7 November 2020   2 comments

Needless to say, I am delighted that Mr. Biden is now the President-elect. I suspect that there is little that Mr. Trump can do to change this outcome, but I also suspect that the transition will be ugly and perilous. The most important thing now is for President-elect Biden to outline his policies to address the many issues facing the American people.

One of those issues is how to deal with Mr. Trump. Much depends on how he conducts himself. In my lifetime, George Herbert Walker Bush and Jimmy Carter lost after serving one term in office. Both men conducted themselves with dignity and grace despite the deep emotional scar of failing to be re-elected. I think that Mr. Trump will not follow their footsteps.

It is probably important to divest ourselves as much as possible of the desire to seek revenge for Mr. Trump’s misdeeds. President Lincoln understood this well and was profoundly eloquent in his second inaugural address which is one of the most important speeches ever given. The speech was delivered on 4 March 1865 at the end of the Civil War, still the bloodiest conflict in American history. Lincoln’s task for the previous four years had been to save the Union; he was well aware that a successful end of the war for the Union forces was only the beginning of the final steps of his task: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

It is also important to separate Mr. Trump from his supporters. We need to understand and accept the fact that 70 million Americans voted for Mr. Trump. They cannot be dismissed. There are some supporters who deserve no sympathy: those who celebrate white supremacy, hatred for those with different gender identities, and those who believe that their brand of Christianity is the religion that should determine public policy and who show disdain for other religions. These Americans have always been a part of the American society and we should make every effort to teach our children that these patterns of thought are profoundly inconsistent with the better values of the American polity.

But the vast majority of Trump supporters are Americans who believe that they have been betrayed by the American political system. In truth, they are justified in their anger. Both the Democratic and Republican parties pursued policies that have led to the destruction of American jobs and the parties have constructed ways for the rich to concentrate wealth in this country that is probably worse than what the country experienced in the Gilded Age. President Obama was the best President in my lifetime, but I was crushed when he allowed the stimulus money to rectify the financial collapse in 2008 to go to the banks that created the crisis and not to the homeowners that lost their homes. We should keep in mind that corporations, not the government, sent jobs abroad. The fear of being labelled a “socialist” for making this observation is a page from Joe McCarthy’s playbook. We need to make this discussion legitimate and force it to the front of all our political discussions. Ignoring the growing inequality in American society will only aggravate the anger and resentment.

Finally, dealing with Mr. Trump and his enablers is essential, but must be done carefully. Too much of what happened in the last four years is completely unknown and the House of Representatives should be aggressive in uncovering all the details. We need to avoid two desires: first, to punish a person who took delight on inflicting pain on others; and, second, avoid the temptation to simply “move forward”. The US faced a similar problem in 1973 when President Nixon was forced to resign after the Watergate and other associated scandals. When his successor, President Ford (who was never elected to a position that gave him legitimacy to hold the office) pardoned Nixon, the US was in a bad state with the Vietnam War protests and the Oil Embargo. Ford probably did the right thing to pardon Nixon in order to help the country move forward. But this was true only because Nixon had the intelligence to resign from office.

Perhaps Mr. Trump will show similar intelligence in his fall from grace, but I doubt it. His need for public attention is insatiable and he will seize any circumstance and opportunity to force us to look at him and to talk about him. The country needs to be prepared for any attempts by Mr. Trump to rewrite history. Therefore, President Biden and the Congress should be willing to investigate Mr. Trump’s activities as thoroughly as possible and, if warranted, should be prepared to prosecute him as if he were an ordinary citizen because that is precisely what he will become in January 2021. The same is true for all the minions that supported any illegal activities.

The spirit of these investigations should be to re-establish the moral hazard of breaking the law and not to seek vengeance. It is crucially important that from now on we treat Mr. Trump as we would any other citizen. He has not earned and does not deserve any special favors. But we should also not allow ourselves to think that punishing Mr. Trump addresses the problems the nation currently faces. I understand fully the anger that many feel toward Mr. Trump because it burns deeply in my heart. We should heed the words of John Prine in his song, “Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)”:

You can gaze out the window, get mad and get madder
Throw your hands in the air, say “What does it matter?”
But it don’t do no good to get angry
So help me, I know

For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter
You’ll become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there
Wrapped up in a trap of your very own
Chain of sorrow

We should also understand the extraordinary significance of this election. It signals the end of a generation that has dominated American politics for an extended period of time. Let us hope that we do not have another election in which the choices are between a person of 74 years of age and another of 77 years of age. It was also a transformational election. Biden won the election because of the hard work and commitment of people who are not well represented in American politics. Stacie Abrams delivered Georgia. Latinas and Latinos delivered Arizona. African-Americans proved to be the decisive voters in many US cities. Vice-President elect Harris should not be considered the exception; she should be considered the rule.

Posted November 7, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “7 November 2020

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  1. I am grateful to have these insights on the recent , and yet to be concluded election. I hope Joe Biden is listening when you say one of the issues facing the American people is how to deal with Mr. Trump. Addressing this painful and divisive question will require courage, discernment and grace.

    Whatever crimes Trump committed as president should be investigated to the extent that guilt or innocence is established, even if Trump is granted immunity from prosecution.

    And we, as a nation, need to deal with more than Trump as an individual. We must assess the weaknesses in the Constitution that his presidency has exposed. How can we as citizens be assured that disregard for the rule of law is never (again?) permitted to control the White House? Trump skated past the Mueller Investigation, which suggests that the power to investigate but not prosecute is insufficient to deter wrongdoing by the president, especially if said president can claim executive privilege, or security risk, or give other reasons for withholding information. If we accept that a president is entitled to stonewall for reasons of national security, then how does one hold them accountable? Do the checks and balances so essential to the configuration of our democracy, and so brilliantly devised by the authors of our constitution, protect us adequately? I would say, based on the past four years, that they do not. The writers of the constitution may have anticipated the election of a self-serving executive, but they apparently did not foresee the extent to which such an individual would be enabled by other self-serving persons in positions of power.

    Or would you,Vinnie, argue that the constitution has done its job, and we should be relieved and reassured?

    Can a constitutional framework be devised that does not rely on the integrity of the participants? If not, democracy depends on the vigilance, knowledge and integrity of the electorate. In which case, we just witnessed an epic fail of four year duration, and we appear to have narrowly avoided an even more debilitating second term.

    Like

  2. Pingback: 10 November 2020 | World Politics News

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