Mountain Snail

Stuff Ballard Wrote

GOP rules by surprises

News-Record & Sentinel, October 16, 2019

The story is told of a basketball team that came with a secret plan.  They took the floor with seven players.  They ran without dribbling.  They body-checked opposing players.    

To succeed, their plan had to be a surprise.  The other team had to come expecting to play by the rules.

A real-life version of this tale unfolded last month in Raleigh.  It opened September 10 with the Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee calling the top Democrat to tell him that the next day’s session would be a “skeleton session,” with no vote to be taken.  He told the press the same thing.

Next morning, the Speaker of the House, Tim Moore, gaveled the session to order.  Immediately, the floor filled with Republicans.  Only a dozen Democrats were present.  Very soon, a GOP representative made a motion to override the governor’s veto of the state budget.  Democrats hollered foul, but Moore didn’t allow debate, which would have given Democrats time to rally their people.  One protesting representative had her microphone turned off.  The override passed, 55-9.  No reporters were present.

This maneuver brings back memories of past Republican surprises, doesn’t it?  Like how they came to power.

In the spring of 2010, national Republican bigshot Ed Gillespie came to Raleigh with a plan.  Republicans would wait until the closing days of that year’s campaign, when Democrats would have no time to respond, and then they’d spend millions to smear Democratic candidates, especially with twisted mailbox fliers.  Surprise!  They took both houses of the General Assembly. 

Republicans hadn’t been in control since 1898.  Their leaders had no experience — so they did what came natural to them:  arrogance and trickery.  In January 2012, with an hour’s notice to Democrats, they called a special midnight session to override a veto. Their reply to criticism:  “Whenever the will of the majority is to pass legislation without further delay, we should move forward.”  In all, over eight years, 21 of their acts have been ruled unconstitutional by the courts. 

Most were done when Thom Tillis was Speaker.  What about our current Speaker?  You can Google him at “Tim Moore scandals.”

Madison County Republicans aren’t Raleigh Republicans.  But Hise and Presnell still expect to get thousands of votes here.  You have to wonder:  what if Hise and Presnell are the ones who are surprised?     

F. Graham, a sad figure

Asheville Daily Planet, November 2019

Franklin Graham could go down as one of the sad figures of our time — a man called “evangelist” and “pastor” who ensnared himself in the sordid side of politics.

He’s stumbling down the same road his father painfully took.

In 2011, an interviewer asked Billy Graham if he had any regrets as he looked back over his life.  First, he predictably said he wished he’d spent more time with his family.

Then he added: “I also would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.”

Yes, I’d say he did cross the line.  He was part of Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign.  One Graham memo, for example, advises: “I would seriously question the wisdom of your becoming personally involved in the campaign before early September.  If the polls and the mood of the country continue as is you may be wise to do only a minimum of campaigning. I think Senator McGovern is perfectly capable of making further mistakes.”  And the Nixon tapes show him trashing the unfriendly media.

When asked about his dad’s regret, Franklin sniffed, “We are disappointed in life by people.  That’s part of life.”    

Yes, it is.  But, weirdly, he doesn’t seem to entertain that Donald Trump could disappoint. 

In the impeachment inquiry, Graham warns Democrats to “make sure that truth is told.”  But he himself is not seeking truth about Trump’s alleged misdeeds that are at the heart of the inquiry.  “Our country could begin to unravel if an elected president is thrown out of office because of lies and the media,” he said. 

Sad.  The charges against Trump are not lies.  The president doesn’t deny them.  He broke our election laws in Ukraine.  When Graham calls the inquiry “nothing about nothing,” he’s on the wrong side of truth.  He’s being totally partisan.

In First Samuel, chapter 26, David passed on a chance to kill Saul, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.”  Graham seems to have adopted this attitude toward Trump.  He often says that God put Trump in office, so it follows that nobody should lay a hand on him.  (Similarly, when Jerry Falwell, Jr. was asked if Trump could do anything that would cause him to abandon him, he replied simply, “No.”)    

