Asheville Daily Planet, November 18, 2020
It was Saturday after the election when I heard brass band music coming from somewhere deep down inside me.
The faint tune was “Happy Days Are Here Again.” I smiled. My fingers tapped out the rhythm on my knee. What a great song for this occasion! Joe Biden had been declared president-elect!!
The song was a hit from 1929 – before the Depression. It had stirred the country for FDR in 1932 — by then, very much in the grip of the Depression.
The lyrics weren’t true in 1932: “Altogether shout it now / There’s no one who can doubt it now / So let’s tell the world about it now / Happy days are here again” No, in 1932, the skies were overcast and gloomy.
But FDR’s campaign exuberance was real. He gathered great minds and brought the power of the U.S. government to the nation’s big problem, unemployment.
The song’s lyrics aren’t true for us right now, either. We can believe in happy days after COVID, a wobbling economy and an unsure world, but not yet. Like FDR, Joe Biden is already identifying experts and leaders to people his government. Clearly, there will be order and discipline and, hopefully, accomplishment.
As days pass, I still hum “Happy Days,” but the lyrics — “Altogether shout it now” — they don’t fit. Donald Trump has refused to admit he lost, raising anger levels among his supporters. He claims widespread fraud. He continues his strong-man show from the campaign even as he played the victim.
It’s urgent that he maintain the adoration of his base. They must not be seduced by Joe Biden’s call for national unity. He will need their loyalty for whatever he does after the White House.
There’s a metaphor, a cliché actually, that’s perfect for November 2020: We just dodged a bullet.
It was a bullet aimed at the heart of our democracy. Had a majority of us not been determined to stop Donald Trump, our Constitution would have been made irrelevant and replaced with the whims of one-man rule. We would have become a banana republic, a Turkey, a Hungary, a Russia. With unchecked power, do we doubt that Trump would have arrested his enemies and shut down unfavorable media? That’s exactly what would have happened.
I was in the Philippines in 1972 when Ferdinand Marcos took total power. It was efficient and quick, easy. A “New Society” was announced – a flood of “reforms” that changed Philippine life. Congress was replaced by a parliament of cronies. Many businesses of old Spanish and Chinese families were “privatized.” Live television showed citizens turning in their guns.
That was Trump’s ambition. He’s talked all along about a “third term” and being president for life. The election stopped him. The Trump bullet missed its mark.
But wait. The bullet didn’t continue its original trajectory and go on to lodge in a tree. No, look! It’s circling around like a programed missile, seeking a better angle on its target. Its velocity is weakened, but it can still do harm from now to January 20.
His “I was cheated” act is already playing to his 80 million Twitter followers. He knows he lost the election, but he doesn’t want to be seen as a loser — which, of course, he is.
It seems to be working. One man at the MAGA March said, “Why hold an election if they’re going to steal it?” Trump has no stake in democracy, and he wants his people to distrust elections. This is an attitude that could last for years.
And this totally self-centered man doesn’t give a flying flip that he’s chopping at the roots of our democracy.
Self-centered, yes, he is — and unprincipled, predatory, vengeful, morally vile, hot-tempered, disrespectful, envious, unpatriotic and a lying thug. He doesn’t have the botig to accept defeat gracefully — something we all learned growing up as “sportsmanship.”
And yet 73 million Americans voted for him, almost half the voting population.
Yikes. The Trump bullet came close, didn’t it? It might even have nicked the national ear as it passed. But pass it did.