Charles Dickens began his story of how the French peasants were more brutal than their aristocratic oppressors with the famous words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” But the fuller quote seems more appropriate today:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, …”
Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States today. For many, this is like a bad after-school movie, too far-fetched to be credible and too lacking in substance to be interesting. And yet, it’s going to happen, despite the twits and change.org petitions, the New York Times editorials and shrieks of illegitimacy. The rending of clothes and pervasive hysteria will not stop the peaceful transition of power that is the hallmark of America.
The other day, my pal, Radley Balko accused me of not sharing his disdain for Trump. He’s right and wrong. I’m skeptical of all elected officials. I’m disdainful of Trump. Of Obama. Of Bush and Clinton before him. What Radley meant, perhaps, was that I wasn’t disdainful enough, for if I was, I would be shrieking in anticipation of the worst of times.
Having made plain that there has never been a president as lacking in what have been our traditional qualifications to hold the office of President as Trump, it changes nothing about the fact that he will still be the president. The reasons for this are varied, diverse, despite the efforts to stereotype his supporters by his opponents. While there are a tiny percentage of racists and sexists, there are many who had enough of the failure of the federal government to improve their lives, and saw the alternative to Trump as being either more of the same or worse.
This isn’t the first time people felt this way.
While both Trump’s supporters and adversaries can lay claim to being mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, Trump was elected president. One side won. Whether you accept that proposition or want to continue to argue it ad nauseam is irrelevant. Spend your time any way you like. He’ll still be president.
There aren’t many out there who were of the view, before this past presidential campaign began, that the nation was doing great, that everything was under control. While some narrow self-interest groups were flush with the success of their parochial causes, even they weren’t thrilled about other concerns, like jobs or the cost of education. You got to pee where you want? That’s great, but there’s more to life than that. Like feeding your kids.
For years, people have believed that Washington needed to be shaken out of its complacency, its machine-like partisanship that prevented whatever initiatives they believed would best improve their lives. For years, people believed that “regular” people, meaning anyone but the best and the brightest, the policy wonks, the hyper-knowledgeable, could do a better job. People saw it as “simple,” and the elites just over-complicated everything to the point of paralysis. They saw the polarization, but blamed the other side because their side was right.
Just put a person in office who would get things done. He didn’t have to talk jargon. He didn’t have to have a fancy degree. He didn’t have to have years of political experience. After all, they don’t, and they believe in themselves, in their opinions, in their solutions. The politicians had their chance, and they just screwed everything up. Now it was time for the regular people to seize control, to have their chance to fix the nation.
No, Donald Trump is hardly a “regular” guy, unless regular guys winter at Mar-a-Lago. But he was regular in his lack of sophisticated knowledge. He was regular in his speech, which was long on adjectives and short on nouns. And the perception of him as a billionaire regular guy just meant he was better at it than they are, making tons of money in the process. This was a good thing, as they wanted to make money too, and who better to figure out how to make money than a guy who did so?
All of which infuriates his opponents, to the point where they desperately wish for his failure. They want him to crash and burn. They want to hate his supporters, the deplorables, and want them to crash as well. Why hate some nice farming family in Iowa who grew the food that went into your In-N-Out burger? Because they’re all racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes, and because all your friends hate them too.
You can’t be the good people you want to believe you are while hating other people. You can’t be the good person you want to believe you are while wishing other people harm.
Trump’s campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again.” Whether you agree that it had lost its luster or not, or whether you think it had no luster to begin with, or whether you believe America was great enough, regular people will continue to live their lives tomorrow and the days thereafter. Aside from vindictiveness, what do you gain from hoping that their lives are worse, more miserable, than they were before?
I wish President Donald J. Trump every success in improving the lives of Americans. I don’t do this because of Trump, but because of the people whose lives will be affected by his presidency. To wish ill on this administration is to wish ill on your fellow human beings.
This nation is deeply polarized, and both sides are remarkably similar though they are too blind to see it. For better or worse, Donald Trump will be sworn in as our 45th President. Regardless of your feelings toward him, hope for the best of times. Not for his sake, but for your own and your fellow Americans.