“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over ... Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”
These are the words of President Gerald Ford at his swearing in on Aug. 9, 1974. They were an epitaph for Richard Nixon. Forty-six years later they are an epitaph for Donald Trump.
Time ticks by, and we move along with our plain and ordinary lives. Then, something happens and time pauses to change the course of history. We remember these moments. In my 75 years there was World War II and Victory over Japan Day, the assassination of JFK, Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the moon landing, the resignation of Richard Nixon, and four years ago, the election of Donald Trump.
Grandfather told me about Pearl Harbor and how the family was gathered in the kitchen at 1790 West Minnehaha in St. Paul when the news came over the radio, and, how, an hour later, the phone rang, and he was summoned to St. Paul Union Depot by his boss at Great Northern to be ready to take out a special, VIP train for Seattle. Four years later my mother recalled Victory over Japan Day and how I yelled and took my first steps and cheered as Edward R. Murrow announced the Japanese surrender. I remember exactly where I stood in front of Murray’s Restaurant on Sixth Street when I learned JFK had been assassinated.
I wouldn’t and didn’t watch the inauguration of Donald Trump.
I’m a pragmatist and reject ideological labels, political parties and partisan solutions. If there’s a problem and a solution that works for the common good, use it. If it doesn’t work, try something else. It’s a path that led me to Goldwater in 64, Nixon in 68, and George McGovern in 72. It’s inconsistent, but democracy is inconsistent and demands an open mind and a questioning attitude if it is to work.
I’ve supported and voted for Republican candidates. It’s why I was horrified when the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump. As a human being, as a candidate and as president, he personifies some of the worst characteristics in American life. He is, literally, the “Ugly American.” His actions and policies over the past four years painfully shredded our institutions and our standing in the world. He is a selfish authoritarian, who’s hostile to facts and truth and has no respect for the knowledge and the skills that are the basis for good government. He has no empathy and no class. Imagine a gentleman and you’ve described everything that he’s not.
Worse, he’s put a mob of sycophants, including members of his family, in positions of power to glorify him and help themselves. A few of them have already gone to jail and others will certainly follow.
We’ve been here before. There was the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, the Teapot Dome scandal and the corruption and the extramarital affairs of Warren G. Harding, the disgrace of Richard Nixon, his vice-president, Spirow T. Agnew, and President Bill Clinton. Our democracy and the electoral system work, but they make mistakes. Donald Trump is one of them.
It’s said that America was hoodwinked by Trump, but it’s a weak excuse. Trump embodies all the pathology in America and American life that put him in power. They’ve had different names over the years: “Ku-Kluxery,” “Know Nothingism,” anti-intellectualism, and religious bigotry. Charlottesville is the most recent example. But there’s also the most pervasive and insidious of them all. Anthropologists politely call it “ethnocentrism,” but let’s be real, it’s racism, and if we are to have a country with a future, we must deal with it.
Some readers are upset with my opinions and previous columns. I’ve heard from them, and I understand. I’ve, also, heard from many with views similar to mine. It’s what the opinion pages are about — opinions. What’s fact is that we have a new president confronting issues that are the most critical in the history of our nation — a voracious pandemic, a stressed health care system, a stressed economy, climate change, economic inequality, and a changing culture.
We may disagree on solutions, but it’s time to come together and agree that we can, and must, work together. It’s no time to quarrel and quibble. The votes are counted. The electorate has spoken. It’s time for an orderly transition. It’s time for Donald Trump to go away.