We don’t have divine right of kings.  We have a Constitution, and the Framers instituted impeachment for exactly the situation we find ourselves in now — when an elected president uses his office to destroy a political opponent.  

When Graham touts the president, he mentions his nominating conservative judges — always specifically “conservative.” Indeed, that’s been Trump’s single criterion, more than incorruptible, wise, open-minded or skilled in the law.  Franklin Graham’s north star is conservatism. 

His dad was conservative before him — theologically conservative (expected of a down-the-line evangelical), but also politically conservative (not necessarily expected). He endorsed George W. Bush in Florida on the eve of the 2000 election.  And he wrote that “Jesse Helms…was a man of consistent conviction to conservative ideals and courage to faithfully serve God and country based on principle, not popularity or politics.”

Of the two, theology and politics, Billy was more prominently the former.  Franklin, while he indeed preaches a conservative gospel of Christ, is far more openly partisan.  “Christians should be aware of candidates who call themselves progressive,” he tweeted.  “Progressive is generally just a code word for someone who leans toward socialism, who does not believe in God, & who will likely vote against Godly principles that are so important to our nation.”

Maybe Billy Graham’s repentance about politics, in part, had to do with the unprincipled criminal he supported in 1972.  Maybe Franklin Graham will recognize that the man he supports now is also an unprincipled criminal. 

I’m ready to X Roe

News-Record & Sentinel, September 2019

When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 by a 7-2 margin in the Supreme Court, five of the seven justices on the winning side were appointed by Republican presidents.

This kind of nostalgic trivia comes to mind because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s illness.  If she doesn’t make it to Inauguration Day 2021, her replacement would probably make the Court very ideological.

That would likely mean repeal of Roe v. Wade.

And I’ve got to say, I’m ready to see it go. 

Personally, I don’t like abortion—even more since I saw our granddaughter’s early heartbeat—but I also understand reasons women need them.  I’ve never called myself “pro-choice,” but pro-life arguments are thin.

If Roe goes down, some things would change, of course.  The U.S. government would be out of the picture, and the individual states would decide on abortion within their borders.  We would have “life” states and “choice” states, like before the Civil War when there were slave states and free states. 

Significantly, I think, more Americans would live in choice states (projected 44 percent) than life states (38 percent).    

An organized transport system from life states to choice states would develop, perhaps with subsidies for those who can’t afford the fare.  Demand would drive pharmaceutical and technology companies to speed up self-help solutions.  Underground practitioners would probably appear in life states.    

Abortions would continue.  But the issue in the Supreme Court would finally be decided, closed, settled, over with. 

And I’m ready for that.  For decades, televangelists and others have used abortion and Roe v. Wade to pump up the faithful, creating a huge distraction from what Jesus called “the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” 

Dallas pastor and Trump buddy Robert Jeffress has said that Democrats were opposed to Brett Kavanaugh because, on the Court, he would “somehow lessen the number of babies being murdered every year in the womb through abortion.” 

All that leads into politics.  In the Wagon Wheel, I overheard a friend say, “I could never vote for somebody who supports abortion.”  And the best man in my wedding years ago votes for the strongest anti-abortion candidates. 

If overturning Roe v. Wade would free my friends to evaluate candidates by their integrity, their wisdom, their patriotism and their calm leadership, then I’m all for it.

DJ Trump is no RE Lee

News-Record & Sentinel, September 2019

Third day at Gettysburg.  Robert E. Lee ignored the protests of his second-in-command, James Longstreet, and sent nine brigades against Cemetery Ridge.  They were slaughtered.

As the survivors stumbled back to Confederate lines, Lee rode among them: “All this has been my fault,” he said to a general.  “It is I that have lost this fight.”

He could, legitimately, have blamed Longstreet.  He pressed Lee: “General….it is my opinion that no 15,000 men ever arranged for battle can take that position.”  And not prevailing, he was apathetic in preparing the force to attack.     

