How could we? What does it say about voters to go from best to worst? Probably the same as going from worst to best. Consider James Buchanan, formally regarded as the worst president ever. And he preceded Lincoln. Of course the worst president distinction needs to be seriously revisited.
Buchanan fell the furthest considering his impeccable resume’. He served in both houses of Congress, was twice ambassador and Secretary of State. Yet he allowed slavery to expand, applauded the infamous Dred Scott decision and sat on his hands while Southern states seceded from the Union. He bequeathed the entire mess to Lincoln in 1860.
Then there was Young Bob and Fighting Bob. The two La Follettes were Wisconsin’s distinguished Senators from 1908 to 1946. Robert Sr. was named, by a select committee of Congress, among the five most highly regarded Senators ever to have served along with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. He founded the Progressive Party and three times ran for president. His son was a favorite of FDR and a champion of unionism and redistribution of wealth.
Yet the voters of Wisconsin, in their infinite wisdom, replaced Robert Jr. with none other than Joe McCarthy whom history remembers as a man with no decency having been censured by his Senate colleagues for reckless smears and fear-mongering.
And now we have Donald Trump following two terms of Obama who has dignified the presidency in ways few of his predecessors ever reached. His humanity, high consciousness and deliberation set the bar higher for all to follow. And who follows? A man consummately unfit for the office who exhibits signs of dementia or malignant narcissism or some, as yet un-named disorder according to serious mental health professionals.
It’s small comfort to know that this 180 degree turn of the electorate is not without precedent. It reveals the two strains in America which have co-existed since our inception: the Puritan ethos, authoritarian, punitive, indifferent to the less fortunate, xenophobic along with the Liberal, inclusive and empathic with a belief in role for the federal government.
Technology has brought with it change both accelerated and largely hidden. Disruptions hit certain sectors harder than others. This time around Charlie Lunch Bucket felt it and bought into Trump’s hollow promises.
One can only hope for a return to the fold as factories remain shuttered and the economic disequilibrium gets tilted even more in favor of Trump and his buddies who live is some alternative reality.
In the Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera, Trial by Jury, the defendant, who has found a new subject for his affections, is being sued for breach of contract of marriage. He sings to the jury, But this I am willing to say / If it will appease her sorrow / I’ll marry this lady today / And marry the other tomorrow.
Without a feel for the fundamental values of a particular party one enters into a rocky mismatch ripe for betrayal. The working people of the Rust Belt will soon discover they’ve been cheated. The ill-gotten gains of corporate America are misaligned with the out-of-work and under-employed. Their health care and Social Security are in jeopardy as is the air they breathe… and nobody is going to invade our frozen yogurt shops.
These Trump-Democrats won’t have to travel the full 180 degrees/ The Dems also have to turn some and address the grievances of displaced workers. To everything turn, turn, turn.