Your Campaign Companion
Let us, before we head to the polls, put aside “ground games,” “pants on fire” statements, shifting poll numbers, PAC money flaws, “battleground” contests, comparative temperaments and consider what’s happened.
- Much of American history can be cast in terms of actions and then reactions, of movements to nullify policies, reverse broader trends considered threatening. The freeing of the slaves and the attempt by the Reconstruction governments in the South to support these “Freedmen” triggered fierce opposition and ultimately Jim Crow legislation and legal segregation across the South. In response to the rise of the cities and the unprecedented flow of immigrants, Prohibition came our way, largely a rural counter–attack against these perceived “threats.” The same dynamics were in play in efforts to roll back the New Deal and later the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. Many more examples exist, but you get the point – which brings us to Donald Trump, millions of whose supporters also want to restore a world which they believe has been upended by – massive immigrant flows, legal and otherwise – the relentless contraction of America’s manufacturing base – the growing gap between the highly educated and those with far fewer academic credentials – between the fantastically rich and those barely afloat – their estrangements from a social and cultural landscape increasingly unfamiliar and unwelcome. Trump, in rallying those discontented, stoking their anxieties and fueling their anger, is taking us down a familiar path, protesting against the unsettling changes that have always come our way.
- Non politicians (“outsiders”) have been a mixed bag when they’ve become President of the United States. We’ve had our share of generals: most have been forgettable – William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, James Garfield – or lamentable, Ulysses S. Grant. Let’s not overlook George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Dwight Eisenhower, however. They left their mark – mostly for good. We’ve never had a businessman become President (Herbert Hoover, not strictly a businessman, but was Secretary of Commerce during the 1920s, and should we include Harry Truman’s unsuccessful years as a Kansas City haberdasher?) Businessman Wendell Willkie ran for the White House in 1940, as did Ross Perot in 1992, but nether made it to the Oval Office. Many assume the skills of a business executive do translate; others disagree, insisting that different skill sets and objectives disadvantage corporate executives as political leaders.
- This former President was impulsive, combative, craved the spotlight, was a showman and understood the power of publicity (“Bully Pulpit”). He criticized reporters (“Muckrakers”), the weak (“Molly coddlers”), the indecisive (“Pussyfooting”) and the evasive (“Weasel Words”). From him the people could expect a “Square Deal” while reminding them that he was “strong as a Bull Moose.” Is Donald Trump unwittingly channeling Teddy Roosevelt!?
- When you hear someone repeatedly using words such as “huge,” “tremendous,” “unbelievable,” “terrific,” “amazing,” what comes to mind?
- What happened to a campaign in which millions were expected to get excited over the prospect of the first female President of the United States? Discuss.
- Other Questions: How would a Trump victory reshape the Republican Party? Who may become irreconcilable, take defeat the hardest – Trump’s movement supporters or our social and governing elites? And what might they do about it? Who would be willing to serve in a Trump administration? If Trump wins, is it not reasonable to assume Republicans will control all three branches of the Federal government and shape the future of the Supreme Court? If, as reported, foreign leaders are aghast at the rise of Donald Trump how might they react to a President Trump?
Finally, if Hillary wins and Congress, as is likely, stays in Republican hands, are we not destined to repeat the last six years of bitter polarization, government deadlock of vital national needs going unaddressed? Such a result means this endless and dispiriting campaign and the election will have been a colossal waste of time and energy, a disruptive diversion even as it rekindled frustration and intensified fears.