It is 2017….Whaaaaaaa? How?
It’s almost funny how I seem to be continually amazed by the simple passage of time. I’ve been ‘round these parts for nearly 38 years… and yet… each New Year that whizzes by leaves me in a greater state of bewilderment than the last.
If you are like me (and if you are, I sincerely apologize for your poor fortune of being so) you are staring at 2017 and beyond with an eclectic mix of contradictory thoughts and emotions. There is an unusual, almost quirky optimism that is tempered by a creeping dread which you can’t quite put your finger on… along with a certain soberness that has chosen to mingle with an incredulity that is flirting with a knowing, sarcastic cynicism.
It’s almost like in one ear, you hear a metallic voice shouting “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!” and in the other, you have the mellow, Island-influenced musical stylings of Bobby McFerrin casually letting loose with an unending loop of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.
Strange Times, my friend.
The good news for we Christians is that we don’t have to succumb to our natural tendencies of worry and ‘unsettledness’. (And we can also avoid the unpleasant disappointment that comes from putting our faith and hope in Earthly things and people).
The Peace of God, which is far beyond any of our limited understanding can and will cover us (if we ask for it and let go of our foolish imaginary control).
Hopefully the preceding word salad was more fun than annoying… but I never can tell. 😉
The future isn’t for us to know. But that doesn’t stop people from making predictions about how stuff will shake out in the coming year(s).
Likewise, it is just as foolish to dwell on the past as it is to forget it…. But that doesn’t prevent people from becoming instantly nostalgic and unnecessarily reflective about the preceding 365 days as soon as folks have finished trying to slur (and pretend they know the words and/or the meaning to) Auld Lang Syne.
So, if what is good for the goose is good for the gander, I figured I would add my two cents or so…
First… we look back to 2016.
In doing so, I must admit that my constant perception about everything that was going on was somewhat akin to Mugatu shouting “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
What a weird year. Not the worst ever as some (who seem to be professional whiners) seem to be exclaiming… but…very, very unsettling.
The big orange elephant in the room is obviously the entire Primary and General Election campaign season which culminated with the fact that Donald J. Trump will tomorrow (Friday, January 20th, 2017) be on the same shortlist as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan. Whether you like the new President or not, you have to admit that this is nothing less than super weird.
And if you are a true blue fan of President #45, try to put things in perspective with a little mental game: switch out Trump for any wealthy entertainer or professional provocateur whom you find insufferably obnoxious. You will then join the rest of us in Crazy Pill territory…at least for a moment of welcome solidarity. Then you can feel free to put your MAGA hat back on, if you wish. I certainly won’t think any less of you.
Though, to be fair, a large number of people *do* think less of you. That is equally disturbing, sad, frustrating, and inevitable. If there was one thing that President Obama accomplished, it was in furthering the divides that exist between us all. Left/Right, White/Minority, Rich/Poor…. the man-made gulfs that separate us in these (and more) categories were exploited by our 44th President and his Party (and yes…also by opportunistic and short-sighted Republicans) for their own personal gain.
It will take a lot of prayer and some mighty miracles to heal all these self-inflicted wounds. To say it won’t be easy is the understatement of the year. First step is probably to start remembering we are all humans. That shared humanity *should* temper the partisan vitriol that we’ve allowed to take over our political discourse.
But we do also need to be clear-eyed and honest if we are to move forward.
The Democratic Party is now far more beholden to its extreme, Far Left flank than the Republican Party is now (or may ever have been) to its Traditional Conservative flank. This election proved that fact as Traditional Conservatism went down in epic flames during the Primary and simply had to wave the white flag during the general election.
So, yes…. Among the far too many sad casualties we saw in 2016, we can add Conservatism (as it has traditionally been understood). This *may* prove to be a good thing. Sometimes a shake-up can produce good results. I don’t believe that you always need to destroy something before it gets better. But trials produce growth. And besides all that….Conservatism – as properly understood and practiced – was never meant to be a very popular thing. We are the ones, after all, standing athwart the world and yelling “Stop!” – not because it will stop, but simply because this is what we should do.
Back to The Event of 2016… how did Donald Trump win?
Many people that are far more intelligent (and certainly more diligent) than I am have analyzed this quite thoroughly. And, while there is much to be learned and digested and applied in what many have spent tens of thousands of words to say… I tend to prefer the simplest solution to that question: Donald Trump won the Presidency because the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders would not have fared *much* better than Clinton… but I think would have lost the popular vote while gaining a state or two and making the only only results that actually mean anything (ie. the Electoral Vote) a little closer.
Regardless, 2016 featured a choice between two of the most historically unpopular candidates ever proffered by a major party. Trump just happened to be slightly more popular than Clinton among around 100,000 people in 3 key states.
