Half the country is in tears over the election Donald Trump while many of those who did vote for him only did so to prevent the even greater terror of Hillary Clinton. I see many expressing worry over the future and wondering how the nation has gone so far astray. It is times like these that it helps to keep things in perspective.
There are those that consider Trump’s treatment of women to be less than perfect, but at least he isn’t Bill Clinton. There are those that consider Trump’s proposed methods of fighting terrorism to be less than perfect, but it was Franklin Roosevelt that interned the Japanese. Americans have been doing stupid things since the very beginning. We elected Andrew Jackson president, who as general once invaded Spanish Florida on his own without declaration of war and hung the British consultants he found there. We once tolerated slavery. The Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit by a slave by claiming that property couldn’t sue. Other people took it upon themselves to assassinate slave owners yet had no plan of what to do with the suddenly-freed slaves. Irish and Italian immigrants were discriminated against. We eagerly started a war with Spain over the destruction of a ship (later shown to be an accident) that we had put into harm’s way where we had no business being. When the stock market crashed and the economy stalled, we thought it would be a good idea to raise taxes on those being productive and give the money to unnecessary projects. Blacks once had separate water fountains. Kennedy got us into Vietnam and Johnson escalated our involvement. Nixon was once granted wage and price controls. The Supreme Court ruled anti-abortion laws unconstitutional, effectively legalizing murder. More recently, there are many of us that have embraced indefinite detention without trial, phone tapping, stop and frisk, drone strikes, corporate bailouts, and insurance mandates. Some of us cry “racism!” over every minor incident even when obviously innocent, and others cry “unpatriotic!” in the same way. If we can survive all that, we can easily survive Trump.
There is nothing special about our current situation. The Aztecs used to sacrifice people to receive favor from imaginary Gods. The Romans once crucified a man whose only crime was to claim to be God. The Greeks forced a man to drink poison for nothing more than asking questions. In the Soviet Union it was illegal to discuss religion with minors. In China it is now illegal to tell time-travel stories. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
It also helps to remember our alternatives and to realize that we cannot know the full results of our choices until it is too late. Would Hillary Clinton really have been better? It is known that she was knowingly reckless with national secrets and likely allowed many to be stolen. Coupled with the evidence that she may have been offering favors for sale, can we really be sure that she wouldn’t sell us out to Russia or North Korea once president? Would Bernie Sanders really be better? Assuming he could even get congress to approve funding free college for everybody, what would stop the colleges from raising the prices ever higher until the taxpayers couldn’t afford it anymore? Does anybody really want the state to step in and tell companies how much they can and can’t charge for services? Where does it end? Would Jeb Bush really have been any better? Being so closely tied to the establishment Republicans that brought us Medicare part D and an expensive war in Iraq, will he really veto anything? Don’t we spend enough already? Would Ted Cruz really be any better? Considering that he seems to be at least as hated as Trump, would he be able to govern at all? How do you know?
While it is true that apparently good candidates can make terrible presidents (Barack Obama and Ulysses Grant come to mind), it is also true that apparently terrible candidates can turn out all right. People change. People resign. People die and leave their offices to the next in line. Surprises still happen. Who expected the Soviet Union to collapse without a nuclear war? Who expected slavery or colonialism to end? Who expected the invention of television, microwaves, or the flushing toilet? Who expected writing? Who expected such low infant mortality rates? Aren’t we better off than we were 15,000 years ago?
One also has to keep in perspective that this is all part of the process. In every person, thoughts cross the mind that are later rejected in favor of others. We do not get angry with ourselves, because it is only the final result that counts. In a democracy, some ideas are rejected in favor of others, but if we had never heard out the wrong ideas voiced first, we would not have as deep an understanding or commitment to the right ideas. Letting fools speak is part of the process of defeating foolishness. In the same way, letting fools vote is part of the process of settling any remaining dispute. Even if a fool is elected, the checks and balances (if followed) of the constitution should keep him from doing too much damage, but allowing the country to feel some pain is often the only way for voters to learn. I know it seems that generation after generation makes the same mistakes without learning from history, but taking the long view one can see that progress has still been made.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.