Point of View Columns

A Fighting Chance – The 2020 Matchup

As the Democrats finish up their 2018 Midterm Election Happy Dance, it is not too early to remember that November of 2020 moves closer every day. And if the 2016 presidential election turned out to be a battle for the soul of America, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the foreseeable future and well-being of the nation will be at stake. The question, of course, is who is the man or woman who can defeat a lying, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, studiously ignorant incumbent with historically low approval ratings?

Any student of recent American political history might answer this question with a simple response – anybody. And that would not only be a simple response, it is simplistic….and wrong.  Of course, there is a school of thought which holds that but for the fact that Hillary Clinton ran what might arguably be called the worst presidential campaign in modern history, she would be finishing up her second year as the 44th President and this country’s first woman president. But common knowledge turned out to be not so common and she lost and this nation has been hijacked by a man who could not be more destructive of the people and institutions of this country if he was actually trying to do so.

The real problem with this particular line of thinking is that it leads to the conclusion that just about anybody can beat Donald Trump in the 2020 election, as long as the Democratic base turns out. And while it is true that voter suppression is at an historic high in the post- Shelby v. Holder era, anyone who thinks that there will be less voter suppression in 2020 is spitting into the wind.

There is a very real possibility that by 2020  Trump and his Teapublican enablers will see that their accumulated misdeeds, corruption, dishonesty and incompetence are so overwhelming that threats of impeachment and indictment and ensuing humiliation might be the least of his worries. And it is at this point we will see Trump wrapped up in his most vicious and nasty persona and the presidential election campaign will sink to a no-holds-barred mud and slime fight.

How will Democrats respond? There is an old saying that if you get in the mud with a pig you will certainly get dirty – and this pig is already dirty. The 35% of the American electorate that support Trump mindlessly would love to watch a mud fight featuring their hero and champion. And Trump has already proven that with the combination of the antiquated Electoral College and his ability to hoodwink and bamboozle another 15% of the American people, he can win a second term and most assuredly wreak more havoc on the American people and the world.

From the perspective of the Democrats, if the successful nominee is not going to out vicious/nasty Trump, then that man or woman will have to truly inspire the electorate. It is doubtful that an “I am not Trump” campaign theme will lead to victory. And as the current field of wannabe’s, liketobe’s and neverwillbe’s line up at the 2019 starting line, the question will be who that truly inspirational candidate is?

It was not that long ago that in 2004 the prevailing wisdom  was that there was no way that George W. Bush could be re-elected. With an unpopular war in Iraq and a very vivid aura of incompetence surrounding him, his re-election prospects resided somewhere between impossible and improbable. And you can ask President John Kerry how that turned out.

And now, John Kerry is one of the wannabe’s lining up to take on Trump. And with all due respect to John Kerry, the Democrats better focus on inspiration and not just aspiration. Otherwise we will be in for Act II of the Trump Apocalypse – and that is a thought that should make the blood run cold.

This is one time when country matters. America cannot afford the reelection of Donald Trump.

Point of View Columns

Global Homecoming

When I first heard of these plans I could hear the birther wing of the G.O.Tea Party claiming that the President was going to Indonesia, as part of a four country tour of Asia, in order to: a) find and destroy his birth certificate, b) announce that he was going into exile or c) to introduce the American people to his “real” family, complete with several wives and scores of children. So far the birthers have been disappointed and Fox News is scrambling for other faux news.

Upon further reflection, I do believe that President Obama’s visit to Indonesia points out another reason why he is an exceptional president in a time that demands exceptionalism from leadership. By reason of his mother’s marriage, President Obama lived in Indonesia for four years, from the age of six to the age of ten. He returned to the United States at the end of this time and the rest, as they say, is history.

It was in Indonesia that Barack Obama first went to school. It was in Indonesia that he learned to encounter and accept a different culture. And it was in Indonesia that he first learned to encounter the planet without holding his mother’s hand. There is no way to underestimate the profound value of this experience.

I went to Japan at the age of four. I attended a Japanese kindergarten and an English Catholic school and, because my family lived in totally Japanese neighborhoods, all of my friends were Japanese and I learned to speak fluent Japanese. I didn’t go to school in the United States until I was in the fifth grade.

I can speak from experience and with certitude that President Obama’s experience of living outside of America at an early age provided him with a perspective on the rest of the world – not just Indonesia. His childhood adventure was not an adventure for him; it was another chapter in his personal book of life.

He certainly learned as a child that there is more that links all people than separates us. Clearly culture, history, politics and religion impact upon the nature of every country and every person on earth. But people are truly people at the end of the day, and perhaps seeing the world through the eyes of the child can help to inform the mind of the adult.

One cannot help but think that the benighted and historically unfortunate foreign policy decisions that characterize the administration of George Bush might reflect his America-centric life and insular existence. Invading Iraq, Afghanistan and the “my way or the highway” attitude towards allies did nothing to make this country safer and did everything to alienate the world.

As we progress through the 21st century it will not be enough for America to just be the biggest and strongest country. Indeed, China and India and coalitions of nations may have something to say about those claims in any event. Understanding the world is certainly the first step towards this country being a better global partner.

Since he became president, Barack Obama has sought to repair and reinvent America’s alliances and relationships throughout the world. We can be certain that the boyhood experience of “Barry” Obama have helped to inform the worldview of President Obama and we are all the better for the vision that he has brought to the White House.