Lee didn’t worry that admitting wrong would make him appear weak.  He reacted from his depth of character.

We raise our children to be that way, don’t we?  We try to admit our own mistakes, and we’re happy when our kids understand that manning up shows strength, not weakness.

You know where I’m going with this, of course.  To the White House.

“I will absolutely apologize sometime in the distant future if I’m ever wrong,” Trump told Jimmy Fallon.  He asked Anderson Cooper, “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes?”

In 1989, Trump spent $85,000 on full-page ads calling (implicitly) for the execution of five young black and Hispanic boys for a Central Park rape.  The boys were proven innocent and another man convicted by DNA.  But Trump has never admitted he was wrong. 

And recently, he tweeted for days to justify a misstatement that Alabama was in danger from Hurricane Dorian.

Dear Aunt Gussie!  What’s going on with this man?  To err is human.  Does he expect people to think him superhuman?  People aren’t stupid; they know.  Denying the plain truth is a smokeless smoke screen. 

The Alabama storm was comical.  Not backing off the Central Park Five is bizarre.  But an infallible president is terrifying.   

He’s a bully, and bullies worry about looking weak.  Better to bluff and lie than admit a mistake. 

It’s time for a national reevaluation.

Jimmy Carter is my distant cousin.  I was invited to his inaugural.  But when I judged him lacking, I didn’t vote him a second term. 

Robert E. Lee made a mistake at Gettysburg, but we judge him great for the totality of his life and work.  Likewise, Trump will be judged for the totality of his life.

GOP surprises

News-Record & Sentinel, October 2019

The story is told of a basketball team that came with a secret plan.  They took the floor with seven players.  They ran without dribbling.  They body-checked opposing players.    

To succeed, their plan had to be a surprise.  The other team had to come expecting to play by the rules.

A real-life version of this tale unfolded last month in Raleigh.  It opened September 10 with the Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee calling the top Democrat to tell him that the next day’s session would be a “skeleton session,” with no vote to be taken.  He told the press the same thing.

Next morning, the Speaker of the House, Tim Moore, gaveled the session to order.  Immediately, the floor filled with Republicans.  Only a dozen Democrats were present.  Very soon, a GOP representative made a motion to override the governor’s veto of the state budget.  Democrats hollered foul, but Moore didn’t allow debate, which would have given Democrats time to rally their people.  One protesting representative had her microphone turned off.  The override passed, 55-9.  No reporters were present.

This maneuver brings back memories of past Republican surprises, doesn’t it?  Like how they came to power.

In the spring of 2010, national Republican bigshot Ed Gillespie came to Raleigh with a plan.  Republicans would wait until the closing days of that year’s campaign, when Democrats would have no time to respond, and then they’d spend millions to smear Democratic candidates, especially with twisted mailbox fliers.  Surprise!  They took both houses of the General Assembly. 

Republicans hadn’t been in control since 1898.  Their leaders had no experience — so they did what came natural to them:  arrogance and trickery.  In January 2012, with an hour’s notice to Democrats, they called a special midnight session to override a veto. Their reply to criticism:  “Whenever the will of the majority is to pass legislation without further delay, we should move forward.”  In all, over eight years, 21 of their acts have been ruled unconstitutional by the courts. 

Most were done when Thom Tillis was Speaker.  What about our current Speaker?  You can Google him at “Tim Moore scandals.”

Madison County Republicans aren’t Raleigh Republicans.  But Hise and Presnell still expect to get thousands of votes here.  You have to wonder:  what if Hise and Presnell are the ones who are surprised?     

