Boomer Opinion: No gene for the greater good

Leading-edge baby boomers have now lived through 18 presidential elections. The youngest have been around for 14. But none came even close to the menacing mess of an election coming up in just over a month. As BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs, who spent a career as an international correspondent, writes in this Boomer Opinion piece, the greater good is on the line.

I have covered elections from Venezuela to Egypt to Russia. Each was a nation oppressed by a leader who would unrepentantly use his power to prevent a free and fair vote. A leader whose only intention was to keep on being the leader.

Trump pal – Vladimir Putin posed in one of his weird shirtless photos is now apparently Russia’s president-for-life.

Today in America—with a president who will not assure his nation that if he loses in November he’ll peacefully relinquish the Oval Office, a president who protests without proof that the ballots (on his watch by the way) are “a disaster, a whole big scam,” a president who feeds the fearful frenzy of his followers by saying “I’m not sure” the election can be honest, a president who responds to journalist Chris Wallace’s question about accepting the results if he loses with, “I’m not going to just say yes”— we look just like those other nations in which tidy, tranquil, trustworthy elections were a joke.

Trump interviewed recently by Chris Wallace of Fox News.

If you were to read a story about what Trump’s done without knowing it’s about Trump, you’d think you were reading about some tinhorn dictator from Venezuela or Egypt or Russia… or Belarus, Zimbabwe, North Korea, because Trump does what they do. He installs his closest family in supremely powerful positions, he uses troops to clear his path to a photo op, he perverts everything from his country’s Justice Department to its Postal Service, he circulates conspiratorial conjecture to destabilize his detractors, he debases his own intelligence chiefs’ alarms about foreign influence on an election and devalues his own FBI chief’s assurance that he has seen no evidence of a “coordinated national voter fraud effort.”

Mailboxes have been removed under the direction of Trump contributor and appointee as Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy.

We keep wondering, how low can this man go? There is, it seems, no bottom.

And now, after scandalous disclosures about his taxes, and how vulnerable he might be to losing his wealth, maybe even his freedom if he’s ousted from the Oval Office, we know the man’s morals well enough to plausibly presume he would selfishly sacrifice our nation’s stability even more, if that’s what it takes to stay out of jail.

Many have written by now about the deranged and dangerous motives of our deceitfully transparent tax-trickster president, but it can’t be said too often: he isn’t just discrediting our democracy any more, he’s not even just undermining it. He’s attacking it. Let me say that again because we’ve never before seen the likes of it and still can’t quite believe it’s happening now: the president of the United States of America, created on an unprecedented platform of democracy, is literally daring it, undoing it, attacking it.

Our old friend Dan Rather has covered many presidents, and he recently wrote of this one, “He is deeply afraid of losing. Losing an election could mean losing in a court of law. It could mean prison time and ruin. But I suspect Trump’s motives are more instinctual. He needs to hold on to power for the sake of power. He cannot lose, even if he has to cheat to win. Even if he has to blow up American democracy.”

Richard Nixon, a President who knew the law and the Constitution, recognized when to resign and depart.

The upshot? A few weeks ago I quoted a Trump-supporting truck mechanic in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, who referred to the Democrats and warned, “If they think there’s unrest now, just wait to see if they try to steal this election. Personally, I think people that are nonviolent, we’re going to get very violent.” That’s what the author of Election Meltdown, law professor Richard Hasen, foresees: “We could well see a protected post election struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close.” It’s what New York Times columnist Frank Bruni fears, that Trump’s treacherous tactics are “making it more likely that (his) supporters will view the election as invalid and will refuse to accept the result if he doesn’t win.”

Trump supporters at a rally — angry people, few masks, seemingly desperate for attention.

And maybe most ominous, it’s what three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman just wrote about in The Atlantic: “Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path. Conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis that would leave the nation without an authoritative result. We have no fail-safe against that calamity.”

But Gellman’s prognosis only gets worse: “If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that uncertainty to hold on to power.”

Maybe you thought the comparison to tinhorn despots was overinflated? Think again.

