Asheville DAily Planet, April 2019

Years ago, when I was young and working, I was approached by a company needing help with their name. The company’s business was house fires. They did everything necessary to return the house to its original condition, from demolition to final touches. The name of the company was Restoration Specialists.

Now as we approach fateful 2020, that’s exactly what I’m looking for in a Democratic candidate for president. I want a restoration specialist.

Our Founding Architects designed a stout form of government that withstood stormy feuds, floods of immigrants, a fiery Civil War. It stood strong because successive presidents, Congresses and courts wanted it to survive and prosper.

The Founders were hugely optimistic on the future of the nation they established. John Adams predicted it would be celebrated “from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” But James Madison foresaw a time when their creation could fall into irresponsible hands: “The hope is that [those elected] will be…patriotic and just, chosen due to their virtues. …But, on the other hand, the reverse could happen. People of sinister designs might wangle their way into office.”

Well, it took 230 years to come true, but now the Wangler is in the White House. Every day there’s some new outrage – making foreign policy with Russia and Saudi Arabia for their m-o-n-e-y, ignoring the Constitution’s separation of Executive and Legislative Branches, attacking our free press, threatening critics. He sees himself as head of a mom-and-pop country where he gets no guff.

The great puzzle of our time is that almost 90% of Republicans agree with him. They seem to want Trump as an authoritarian president with press and Congress muzzled on a leash. I know many Trump supporters. They’re sensible people. I understand that a lot about American isn’t working and nothing gets done in Washington. It’s tempting to wonder if Enlightenment ideas of government by the people aren’t out-of-date.

Tempting, yes – if that president were patriotic, smart, honest, truthful and informed on issues. Talk to me about an American dictator when we have a president with the character traits that Trump is famous for not having. Until then, I’m stickin’ to the Founding Fathers.

The election of 2020 will decide our direction. If American voters reelect Donald Trump, they strengthen the strongman. If they defeat him, they welcome back our democracy.

Right now, Trump’s opposition looks like fans before the big game – candidates rushing about, most of them unknown until they declare for president. They’re polishing life stories and concocting charisma. They’re teeming fish in a pond. How do we pick one?

Smart and tough, that’s my combo. I picture them sitting across from Mitch McConnell and squashing the worm into his chair. It’s part physical presence, part strength of character, part open-armed warmth.

That person can restore our democracy – helping along a functioning Congress, voting rights laws, somehow controlling money in elections. This new tough-and-smart Democratic president can take us back to a time when reasonable people practiced the art of governing, not political warfare – before Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.

He or she can free senators and congressmen to walk the halls of government like giants once more, adopting an old-time work ethic, even staying in Washington most weekends. And best of all, old-fashioned values will be back, like truth, honesty and, yes, honor and patriotism.

For my grandchildren, I want to see the old house restored to the glory envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

I hear some Democratic candidates planning a new house next door. I’m sorry, but it’s not a house. It’s a Walt Disney castle. The Green New Deal takes me back to my childhood, when Mother’s lust for stuff would crash against Daddy’s income. I’m solid behind universal healthcare, for example, but tough-minded budgeting and fair taxation must come first.

But if one of the new-house Democrats wins the nomination, I’ll back them enthusiastically. Trump must be defeated. Our democracy must be saved.