Give Us A Break

At some time around 3 o’clock in the morning on November 9, 2016, I sat stone-stunned awake at home, like many of us, thinking that I might never sleep again. I was thinking of my wife and my son, and of Hillary Clinton, and of the tens of millions of people who had just voted for a rich, loutish, immoral man (^) who somehow convinced them that he cared. He had somehow hoodwinked them into thinking that he, whose life had been spent in service of no one but himself and dedicated to nothing but making money, was one of them. That he was the answer to their problems.

How’d that work out? Well … that depends on your viewpoint, I guess.

Good enough to elect him again?

I guess we’re about to see.

In my lifetime, we’ve had good presidents and bad ones. Most fell somewhere in between. It’s fair to say, though, that we’ve never had anyone like Donald J. Trump.

Some look at him as the biggest waste of a vote ever, a danger to democracy, an autocrat on training wheels. He, defiantly as always, calls himself the second-best president in history, trailing only Abraham Lincoln. He says that a lot.

Critics say his handling of the crisis of this presidency, the coronavirus pandemic — in which more than 225,000 Americans have died already — is abjectly criminal.

“A+,” he says of the job he’s pulled off.

Some believe he’s spent four years doing nothing but cutting taxes for the wealthy, rubber-stamping conservative judges, ignoring a bunch of huge problems (the coronavirus, climate change) and purposely exacerbating others (rampant racism, divisiveness plaguing our country), all while enriching himself, his family, and his friends.

He and his fans say he’s Made America Great Again.

His backers crow about his economy. They point to wild job growth and low unemployment (until recently), a solid stock market and ballooning 401ks. He says he’s built the greatest economy ever. He says he’s doing a great job.

Opponents counter that only about half of Americans have a 401k, and most are held by people with much more money than the average American. They say his trade war with China has been disastrous, and his fealty to big business shameful. They worry about continuing economic inequality, about his lack of a health care plan, and about his mission to pull health care from millions of needy families — during a pandemic — by crushing what’s left of the law passed a decade ago. They show that Trump’s job growth isn’t as great as it was under his predecessor.

“Greatest economy ever,” Trump repeats.

Critics call him a lapdog for dictators, someone who has wrecked our standing among allies and enemies, and weakened the rule of law at home. He’s also a racist, a misogynist, a serial liar, and a narcissist of the first order, they say.

Your favorite President, me,” he says.

Trump loyalists love his “Law and Order” stance and his vow to quash sometimes violent protests that have erupted recently largely because, according to his opponents, his stoking of racial sensitivities and his reluctance, even refusal, to recognize the legitimacy and the concerns of the mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter movement.

LAW & ORDER!” he tweets in his all-caps scream.

Evangelicals call him a Man of God. Critics point to his history of skipping out on his bills, his sketchy record of paying taxes, his divorces, his womanizing, and the fact that he once gassed protestors outside the White House for a photo opp at a church he’s never attended.

Opponents complain about his pre-adolescent penchant for pettiness and name-calling. He’s fond of calling people, for example, “losers.” He does that quite a lot.

Whatever, Trump says. “Losers,” he says. His backers laugh.

That’s been our last four years. Every day. Trump is relentless. Unforgiving. Preening in his intractability. Sneering in his outright contempt.

He grins. He never offers an apology. He never does anything wrong.

“Never,” he says.

About a week from now, on or around Election Day, we’ll find out whether these last four years under Trump have been acceptable to a majority of Americans … or at least a majority of those Electoral College electors who actually determine who wins. It’s going to be a week — this, too, is something everyone can agree on — of stomach knots and furrowed brows, whether you’re a pro- or never-Trumper.

Even without the smug, snarling Trump, this election has been unlike any we’ve ever had. For one, there’s the pandemic. It is, despite Trump’s insistence that “we’re rounding the corner,” in a full-fledged rage. Since this thing started back in March, cases in the U.S. have never been higher than right now.

For two, this election comes immediately after a fast-tracked, contentious confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, one which bends the Court solidly to a 6-3 conservative edge.

I could lay 3,000 words of argument on you on which side to take in this election. I could, correctly, remind you that Trump — who did not win the popular vote in 2016, but slipped in only because of the arcane rules of the antiquated Electoral College — is not even what most people wanted in the first place. In fact, the people now making the rules, the ones running the country and passing the laws and appointing the judges — even the judges themselves — are not representative of a majority of Americans.

Remember, more Americans identify as Democrats than Republicans, and more Americans are represented in the Senate by Democrats than by Republicans. Yet Republicans hold the majority in the upper chamber. That’s enabled them to acquit Trump after impeachment, jam through hundreds of conservative federal judges and those three Supreme Court justices, and hold up all sorts of majority-passed legislation (including virus stimulus bills). In America 2020, the minority rules.

That’s not all on Trump, of course. He’s doing what he does best; playing the game. It just happens to be a messed up, very unfair game. Right in his wheelhouse.

Yes, I could go on. But, man, I’m tired. Aren’t we all tired?

I wondered, as reality stunned me into a state of stone-cold awakeness on that early Wednesday morning in November of 2016, whether we could make it through four years of Trump. I’m happy to say, I think we’ve made it. This far.

But he’s done some long-term damage that needs fixing. Not to harp on this, but Supreme Court justices live for like 100 years and, again, Trump’s appointees don’t accurately represent the majority opinions of Americans. It’s going to take some doing to change that.

His doggedly frustrating refusal to admit that climate change exists is inexcusable. It’s well past time to get to work on saving our planet.

His unshackling of the business world through tax cuts and relaxed regulations has helped some with 401ks (and done little for those without them). But it will come back to haunt us — see the banking industry, circa 2007 — if we don’t re-do things to keep the always-hungry, always dangerous big corporations in this country under control.

The worst of his worsts, without much doubt — and it’s quite a list — is his complete and utter bungling of the pandemic. He tried to downplay it when it started. He shunned science and common sense almost from the start. He refuses, still, to take any responsibility for his response or set any example on how things should be done.

This, from The New England Journal of Medicine, the most prestigious medical journal in the world. The whole article is worth a read. Notably, these are scientists speaking, not politicians:

[T]ruth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.

Says Trump: “We’ve done a phenomenal job. Not just a good job, a phenomenal job.”

I don’t think we can take another four years of this guy. I know I can’t.

People often vote for president, sad to say, by picking the lesser of two evils. That’s one reason so many went with Trump in ’16, though Clinton was not nearly as bad as that ginned-up Republican-tarred reputation made her out to be.

In 2020, we don’t have to worry about that kind of choice. Joe Biden is a good man by all but QAnon accounts, a man who has served his country for decades, one who has been less concerned with making a buck than in making life better for others. He hasn’t always been right. He hasn’t always been effective. It’s hard to be both when you’ve spent a lifetime in the cutthroat world of politics.

Biden may not be the perfect agent of change, either. If he’s elected next week (or thereabouts), the ground will not shake. Nothing will erupt. Nothing outside of the Oval Office, that is.

But he has a health care plan. He has an economic plan. He has a plan to address the virus and the environment. They’re all well considered. They’re all legit.

Biden is a man, too, unlike the one we have now, who will listen to others, to experts, and who will strive to unite, not divide. He will, with honesty, set us on a path where we can again try to find the common ground that will lift us all. He will represent the best of us. He will represent all of us.

Not blue, not red. Not urban or rural. Not black or white, not coasts or flyover. Everyone.

These past four years have been incredibly exhausting and depressingly damaging in so many ways. This last year — damn you, 2020, damn you — has been the worst of all. The absolute worst.

It’s time for a break. It’s time for a new president. Maybe then we’ll all rest a little easier.

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