our children are massacred in schools we can’t and don’t unite.
We argue over standing for the flag, saying the pledge of allegiance, and which people who are in love should be “allowed” to get married. Not only do we not agree on anything as a nation today, we’re also spending a ton of time and energy arguing over our past. We’ve become the world’s worst married couple; as a real-time crisis burns before our eyes, we remind each other about that one time at that party 5 years ago when we embarrassed them.
So, with respect to my friend, Trump didn’t “create” any of this. He stoked it, he provided, either wittingly or unwittingly, a safe platform to some of the most vile amongst us, and he lied endlessly. And while it’s not popular to say, so did Obama, and so did George W. Bush, relative to their times. America has devolved, and Trump is the exact leader we deserve; and neither he nor Joe Biden is the leader we need.