I had a wonderful dream

News-record & Sentinel, June 2017

had a dream. No, it was more than a dream. It was real. I could see it, touch it. It was a real-life drama, a play in three acts. I could hear the audience of American people shouting “Bravo!” at the curtain. Act One: Hillary Clinton is elected president. And she carries a Democratic Senate with her. Act Two: Hillary appoints a wise Supreme Court justice to replace Scalia. Act Three: The new Court majority reverses Citizens United and goes a step farther to point toward public financing of elections. The new majority revisits the Court’s ruling on Shelby County v. Holder , that freed states from getting federal approval before changing voting requirements. And they would establish standards for redistricting legislative and Congressional boundaries. Ah yes, they would yank the teeth from gerrymandering. And like in Brown v. Board of Education, the Court’s decision would be unanimous. This action on gerrymandering was to be the grand climax of my drama. No more drawing districts to give incumbents power forever. Everybody’s vote counts! I’ve written several columns on redistricting. One, in the February 2016 Asheville Daily Planet, included parody lyrics intended to fire up the Supreme Court. Tune: “Buckle Down, Winsocki”: “Johnny Roberts, you will do what’s right, Politicians got us in this awful plight, Things are all mixed up, you can fix things up; Your esteem picks up, if you will only do what’s right.” Then came November 8, and my glorious play closed before it ever opened. Or did it? Supreme Court justices read daily newspapers. We know they do. They follow events in Washington. They know our President. They watch how he turns everything to himself. They see his disrespect for the federal judiciary and his total disdain for the free press. And they note the weakness of Congress. What if the so-called “war room” in the White House with its “street fighters” go too far in defending against investigations and government bureaucracy? What if the President declares the Department of Justice no longer independent of the White House? What if his messages to his loyal followers begin to sound like a call for Blackshirts? I can see Justices Roberts and Kennedy murmuring to their wives over their morning papers at breakfast, “It’s going to be up to us, Janie (Mary).” These men care about the Law. They care about the name and honor of the Supreme Court. It’s not unreasonable that they would approach their docket, including redistricting and Citizens United, like they’re guardians of our democracy. No room for ideology. Rights of the people must be foremost. Roberts picks up his phone. “Hello, Anthony, can we meet for coffee this week? Yeah, about that.”

A soul that was tried

Asheville Daily Planet, August 2019

A Republican congressman from Michigan made news recently when he said President Trump should be impeached and then later resigned from the GOP.  His name is Justin Amash — son of Palestinian-Syrian immigrants and, in Congress, a bona fide son of the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus.  He is now also recipient of President Trump’s standard “loser” tweet for those who prove unfaithful to him.

The congressman’s district, Michigan’s Third, and the city of Grand Rapids have long been known as deep conservative country.  This was Gerald Ford’s home district in Congress.  And Grand Rapids has always been famous as a bastion of conservative Christianity. 

Amash is a good fit to the historic conservatism of the district.  He believes in fiscal responsibility, economic freedom, low taxes — and most of all, he believes in America and America’s Constitution.  It’s clear from his Independence Day resignation notice that he’s had it up to here with his spineless colleagues.  He wrote:

“The founders envisioned Congress as a deliberative body in which outcomes are discovered. We are fast approaching the point, however, where Congress exists as little more than a formality to legitimize outcomes dictated by the president, the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader.”

What he’s talking about, of course, is Trumpism. 

Ah, Trumpism.  Any Republican who hopes for a political future must deposit their beliefs and principles at the door, enter meekly and kneel before the Leader. They aren’t to worry about trillions in deficit spending, or blatant corruption in the Trump administration, or disrespect for the rule of law, or the favored status of the rich and powerful, or the Constitution’s checks and balances, or a threat from Russia.    

Amash, a Greek Orthodox Christian, maintains a conservative world view that is endangered in the Republican Party, if it’s not already dead.  When he was first elected in 2010, though, it was a living creed.  Romney and Ryan, the GOP ticket in 2012, were consistent in their conservative principles.  

Amash’s 3rd Congressional District was once represented by Paul Brentwood Henry, son of conservative icon Carl F.H. Henry, founder of Fuller Theological Seminary and founding editor of Christianity Today (and  a fellow alumnus of mine from Wheaton College).  Paul Henry was a political science professor at conservative Calvin College in Grand Rapids when he felt a call to serve as a conservative Christian in politics and government.  He served four terms and was elected to a fifth term when he died.