Some of you might not like columnist Bruni’s chronicle of this crisis, but it’s hard to take issue with most of it: “This country, already uncivil, is on the precipice of being ungovernable, because its institutions are being so profoundly degraded, because its partisanship is so all-consuming, and because Trump, who rode those trends to power, is now turbocharging them to drive America into the ground.” He’s also regrettably right when he reinforces Gellman’s prophecy: “The Republican Party won’t apply the brakes.”

Dan Rather. A clear voice at age 88.

Even Dan Rather, who has lived through so many crises, is anxious: “I have seen this country in deep peril, as the hungry begged for sustenance during the Great Depression, as the Nazis marched across Europe and the Japanese across Asia, as missiles were moved into Cuba, as our political leaders were murdered, as a president ran a criminal conspiracy from the Oval Office, as planes were hijacked into skyscrapers. All of these were scary times, but through it all I never worried about a president actively undermining American democracy and inciting violence to do so— even Nixon, for all of his criminal activity.”

Remember Al Gore? In the 2000 election, he conceded defeat. He didn’t have to. He won the popular vote against George W. Bush, and when it came down to electoral votes and hanging chads in Florida, his defeat was hardly a slam dunk. But for the good of the nation, Gore made the agonizing decision to conclude the contest, to ensure an untroubled transfer of power, to prevent a wrenching rip in our democracy.

Sadly, tragically, the president we have now doesn’t have that gene for the greater good in his makeup. The near-certainty of an untidy, untranquil, untrustworthy election is no joke.

8 Comments

  1. A most disconcerting column, Greg. But I predict that attempts to negate a peaceful transition of presidential power will be met with overwhelming nonviolent protests, the likes of which this nation has rarely seen— at least not since the 1960’s and 1970’s. I, for one, am ready to march with principled Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials in unity and support of the U.S. Constitution. E Pluribus Unum.

    1. First of all, he has to lose to give up his office. Highly unlikely and will be more unlikely after tonight’s debacle of a debate from Biden’s perspective. I do not believe for a single second that in an indisputable defeat that Trump would not leave the office, and in no way would Republicans allow him to do so. It is SUCH a lousy argument made by a party whose best efforts are to shame people vs use facts. I am no Trump Fan, but the democratic party and articles like this make it very easy to decide who to support. The dems are disgusting snakes, who play with people and use political games endlessly.

      1. So let’s just eliminate the Democratic Party and embrace a one-party political system: the party of Trump, the party of sort-of Republicans, except for the hundreds who are recording videos in opposition to Trump and in favor of Biden (see: https://rvat.org/). According to a May 2020 Gallup poll, 31 percent of Americans identify as Democrats; whereas, 25 percent report Republican affiliation. By your reasoning, 64,829,709 of your fellow citizens are “disgusting snakes.” Probably many Independents, who do not formally align with a political party, are also disgusting. And if you are a Boomer 65 and older, hold your nose when you deposit your Social Security check or hand your Medicare card to a healthcare provider. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Lyndon Baines Johnson, both Democrats, are respectively responsible for those shitty programs.

  2. I really liked your piece. I would add though that sadly, when a number of Democrats refused to attend the inauguration it was also another chip out of the armor of our Republic. I do not for one minute believe the president will not leave peacefully. As for the violence, we are already witnessing and many experiencing it, but I can recall Maxine Waters publicly telling people to get in the face of public officials where they eat and where they live. I can remember Hollywood stars talking about blowing up the White House. Sadly, I do not see any good guys anymore, call me cynical, but the high ground was given up by all sides and we are faced with what we have now.
    We as a nation, our officials, the elite, the media, the general public, have lost our civility and common decency. COVID has not helped, but it is also no excuse. To think where we have ended up now, where apparently winning and gaining power means more than morality and what is right; and now in 2020 we are faced with two old white male farts, each with really dirty laundry and both wreaking of corruption. I must admit when I was a political science major studying at American University in DC and interning on capitol hill, or later serving in the federal government under both Republican and Democrat administraions, and at different levels including, the White House (Executive Office Building), never did I imagine that we would be in this mess.
    Again, I really liked your piece. I just think there is enough ‘BS’ from all parties, it is hard to lay the fault at the feet of just one side.
    Frankly, there needs to be a real house cleaning of Democrats and Republicans. I do believe a real problem are career politicians.
    I now do believe there should be term limits for members of congress and the senate, like there is for the president:
    2 terms for senate, 4 terms for the house and done.
    Today there are members of congress currently serving who were elected in the 1970’s.
    I am disgusted with the entire lot of them.
    I think I also have to stop watching the news for a while.

