Are we in “irreversible decline” as a nation, something exemplified in the Trump Presidency? That’s a legitimate question to ask, especially when you look at the bigger picture, including things happening that cannot in all fairness be blamed on the President.
The news this month raises the question of just how healthy America is today. Media focus on hate-inspired mass shootings has started to subside with few signs of new legislation or answers anywhere on the horizon. The President’s bizarre tweeting has grown worse. He’s advising Jews that if they vote Democratic, they’re “disloyal.” He proposed the purchase of Greenland, escalated the trade war, and pondered whether the Chairman of the Federal Reserve or Chinese Premier Xi was “the bigger enemy.” This latter rant, widely described as an “explosion,” sent the Dow down 600 points in a single day, escalating the wild volatility already plaguing the stock market and prompting some pundits to predict a recession.
Then came the news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was again treated for pancreatic cancer. Apparently, the prognosis is good. Regardless of your politics, let’s hope for a quick recovery. The prospect of another brutal confirmation fight, one that might take place in the Senate while the House considers Articles of Impeachment, is something all should dread.
This list of negative news could go on. I could have mentioned the fires in the Amazon rain forest, the depressing 2020 Presidential campaigns, or the continuing misadventures of Boeing and its 737 MAX. I won’t because as the summer draws to a close, a little hope, a little optimism, and a short vacation from insanity is needed. So, are we headed for a Constitutional crisis, a severe recession, political stalemate, and ecological disaster? Let’s hope not.
Here’s why there is hope:
First, with a little luck, Trump may be entering his late innings. While about 40 percent of Americans still support him, the rest of us seem to have his number. One of my closest friends told me to chill out because “everyone, including his supporters, knows to ignore everything he says.” If my friend is correct, we have only about 15 months before a new President is elected. And as election day gets closer and if it appears he is headed for defeat, it will become harder for him to act on the irrational thoughts that seem to enter his head daily. One also hopes that he will get tired of tweeting, immigration, and foreign policy and play a little more golf. Past failed Presidents have semi-hibernated during the last year in office. With a little luck, Trump will do the same.
Second is the economy. Many economists believe Trump’s trade war could have a calamitous long-term impact on the economy. So far, the economy appears to be more robust than many fear. American innovation, as well as low interest rates may be reasons for hope. One must be grateful for low unemployment rates. And because Trump appears to equate stock market health to that of the entire country, one can hope he will back off economic policies, such as the disastrous trade war with China, if he concludes permanent harm will be done to markets. His motivations here may be questionable, but if it curtails his trade war, there is a good chance a severe recession could be avoided. It should also be noted that there are those who claim that the US could withstand a brief recession far better than four more years of Trump.
Third, Republicans may wake up. It is incredible that so few Republicans are willing to call out Trump when he makes an ostensibly racist or outrageous statement. That could change as election day nears. I don’t believe mainstream Republicans are ready to go down with the Trump ship. Former Rep. Joe Walsh, for example, has announced he will challenge Trump in the primaries. Will Kasich and Romney follow? And if the Mooch is willing to call out Trump as unfit for office, it is not unreasonable to hope other Republicans may join the bandwagon.
Fourth, it is important to remember that America has weathered other dark periods. The 1960s saw incredible division over the Vietnam War and a brutal battle over civil rights. In the 70’s there was Watergate. In the 90’s we had the Great Recession. Arguably, America is stronger because of this history. The lessons of Vietnam, for example, while not always followed since, have not yet been forgotten. And the struggles for civil rights of today clearly build on those of the 1960s, representing progress for the quest for “a more perfect union.” And the demise of Nixon taught us that America can survive a Constitutional crisis or a failed Presidency.
Not everyone will agree with my analysis. Good friends tell me the s__tstorm is just starting. I hope not, but, all told, succumbing to hopelessness is not an option. It also is not justified on the facts. Things will get better. This, however, will not be automatic. Citizen engagement is required. Many candidates for President are looking beyond the Trump era, focusing on the future rather than the past. Many voters are responding by turning their attention on what can be rather than on what’s wrong today. The current mess has reminded many of us how important our vote is and that there is a lot more to America than just politics. This bodes well for 2020.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. He is a former counsel to the House Committee on Education and Labor. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy. He is the former chairman of the National College Access Network (NCAN), a group promoting success in higher education among underrepresented groups, and KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a national leader in strategic foresight and education innovation