A quote of his came to my attention in a PR video from the college:

“The Christian who enters politics must do so with the aim of achieving political justice. He does this by subjecting his own personal ambition and desires to the scrutiny of God’s revelation in the Scriptures. And as God gives the grace to do so, he learns to make the needs of his neighbor his own. In so doing, his search for justice becomes an act of sacrificial love.”

How magnificent!  A politician “subjecting his own personal ambition” and making “the needs of his neighbor his own.”  Trumpism (and I would add, Limbaughism) have bumped aside this wonderful outlook on service. 

Paul Henry was at home in Grand Rapids.  I’m glad he’s not here to see how things have changed.  Trumpism is noticeably rampant in his old district. 

Back in March, President Trump staged one of his first reelection rallies in Grand Rapids. The arena was packed with over 13,000 whoop-it-up fans.  It’s startling to see thousands of upheld hands holding cameras.  You almost expect to hear “Heil!”   

Trump knows susceptible territory.  Grand Rapids hosted his final rally of the 2016 campaign, and he started there this time. 

And whataya know, the first guy to announce for the Republican nomination, to oppose Amash (now an Independent) in the general election, stated his platform as “pro-Trump…and pro-family values.” 

Trump and family values.  I don’t know whether to laugh or throw up.

If my cheater cheats, it’s OK

Daily Planet, September 2019

Competition can bring out the best in us — or the worst.  In business, sports, politics or the county fair, the lure of winning is oh so strong.

The good competitor is focused on his own performance.  If he has advantage over his opponent, it’s from is skill and hard work.

The bad competitor looks for any advantage he can find that will bring him victory. He’s a ready prospect for cheating.

The Republican Party belongs to the second group.  They cheat.  Their planners and politicians cheat in broad daylight and brag about it.  

And Republican voters don’t seem to mind.

Republicans cheat by rigging elections.  In states where Republicans controlled state government after the 2010 census, they drew congressional district maps so that a Democratic vote was worth half of a Republican vote.  In seven such states  ̶  Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Florida and North Carolina  ̶   Democrats got a total of 16.4 million votes for Congress, and Republicans got 16.7 million.   Each party should have elected about half of the seven states’ 107 representatives, but GOP got 73, Democrats got 34.

A website for Republican strategy boasts:  “[Our system’s] effect on the 2012 election is plain when analyzing the results.  Michiganders cast over 240,000 more votes for Democratic congressional candidates than Republicans, but still elected a 9-5 Republican delegation to Congress.”

In Raleigh, GOP legislators openly researched voting habits of Democratic voting constituencies, like seniors, minorities and young people, and then they passed laws to inconvenience these voters. 

Nationally, they tried to manipulate the census to make congressional districts more favorable to Republicans.  Their scheme was exposed when a key consultant died last year, and his computer proved their intent was to cheat the system.

OK, it’s no mystery that Republican planners and politicians run a garbage factory.  And amazingly, they’re proud of their reeking product. 

But what about their staff, who have to live with the cynicism and dishonesty all day every day?  Some, I’m sure, are excited to learn how the garbage trade works.  Others, I hope, are blessed with olfactory fatigue.

More troubling to me, however, are the millions of good people, who vote, time and again, to send the cheaters back to the General Assembly.  They know about the election rigging and the lies.  In their own lives, they treat people fairly and expect to be treated fairly by others.  And yet their vote says, “Whatever they can do to win is fine with me.”  

On the surface, this seems inconsistent.  And it is.  But not really.  Here’s an example of what I mean.   

