The oldest baby boomers have lived through thirteen presidents (beginning with Truman); the youngest have lived through ten (beginning with LBJ). But the presidency through which we’re all living now is a far cry from any that came before it, and in this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes that sometimes, it can be downright depressing.
It’s easy to let Donald Trump get you down. Because it’s hard to get away from the guy. It’s hard because you can’t follow the news without seeing him stirring things up. That’s why, unless you have made a deal with the devil and ignobly ignore Trump’s endless affronts to decency and legacy and honesty (all of which, before he came along, you likely would have condemned), it can be downright depressing.
It sure is some of the time for me, and maybe you can relate: every time Trump wins some small victory, I’m depressed. Not clinically, but moodily. And it’s not because his side won and my side lost. No, it’s because with precious few exceptions, his victories are America’s losses. For the most part, they put our historic values at risk and our treasured rights in peril. They cost us money at home and influence overseas. They alienate us from our friends and align us with our adversaries. They change the definition of once solid words like “truth,” and “fact.” They put us at war with ourselves.
Trump’s slogan from the get-go has been, Make America Great Again. But before he got to the White House, there was no need. Now, after the damage he has done, there is.
So unless you have made that deal with the devil, how can you not be depressed?
Even though Trump doesn’t get nearly as much accomplished as he would have you believe— especially now that both Congress and the courts sometimes serve as effective obstacles to his every mean-spirited whim— he’s still there, operating with the credo of act now, answer for it later.
But maybe all is not lost. Because unless the Democrats over the next year-and-a-half shoot themselves in the foot, which in their own chaotic circus is always an unnerving possibility, Donald Trump could be a one-term president.
Which could cure our depression overnight.
Why this conclusion? First, just look at the numbers. In last year’s Congressional elections, which were the most recent nationwide referendum, Democrats took power from Republicans in the House of Representatives in a landslide. Voters have all kinds of things in their heads when they cast their ballots, but polls showed that many were turning thumbs down on the limp-hearted lackeys who supported the president, fearful that he would turn on them if they didn’t.
The nationwide referendum before that was the 2016 presidential election, from which you should never forget one irreversible fact: yes, Trump won the Electoral College, but Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than he did. Her strategic mistake was, she took certain states for granted and lost where she should have won. Next year’s challenger, whomever it is, will have learned that lesson if nothing else.
In short, Trump has a noisy base but they are still a minority of the electorate.
Some Americans who detest Trump — Democrats and Republicans alike — worry that the field of challengers is actually too diverse. I don’t. The nation’s voters showed by electing Barack Obama twice that they won’t reflexively turn away an African-American. And Hillary Clinton’s popular majority in 2016 showed that they won’t turn away a woman. Especially one who doesn’t carry the costly baggage Clinton carried.
Another reason for hope? Look at what candidate Trump promised during his campaign… and look at what he actually has delivered. Maybe he ought to hide his presidential ledger of assets and liabilities along with his taxes.
Blocking the border? Even when he had his own Congressional majority, he couldn’t get what he wanted (and Mexico still hasn’t paid for it). Beheading ISIS? The so-called caliphate is dust, but the terrorists have merely gone underground; American intelligence estimates they now have cells in some two dozen nations. Trump’s trumpeted “deal of the century,” a peace pact between Palestinians and Israelis? All he has done so far is take chips off the table that might have moved the needle. Denuclearizing North Korea? Nothing accomplished. Getting out of Afghanistan? Nope, not yet.
Taking the upper hand with global trade? For the time being, Trump’s trade wars are hurting — manufacturers farmers, consumers — more than they’re helping. A new plan for health care, something superior to Obamacare? Nothing has been created. Rebuilding infrastructure, one of Trump’s few promises that both sides said they could support? Nothing has been rebuilt. The president has been so busy sowing animus, he hasn’t even tried for this one bit of amity.
If whomever goes head to head with Donald Trump in 2020 doesn’t wither under his thuggish attacks and manages to remind the American people not only of what he or she will do for America but also what Trump hasn’t done, then all is not lost.
What worries me though is that the damage will outlast him. Not only in America’s relationships around the world, but in the minds of America’s young.
If you’re old enough to be reading this, you probably grew up aware that while there always was animosity in politics, generally people didn’t think of their adversaries as wicked, and warped. With Trump, it’s different. Many believe Trump is wicked; many believe Trump is warped. And that has become part of the national conversation, which makes it hard to keep it away from the ears of the young.
Having covered several presidents as a network television news correspondent, I’ve always articulated the adage that even presidents put their pants on one leg at a time. They are merely human beings in an exalted position. But if a president sets a positive example for his people, that is a president to exalt.
When will we have another like that? We have to get past the damage of Donald Trump first. And while that might sometimes depress you as it sometimes depresses me, don’t lose hope.