Two similar comments about “history” have stayed with me over the years. One is something my mother often says, although it is not original to her, “History has a way of repeating itself”. The other was a favorite of one of my high-school history teachers, “Whoever doesn’t know history, is doomed to repeat it”, from Edmund Burke and George Santayana. Both are applicable to my concern about our country and the current election cycle.
World War I ended with Germany’s surrender in November 1918, and formally with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. In the aftermath, Germany was in chaos. The war reparations imposed on them by the treaty, hyperinflation and massive unemployment led to economic instability, wiping out most of the personal savings of the middle class. The destruction and catastrophic loss of life they suffered during the war created a culture of despair, and ultimately led to social unrest among the German citizens. They felt betrayed by their government, a loss of pride in their country, and as an object of scorn and derision on the world stage.
They were disillusioned with their national politics, and distrustful of their political leaders and government. With the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, they were fearful of the potential for a communist takeover. They craved authoritarian leadership. The German nationalist “Right” movement promised to revise the Treaty of Versailles through force, if necessary. They would restore Germany to its former greatness, and their thinking became acceptable in the most respectable circles. The German citizens found their voice in a “radical right-wing” leader named Adolf Hitler.
If you have not seen a parallel yet, between this period of history and our own, I will help you out. Like the Germans almost a century ago, Americans are running scared, like rats from a sinking ship. Our country is at one of the lowest points in our history. Seven years of Barack Obama’s leadership, or lack thereof, has left us economically, militarily, morally and spiritually weak. Now, finally and thankfully, his time is almost up. We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and election 2016 is on the horizon. Of course, the downside is desperate people in desperate circumstances do not normally make the best decisions.
Enter Donald Trump, a new kind of leader who will “make America great again”. He appeals to the masses because he is a Washington outsider, and politically incorrect. He speaks his mind irrespective of what anyone thinks, or of whom he offends. He makes grandiose promises, and feeds off the anger of the American public. He is a demagogue. He has little knowledge of foreign policy, and much of what he says he will do as president is not possible, nor does it have any basis in reality, but that does not matter to the voters. As Dr. Charles Krauthammer said, “Trump has no answers but to say, trust in me, I’m successful”.
Now, I am not saying that Donald Trump is another Hitler. What I am saying is that Donald Trump is an extremist, and as radical in his own way as Barack Obama. Prior to our present political atmosphere, Trump’s vile comments, controversial background, and deficit of knowledge in world affairs would have made him an ineffective candidate for the presidency. His answer in the last debate about the “nuclear triad” would have brought ridicule to any other candidate, but not Trump. Apparently, there is not anything he can say or do to negatively affect his poll numbers, and that’s scary. The more vicious and insulting his attacks are, the more the voters support him. The more hateful his rhetoric, the more they cheer him on. They are angry; they want someone who will give a voice to their anger, and Donald Trump is their man.
The fact that Trump gets a pass, and is not held accountable for his actions or his dialogue, does not reflect well on America. Despite the support he receives from people like Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity of Fox News, he is not a conservative. I am a loyal viewer of Fox News, but I have to admit I am no longer finding them so “fair and balanced”, at least not when it comes to the GOP race. They give an inordinate amount of airtime to Donald Trump, and Bernard Goldberg seems to agree. Appearing on The O’Reilly Factor last evening, he said, “Donald Trump gets more air time on Fox than some of the anchors, which is a plus for him. He also has more than a few friends on Fox and some of them interview him as if they were interviewing a friend.” Of course, having Trump on your program translates to higher ratings.
What puzzles me is why so many at FNC, who really know politics, are backing someone with no political experience, and no legitimate plan of action. I understand the whole appeal of an “outsider”; someone who does not play the political games, but let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face. Let’s not, in our frenzy to undo the damage of this administration, elect someone who is as divisive as Barack Obama. This is the time to unite the country, not to further divide it. Like it or not, we are Republicans and Democrats, and we have to elect someone who can work with both parties to pass viable legislation that can promote recovery in America.
President Reagan was a master at negotiation and compromise. In his autobiography, An American Life, he said, “In Sacramento, (as Governor) I learned through experience that it was important to develop an effective working relationship with my opponents in the legislature, our political disagreements notwithstanding.” He achieved great things during his presidency because he worked with the Democrats, not against them. He knew he would not always get 100 percent of what he wanted, because that is the nature of the beast. He also knew that to gain anything, it was to his advantage to form a rapport with his opponents in Congress.
We have already experienced the way things work with a president who refuses to meet his opponents halfway. Nothing gets done, except of course, by executive action. Donald Trump is used to getting his way, and he is intolerant of anyone who disagrees with him. He only wants the deals that work for him, and that is not always a realistic expectation in Washington. A polarizing personality is not what America needs right now. Voters need to take a step back, reassess the situation, and, to borrow a phrase from Hillary Clinton, “hit the reset button”, and rethink the GOP field. We need to choose a candidate who can work and play well with others. Our future depends on it.