In 2015, ESPN conducted a national poll.  The question was:  Do the New England Patriots cheat.?  A majority in all non-New England states, plus Connecticut, said yes, they do.  A majority in the other five New England states said no, they don’t.That poll teaches a lesson beyond sports, I think.  It says we want our side to win, yes, but more than that, it says that all too often, when the cheater who’s cheating is cheating for us, his cheating isn’t cheating.  The cheater is…well…he’s making sure the right side wins.Many people who enable Republican chicanery with their votes are committed Christians.  They know that cheating is wrong, but cheating on elections to gain the political power necessary to check the wrong directions that today’s society has taken, well, that’s a package they can accept. It’s old-time situational ethics (taking the total context of an action into consideration, not applying absolute rules).  It’s “end justifies the means.”  And it’s unusual thinking for these Christians. In fact, if any one of these Christians, by himself or herself, were given sole responsibility for creating electoral districts and passing laws, I’m sure they would do the job according to strict moral standards.  They would not cheat. 

And I’ll tell you something else for sure.  If Democrats take majorities in the General Assembly in 2020, and they cheat in drawing districts after the census, if they don’t create a nonpartisan redistricting commission, then they lose my vote next time around.  And I’ll write about it. 

Jackson & Trump

Asheville Daily Planet, July 2019

A portrait hovers over Donald Trump’s desk in the Oval Office  ̶̶  a man with a Mona Lisa smirk and froofy hairdo that’s first cousin to Trump’s.  We know him as Andrew Jackson from the twenty-dollar bill.

Why would Trump choose Jackson, we wonder?  Wouldn’t Jackson remind Trump daily of his own lack of manliness?  Jackson was a military hero, a great leader of men.  Trump pleaded bone spurs.  Jackson fought 103 duels and ultimately died of lead poisoning from bullets in his body.  Trump’s only mano-a-mano was a staged body slam of Vince McMahon.

But then maybe Trump looks up to Jackson for the courage to tweet one more time against Nancy Pelosi. 

Actually, though, the two men reach over the years to be similar.  Now, as you read, imagine a tinkling bell every time their characters converge.

For example, Jackson may well be half-smiling on Trump and his view of the presidency.

Our Founding Fathers, the guys who thought up the Constitution, thought the Legislative Branch of government was where power was supposed to reside.  We’re a representative democracy, after all.  The president’s assignment, in their plan, was to execute the laws passed by Congress.    

And sure enough, that’s how the first six presidents, all Founders and the son of a Founder, did their jobs.  (And I think that’s the arrangement they taught in my elementary civics class.)

President Number Seven was Jackson  ̶  not a Founding Father and a man accustomed to being obeyed by his soldiers and his slaves.  Congress  ̶  and the Constitution  ̶̶  were annoyances. 

Many Americans at the time liked this command-and-follow leadership style, so much so that Congress was cowed into doing his will.  When Jackson proposed the Indian Removal Act right after he took office, Congress passed it over howls from good people, especially missionaries.  Congressman Davy Crockett was an opposition leader in the House of Representatives.  Then when the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee could not be removed from their lands, Jackson ignored them and ultimately sent troops to remove them to the West.

Jackson didn’t forgive.  Once an enemy, always an enemy.  John C. Calhoun was forever on his list after Calhoun, then Secretary of War, recommended censure of Jackson for his unauthorized capture of Spanish Pensacola in 1818.  After he became president, he told Calhoun:  “If you secede from my nation, I will secede your head from the rest of your body.” 

If Trump knew history, he’d pat Jackson’s portrait on the shoulder every morning out of admiration.  The general’s incredible land grabs after the War of 1812 make Trump real estate deals look downright righteous.  (Google Politico Magazine’s two-part article, “How Jackson made a killing in real estate.”)

Displacing Indians from the Tennessee River valley resulted in an enormous expansion of cotton land  ̶  which, in turn, increased demand for slaves.  It’s been said that Jackson was all for “the common white man.”

