History challenges gloom-and-doom outlook

The year was 1972. Fresh off a peace march in high school and in the midst of an evolving political consciousness, I cast my first presidential vote for a very liberal South Dakota Senator, George McGovern. Then the votes were counted. McGovern carried one state and Richard Nixon won a second term. I didn’t speak to my father that night. And I didn’t gloat when Nixon was impeached 18 months later. He respected my evolving political beliefs and I respected his. Less than a decade later, I found myself supporting a former Hollywood actor, Democrat-turned-Republican Ronald Reagan, for the presidency. The doomsaying from those against Reagan’s election following the vote was very similar to this week’s reception of Donald Trump, the latest celebrity to be elected president. People were certain Reagan would have a trigger finger on nuclear buttons and would be utterly incapable of making the thousands of mature judgment calls a president must make correctly to be effective. One of Reagan’s most important decisions was to have a weekly drink and sitdown with the liberal House Speaker Tip O’Neill. He told O’Neill they could get a lot done together. And they did. By the time Reagan passed, history had judged and processed his eight years as only the passage of time can and Reagan is generally regarded, even by those ideologically opposed, to be one of the more effective presidents we have had. Which brings us to the present. Donald Trump is president and those who don’t want him there are certain the country is doomed. I should know. My daughter, my proudest possession who is so far ahead of where her father was at age 22, feels disenfranchised after supporting Bernie Sanders. I empathize with her sense of betrayal. I have been there. And I know there are millions of people feeling like her. They represent all age groups, economic classes and social beliefs. As a former protester myself, I understand but do not have a lot of sympathy for the people who took to the streets this past week to proclaim this is not their country anymore. What I can offer most of the other half of the country that is correctly expressing their disillusionment is this: We have a pretty good system of checks and balances in place. It’s been the model for open, representative government for almost two and a half centuries. No one is going to let Donald Trump do crazy things. Give the man a chance. While he comes across as abrasive and bombastic, he has been successful because he has the ability to deal with all types of people and has a knack for surrounding himself with people who get things done in a practical, efficient manner. And, for goodness sake, we do need that right now. You watch the way his children act and speak and achieve and you have to conclude there is a private part of Donald Trump that must be pretty grounded. Don’t assume everything he does is going to ruin your world. At least let him put his hand on a Bible and take an oath of office and, when he makes a proposal, assess it for the good of the entire country, not just yourself. After now casting 12 presidential ballots, I have concluded that there probably will never be a presidential candidate who checks every box on my list of political priorities. It’s a vote involving a comparison of candidates and an assessment of who comes closest to what you believe is the best direction for the country. There’s nothing perfect about that. To expect something even approaching perfection is unrealistic. As someone who has drifted from left to somewhat right over the course of five decades, I see a real need for people to drop the broad brushes with which they paint conservatives these days. For instance, how is it bigoted to expect someone to follow the same system of immigration that your grandfather did? When I was making my rightward move, I don’t recall my heart turning to stone. I don’t feel like I became racist and sexist. But that’s the message I hear or feel is inferred on a daily basis in much of the major media. It’s damaging. It’s divisive. And it’s unfair. For some people, their political code is set and remains in place their entire life. That’s fine. For Ronald Reagan, it did not work that way. Same with Donald Trump. Same with a bunch of us. That doesn’t mean family and friends don’t – dare I say it – trump politics. And it doesn’t mean we don’t share the ultimate tie – being Americans.

 

Troisi is the Sun-Gazette’s editor.

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