To be fair, had Hillary actually won, it would have been an unusual bucking of historical trend. If a Party is coming off of a two-full term Presidency it is far less likely to win in the next non-incumbent election. Granted there is a statistically small data set to draw conclusions from… but, it just makes common sense. The pendulum swings because people want to give something else a try. We are a restless country. For both good and ill, that is simply part of our national character.
The catch in 2016 was that the Republicans nominated the only person running on their side who *might* have allowed Democrats to win a third term in the White House. In order to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the Democratic Party pushed “winnable” folks like Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley to the side and cleared the way for the coronation of Hillary Clinton (who has absolutely zero political skill, either as a campaigner or in office). But Hillary is such a bad candidate that she couldn’t even put Bernie “Socialist” Sanders away in a timely manner. It took underhanded and unethical behind the scenes coordination in the DNC to barely limp Hillary across the finish line.
The story of the General Election in 2016 is best summed up in a marvelous quote from Colin Powell in one of those infamous leaked e-mails:
“Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.”
Indeed. ‘Nuff said….really and truly. Because, that’s exactly what happened.
Hillary and her campaign team simply took for granted that they had Obama’s 2012 map basically in the bag. The chickens (as they are wont to do) came home to roost, and the Democratic Party’s decent into elitist Progressive madness again drove away swathes of voters in the Rust Belt and mid-west (among other places…but those areas were key this time around).
She played to her base…which, due to Obama, was an increasingly far left, out-of-touch group of political extremists. And that was enough to turn off a lot of nominally Democratic voters (and unite the disparate wreckage of the Republican diaspora against her).
Make no mistake about it… because of Obama and Clinton, we have Trump. President Donald J. Trump *is* the legacy of President Obama. And Hillary Clinton ran a massive failure of a campaign which – though difficult – could have been won by her if she had been more inclusive.
Thus ends the “looking back” part of this stream of consciousness mess which I am attempting to pass off as a coherent post…
Now, let’s look ahead to 2017 and beyond. (Briefly)
Donald John Trump will become the 45th President of the United States of America tomorrow morning. No one *really* knows what he stands for or what direction in policy he will pursue…because he has taken every possible position on every possible issue. He is smart (in the savvy sense) and certainly entertaining. He may yet prove a decent to good President. And since Trump is so unpredictable, there is of course the off-chance he will one day be counted among the Great Presidents. Though, equal to all those probabilities, he could end up a mediocre to bad President.
The point is… we have no idea what is going to happen.
His Cabinet picks have been surprisingly reassuring to us bruised, battered, and broken folks who still cling to the mantle of Conservatism. But, the “good” ones he has chosen are – almost to a person – expressing policy opinions that are the exact opposite of positions Trump had seemed to somewhat settle on during the election season.
Even the questionable choices (like Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State) have taken some positions that would seem to be at odds with what President Trump had been signaling.
As I said, this is comforting to Conservatives… but the loudest voices pushing for Trump during the Primaries and the Election saw Conservatives as just as much the enemy as Democratic Progressives. So…I don’t really know how all this will shake out in the end. The Breitbart and alt-right crowd – at this point – *appear* to have been little more than “useful idiots” to take down any and all opposition to Trump.
I don’t think they will take it very well if Trump ends up governing in a center-right fashion and abandons the “Nationalist Populist” folks who were exceedingly vicious in their attacks on anyone who dared say something ill of the direction Trump seemed to be heading.
But, if anyone can put the alt-right back in its place, it would be Trump (it is just a shame that he first elevated them and their vile views).
So… it is kind of a wait and see type thing.
I would offer this advice to any Progressive friends or strangers out there… loosen up and get over it. Donald Trump is our legitimate President whether you like it or not.
Take the high road and speak out when he actually does something you disagree with… but be able to retain the credibility to offer him praise and work with him when he is doing things you think are good for the country.
Don’t waste your energy being angry and upset at EVERYTHING. It is exhausting. You guys did it for 8 years when Bush 43 was President…why in the world would you want to put yourselves through those kinds of headaches again.
Basically, I am suggesting you grow up little bit.
I argued until I was blue in the face that Trump was a bad choice for our nominee.
Then, I continued to argue that he was just as bad for the country as Hillary would have been.
And then the election happened.
Trump won. End of story.
He has surprised me with his (mostly) solid Cabinet picks so far. And I am glad to see what appears to be a distancing from the alt-right…but I am vigilantly keeping my eyes open.
When he makes a choice I feel is good for the country, I will say so.
When he goes off the rails, I will say so.
And, frankly, that is exactly how ALL of us should approach our politicians (whether we are on the “same side” as them or not).
But…maybe….just maybe, we can all figure out how to Discuss things again…instead of hating each other. Guess what…there are a multitude of ways to approach our problems. We may not agree on the best approaches….we may not even agree on what our goals actually are. But that’s OK. Let’s give each other the grace and respect to have different worldviews.
But, let’s be able to talk about these things civilly… leaving the sarcasm, snark, and petty condescension in 2016. Here’s to moving forward!