Thank God for the pendulum.
Many of us out here in the frozen tundra, in the furthest reaches of Flyover Country, out where the buses don’t run, were beginning to fear that the pendulum had swung so far to the left that it was never coming back.
And if things had gone differently on election day, it probably wouldn’t have swung back in the precious years I’ve got left. A single liberal lifetime appointment toa the Supreme Court could have sealed that deal.
The day before the election, I wouldn’t have bet you $5 that Donald Trump could win. There were just too many episodes that would have banished other candidates, at other times, to an apology and a quick withdrawal from the race. We had, after all, never seen anything like this before. And, it seemed, the longer we had been observing politics, the more likely we were to be 100 percent wrong.
What a year. What an election.
I did, however, write in this space about a year ago that Trump had “all the right enemies.” The Democrats treated him like a joke. Preening Hollywood peacocks promised, as usual, to pack up and leave if he was elected. Lefty comedians gleefully made him the butt of their jokes.
Slick folks on both coasts were “appalled and humiliated” that their slack-jawed, stump-jumping heartland counterparts could nominate such a man. And venal Republican leaders saw him first as a joke, then as a growing threat to their pretty sweet deal in Washington, dividing up the hugely out-of-whack fiscal pie with their Democrat “colleagues.”
Almost all of them saw Trump as a threat to the most important goal of all — getting their own self-interested, incompetent, embedded backsides re-elected. To borrow a word from Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” the “mendacity” was knee-deep.
So, maybe more of us should have seen this coming.
It occurred to me many times over recent years — under both Presidents Obama and George W. Bush – that this “executive order” business was unlike anything we learned in high school civics or American history classes. We learned about “separation of power,” and three “independent branches of government,” and I think most of us understood those things to be at the root of our system, our once- limited government, and our freedom.
We fought a war to get out from under the thumb of a king, and we didn’t want to give such all-encompassing power to any one person ever again. And I think a lot of Americans went to the polls on Nov. 8 thinking, “That’ll be enough of this ‘I can do whatever I want’ bull from our presidents, Democrat or Republican.”
Americans were sick of war, but also appalled by the rising savagery of terrorism, here and abroad. “Leading from behind” was no leadership at all. And while nobody wants to send young people off to war, some of what we have seen is approaching the atrocities of World War II. And if we can’t stop our sworn enemies today, one must wonder why we spend so much on a military that is not unleashed on true savages.
That’s why Trump was met with cheers when he promised to “bomb the (well, let’s say daylights) out of ISIS.”
Then there was the social upheaval. I think most folks have accepted same sex marriage. But punishing a business for refusing to bake a wedding cake (while turning a blind eye to those who now boast of boycotting Trump and his supporters), and requiring the Catholic Church to provide birth control, and even opening up public bathrooms to both sexes, struck most Americans as pushing the upheaval thing way too far. Tell a dad that his daughter might have to get used to a guy in her locker room, and you’re probably in for a fight.
Relentless efforts to control access to guns, massive national debt, decimating whole industries in the name of climate change — I think booming Washington was perceived as thumbing it’s nose at the rest of us.
Lord knows how this will all work out.
But, more of us should have seen the pendulum swinging back in our direction.
Dave Simpson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org