The Plunge Taken

It dawned on me recently that I don’t smile much anymore. It’s in no small part because there is a constant dis-ease with our Tweeter-in-chief and pretty much everyone around him.

I rarely watch the evening news because I know the first 10 minutes or so will include sound bytes of Donald Trump or some administration official attempting to utter something intelligible, or just a defense of the indefensible. More often than not, they only manage to spew something vacuous or mean-spirited. Or The Donald tries to look busy as he signs another executive order undoing some piece of legislation passed during the Obama years.

The incessant desire to repeal the ACA is beyond infuriating. To paraphrase the inimitable Roy Neary, “Who the hell are these people?!” Even now as debate is renewed, I remain hopeful that there will emerge at least a few Republicans who have something resembling a heart.

There is a legitimate chasm, unbridgeable at this point, between Republicans and the majority of Americans who voted for someone else. And there is no meeting in the middle. There is no middle right now. It seems clear that we can’t all just get along, nor should we expect to. It is clear that there are non-negotiable principles at stake, with large numbers of citizens in danger of falling through the cracks, somehow judged expendable, illegal, or lacking in ambition.

Historians will most likely trace the roots of this toxic atmosphere back beyond the Obama years. But it’s difficult not to connect the current state of affairs with Mr. Obama’s time in office and the two-term obstructionist march to the sea unleashed by Republicans who were positively aghast at a black Democrat having been elected President. They were seething for eight years, egged on by Fox News and a host of other media gas bags, and they (and now we) have ended up with Donald Trump, who at every turn claims to know how to “win.”

I don’t remember ever feeling this way about politics, or about previous elections. The differences between parties and platforms are stark. Republican motives seem blatantly self-serving and anachronistic, not to mention callous and cold-hearted, bordering on inhuman. And all of it is couched in a non-existent “mandate” (if by “mandate” is meant a majority of all Americans), along with a pseudo-concern for sound fiscal policy.

 Maybe the scales have fallen from our eyes and all we have witnessed is the reality of “politics in the 21st century.” Except Republicans seem intent on taking us back to the mid-twentieth century, when everyone habitually (robotically?) went to church and coal was king and certain people knew their place.

So there is little middle ground. Factions of the electorate do not like each other, much less trust each other. This is a battle of wills now, of visions, of wildly disparate views of what progress looks like. As others have noted, this is shaping up to be a battle for the heart and soul of the country.

To get things started, I sincerely hope that, with regard to Donald Trump, the other shoe drops shortly. I am not optimistic about this, since he and his cohorts are so adept at changing the subject and filling the airwaves with a much more authentic brand of fake news.

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