  3. I was very disappointed by the debate. The President behaved badly and the former Vice President unrealistically promised the moon that he never really tried to deliver during his lifetime in politics. And you are right to call out the risk we face with a President who is calling the current election process into question. But you are wrong to not point out that his contestant is absolutely aligned with the effort to discredit the last election, delegitimize a sitting President, and by hook or crook and at all costs to get him out of office – and who flat out refused to answer a question about packing the court, or for that matter advocating that the court remain in a state that would likely end up at an impasse that would result in a constitutional crisis.

    So yes, the situation is dire, but both parties are at fault, not just one, and not just the President.

    1. Agree with all points. I also agree with some of Eric’s points; term limits, for instance. Especially the “two old white farts” comment was on point. I believe the same comment applied to the Dem primary with Joe and Bernie.

  4. Wow Greg, when you stretch the truth you don’t kid around. So many things here I don’t know where to start. But I’ll start at the top and try.

    Trump and Putin pals? I have pals. We go skiing together. ATV riding together. We don’t vy for the “leader of the free world” title. They’re not pals in any sense of the word.

    As far as mail-in ballots go, the news is replete with examples of problems with this. Ballots dumped in the trash, for example.

    Mailboxes removed. As someone who has worked for the USPS, I can tell you that mailboxes are added or removed all the time based on the mail load put in them. Simple supply and demand; if you have two drop boxes and neither one gets more than 1/4 full, one will be removed. Sorting machines (I did maintenance on them) break all the time and wear out; and if the load goes down, the most worn-out will be retired. And, due to the internet and technological ways to digitally sign documents, the amount of actual first-class mail has dropped drastically. Bulk-mail (advertising) keeps the USPS running. If not for that the cost of mailing would probably triple and numerous employees would be laid off. The Postmaster General doesn’t specify mailboxes to be removed, the bean-counters do.

    Taxes. You know what the NYTimes didn’t say about his tax returns? That he had done anything illegal. From a report: “The Times also explained that in 2016 and 2017, Trump requested an extension to file his main tax form 1040, but each time he paid what he thought he might owe in taxes – “$1 million for 2016 and $4.2 million for 2017,” the Times reported. The outlet reported that “virtually all of that liability was washed away when he eventually filed, and most of the payments were rolled forward to cover potential taxes in future years.” This means the IRS kept the $1 million and $4.2 million that Trump paid during those years — he did not get it back. The $750 figure being cited by media outlets is in addition to what he already paid in taxes; it is not his total tax payments for the year. Trump also paid $24.3 million between 2000 and 2017 due to the alternative minimum tax.”
    To reiterate: the $750 is NOT what he owed for the year, despite the media memes.

    A dictator like the other countries you mention? Show any report where his secret police “disappeared” any protestor, never to be seen again. CNN would never drop that story if it were even remotely plausible.

    Picture of Trump rally. No masks because the picture is from 31 July 2018, Trump rally in Tampa per Google Photos. First verified case of COVID in USA was January 2020, so 1.5 years earlier! They look angry because, as near as I can track down, they’re looking at a CNN camera crew. Your “desperate for attention” comment is baseless.

    And after the Atlantic’s story from anonymous sources was debunked by numerous people who were there and not afraid to be named, it should be some time before anything they print is trusted. Just my opinion, of course.

    Inciting violence? That would be Antifa and BLM, and we know who isn’t bankrolling them. Conservatives.

  5. And if Trump were putting his family in “supremely powerful positions”, they would be SecState or other Cabinet Secretaries like Treasury, not simply “advisors to the President”.

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