We’re roughly two months into the Trump Presidency, and it is the worst start to a time in office I have ever seen. I am not alone in this conclusion. Many Presidential scholars are saying it’s the worst start of any Presidency in the history of the country.
Now William Henry Harrison in 1841 talked too long in the cold of his inauguration. He caught pneumonia and died a month later. So, yes, I suppose you could say that his time was worse.
Rutherford B. Hayes had a tough time taking over in his first and only term (1877) after a convulsive, controversial election by the House. But worse than President Trump’s first months? Doubtful at best.
Abraham Lincoln had a terrible time at the beginning—states withdrawing from the Union, civil war beginning and early political mistakes. But he was laying the groundwork for his becoming one of the best, most important Presidents ever. Is Trump, in a different time and in different ways, laying such groundwork? Well, there may be people who will argue he is. But given present evidence, that’s not likely to become a widely held opinion.
So after two tumultuous, chaotic and in many ways outrageous months (an embarrassing defeat on ACA repeal, the deepening Russia probe, the striking down of the travel ban) where do we stand? Where does all of this go?
It’s important to talk about where we are politically – who is winning and losing, in the Administration, Congress, and the national and local political classes. But I am much more concerned about Where we stand as a people is in a potentially dangerous, very dangerous place. A weak President running a weak, ragtag administration is a prescription for trouble.
Trouble internationally could come from enemies and other competitors who may see opportunities for advantage and overreach. Trouble internally could easily come from a worried, divided nation, and opportunistic ideologues and politicians who try to exploit the situation.
But, before you get too downcast if not outright depressed about this, keep in mind that we Americans still stand united about core principles. Such as a rock-hard commitment to The Constitution and to the concept of America as a new (historically) idea, the idea of a free people constantly striving for a better nation through a representative government—and trying, ever trying, to achieve liberty and justice for all citizens. I also think the defeat of Trumpcare this past week is proof most Americans see a role of government to provide social welfare to our fellow citizens. Over the course of our history we have seen that role on a march of expansion with no significant reversals.
The core of our union—the union of our states and the union of our people as regards core principles—is holding. We see the wisdom of our framer’s dividing power into different branches of government. The separation of powers is holding, but stresses that could lead to cracks are increasing.I worry of a growing national forgetfulness about one of the favorite saying of our forefathers and mothers…”United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” We forget it at our peril.
Where the early Trump Presidential troubles will lead, no one can foretell. President John Kennedy once said, “The first lesson of the Presidency is that it is impossible to foretell the precise nature of the problems that will confront you or the specific skills and capacities which those problems will demand.” And so it is.
As to what you, or any individual can do, well, here’’s a short list of a possible start:
— Do not lose heart. America, as Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, is a willingness of heart. Believe in our country’s capacity to right itself and do right. Our fathers and mothers did it, and so did their ancestors, time after time. So now must we.
— Reach out and help someone. Service to other individuals and community “good deed” work is especially needed now.
— Reach out and try to talk, try to reach common ground, with someone you know that is of a different political persuasion. And don’t get discouraged if at first it doesn’t go well. Keep on trying. Even just talking, at the kids games, around school, at work, at the store helps. Just making contact and talking, about anything in common, can be more helpful than you may think.
— Get active, stay active politically. Organize and stay at it. Talking and walking (as in marches) is fine, but those who organize best and stay at it have the best chance of affecting change.
And, hey, don’t forget to smile and breathe. It’s all going to be all right, folks. It may take awhile, maybe even a long while, but we’re going to be all right.
If we don’t lose heart.