Jackson thought from his gut.  For example, the Bank of the United States, a majority-private bank where the government deposited its money, and the bank, in turn, distributed money to state and local banks and somewhat regulated them.  Jackson felt it served the interests of rich Easterners  ̶  and he hated rich Easterners.  Even though Congress had voted to renew the bank’s charter, and the Supreme Court had ruled that the bank was constitutional, Jackson slowed government deposits and ultimately vetoed the bank’s charter renewal. Government money went to “pet banks” in the states.

The result was chaos on the frontier.  Notes issued by many banks were worthless.  Jackson responded with a “circular” that required purchases of federal land be in gold and silver.  He was out of office before the Panic of 1837 hit, a depression that lasted into the mid-1840s.  Jackson’s ignorance of economic cause-and-effect devastated the country.

Our current president has economic ignorance in spades  ̶  about trade, tariffs, tax breaks, role of the Federal Reserve, use of sanctions, multinational trade agreements.

It took seven years, but America survived Jackson’s economic policies.  Now we hold our collective breath over Trump’s.  Maybe we’d be wise to take out Panic insurance now.

History is waiting….

Asheville Daily Planet, June 2019

When Harry Truman left office in 1953, he and Bess went to Union Station and took a train home to Missouri.  It was assumed that he would occupy an obscure line in the list of presidents, with the likes of Millard Fillmore and John Tyler.

But history had other ideas.  Today, Truman is regarded as a great president, both by liberals and conservatives, up there with the Roosevelts. 

The Roman emperor, Caligula, is also being reevaluated.  A Cambridge University professor has argued, in writing and on BBC television, that the few sources we have on Caligula were, at best, passing on gossip.  

History doesn’t see through bifocals.  It pays no mind to the current events we bother about.  History takes a long view.

Oh, don’t you wish you could see how history will see the times we live in now?

Did Germans have these uncertain feelings in the 1930s?  Some did, but the giddy crowds waving Nazi flags and shouting “Victory! Hail!” were unaware that they were sowing the wind that would bring on the whirlwind. 

That’s where we are.  There are various alternative scenarios that might be, but we see darkly.  Meanwhile, our churning gut tells us we’re on a tightrope over a roaring deluge.

The wind being sown in America today swirls around our president.  He is not guided by right and wrong.  He considers himself above laws, rules of civility and ethical conduct ─ and the U.S. Constitution.  He feels he can do and say anything, openly, and pay no price.  His tweets are vile beyond any civilized measure.  He’s more juvenile than a man, more school yard bully than leader.

But his moral failings, even his most preposterous lying, won’t necessarily impact our future.  A person of integrity can replace him and fumigate the White House.

No, Trump’s festering legacy can be more devastating:  the decline of Congress as a coequal branch of government, the reeking corruption all through the executive branch, his splitting off a loyal base for himself as “us versus them,” our diminished place in the world, and the subjugation of the once-grand Republican Party to be his accomplices.

Our Founding Fathers hoped, as James Madison put it, that those elected by the people would be “patriotic and just, chosen due to their virtues.”  But just in case, they built devices into the Constitution to remove those who badly fall short of those qualities. 

Ah, but they assumed that members of Congress, who would do the removing, would themselves be virtuous and patriotic people, the ones Madison wrote about.   Today’s Republicans are anything but.  Far from checking Trump, they enable him.

History looks backward and separates the good, the bad and the indifferent.  Living in our own prehistory, we feel fear.  How will it end? 

If Trump is defeated in 2020 ─ and he leaves office peacefully ─ the swamp of Trumpism can be drained and the city on a hill lit bright once again.  But if he wins another term, people I trust say our Constitution can go defunct, especially if federal judges turn partisan.

How decisive the next 18 months will be!  Who will emerge as heroes of democracy and who, the villains?  Will Republicans find courage and patriotism?  Will Trump wrongdoings be uncovered that are too awful even for his base? 

Or will the Democratic challenger fail badly and Trump be reelected?  No, that must not happen!  It must not happen!  Trump must be defeated.  The winner writes history, as they say, and that must not be Trump.   

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