Leading edge baby boomers have lived through 13 presidents now. That includes BoomerCafé’s executive editor and co-founder Greg Dobbs. What’s more, as a correspondent for two television networks, Dobbs covered parts of seven presidential campaigns, and three presidencies. But in this Boomer Opinion piece, he says he’s never faced what he faces today.
As a baby boomer, I find myself dealing with a distressing dilemma that in all my years I haven’t faced before: It would be easy enough to give up. Easy enough to realistically if reluctantly recognize that this awful man in the White House isn’t going away. Easy enough to see that many of his supporters have abandoned moral ideals they once extolled and sold their souls to the devil. Easy enough to fear that he might be putting his indecent imprint on this nation for eight years rather than four.
It would be easy enough to deduce that he will poison its environment, its economy, its opportunities, its reputation, its alliances, its security, its civility, its culture, its once-prized place as a beacon of decency and democracy, and maybe most alarming of all, the very canons of its creation. It would be easy enough to conclude that he will poison them all. He already has started. A second Trump term is a bone-chilling prospect, because undoing what he’ll have done in four years’ time will be tough, but undoing two terms of this mean man’s ghastly governance will be next to impossible.
That’s why, we who see our principles in peril must not give up, must never give up. The scandals, the hypocrisies, the tyrannies, the lies pile up at a pace so fast that we can’t long focus on any one offense. But with the bigger picture, we must never lose focus. That would normalize his policies and his behaviors. It would give him a head start to that second term.
Personally, I am loathe to elevate the importance of the four liberal congresswomen now known as “the squad,” the ones Trump appallingly advised to “go back” where they came from. By my reckoning they don’t always show good sense, but whether the president comprehends it or not, each is a citizen of this nation, each was elected by a majority of her constituents, and each has as much right as anyone to be here.
But I am loathe, because their politics aren’t my politics. Moreover, I am loathe because elevating them will play right into Trump’s hands. I wrote last month of my fear that he and his acolytes will rhetorically turn any left-leaning Democrat into a “socialist” and that then, the damning if deliberately deceiving label “communist” will not be far behind. I was correct beyond my fears. Lindsay Graham: “We all know that AOC (Bronx congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and this crowd are a bunch of communists.” Donald Trump, in a retweet: “Need I say more.”
But when one of them does show good sense, it is worth repeating. And Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar did that in a recent New York Times op-ed. “This fight is not merely about policy ideas,” she wrote, “it is a fight for the soul of our nation. The beauty of this country is not that our democracy is perfect,” she went on, “it’s that embedded in our Constitution and democratic institutions are the tools to make it better.”
Donald Trump proves time and again that he doesn’t understand that, because free speech, along with principles like religious liberty, pluralism, and equal protection under the law, are the very tools that she and her “squad” are using. They don’t always lead to better outcomes, but when stifled, discouraged, even mocked, they never can.
There is a wide spectrum of thought in America. There is a wide spectrum in the Democratic Party alone. As I explained over many years to people overseas when I covered news in Communist or Third World countries and wanted to explain the American ideal, it was that as wide as that spectrum is, we all love our nation. We have a deep divergence of ideas about how to reach the best outcomes, but whether coming from the far Left, the far Right, or anywhere in-between, we all have one thing in common: we want the best for America. We just have different notions of what is best and different ways of getting there.
That’s what’s so wicked about the warning Donald Trump and his sycophants have issued to citizens who criticize his approach to running America: “Love it or leave it.” It’s a throwback to dissent against the war in Vietnam— which didn’t turn out so well for our nation— and an echo of President George W. Bush’s scornful statement about dissent during the war in Iraq— which didn’t turn out so well either: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” No, we were with America.
When Trump was asked about supporters at his recent rally who chanted about Congresswoman Omar, “Send her back, send her back,” he called them “a very big and patriotic crowd. They love the USA!” Newsflash to all who think that way: patriotism doesn’t mean you support your president. It means you support your country. And if you don’t love your president, it doesn’t mean you don’t love your country. Maybe those who don’t champion those principles, which are part of the American ideal, are the ones whose patriotism could be questioned. Maybe once you’ve sold your soul to the devil, you’ve lost your ability to buy it back.
It’s fair to say, Republicans aren’t the only ones who sometimes put political primacy over patriotic principle. If the shoe were on other foot, the Democrats might be the ones. But you know what? It’s not. We have a Republican president, and a Republican Party for which he can do little wrong. Consider the resolution passed by the House of Representatives in the wake of “Send her back.” It said in part, “American patriotism is defined not by race or ethnicity but by devotion to the Constitutional ideals of equality, liberty, inclusion, and democracy and by service to our communities and struggle for the common good.” Do you know how many House Republicans showed some spine and supported the resolution? Four. Even though it’s something all 199 would have supported before Trump.
That’s how he has perverted politics in America. And principles. To the point where a senator from Montana named Steve Daines tweeted the other day, “Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals.”
I’d like to give this guy a ticket to one of the many countries in which I’ve worked, where “trashing our country and our ideals” is treated as treason. And give him a dictionary so that on the flight over, he can look up the definition of “dissent,” let alone of “patriotism.”
Trump, of course, needs the same trip. Which is why, until he takes it, we cannot give up.