I think you know, after 23 years of my writing this column, that I’m not lazy. I always try to come up with fresh ideas. Today, though, I am fresh out of fresh ideas. More than any time in my career, I think our country is in danger. It has a disturbed man as president, whose job description — to be a healer of the country in times of great national hurt and to pull us together to do big hard things that can be done only together — conflicts with his political strategy, which is to divide us and mobilize his base with anger and fear. And time and again he has chosen the latter.
When a person is promoted to a top job in life, usually one of two things happens: He either grows or he swells — he either evolves and grows into that job or all of his worst instincts and habits become swollen and just expand over a wider field. I don’t have to tell you what happened with President Donald Trump. He is a shameless liar and an abusive bully — only now he is doing it from the bully pulpit of the presidency.
When you have a president without shame, backed by a party without a spine, amplified by a TV network without integrity, reason is not an option and hope is not a strategy. The only restraint on Trump is a lever of national power in the hands of the opposition party that can force some accountability.
The stakes could not be higher. If the coming midterms reaffirm Trump’s grip on every lever of national power — the White House, the Senate, the House and the Supreme Court — he will become even more swollen and more dangerous to our institutions, which are now straining to contain his excesses.
Trump once boasted, “I am a nationalist.” He surely is. And remember what President Charles de Gaulle of France once observed: Patriots put love of their own people first, while nationalists put hate for other people first. This is a time for every American patriot to do the only thing that can make a difference now:
In the midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone to a voting station to vote for a Democrat. I repeat: In the midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone to a voting station to vote for a Democrat. I repeat: In the midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone to a voting station to vote for a Democrat.
Beyond that, nothing else matters. We have to protect our institutions until this Trump era passes and we can restore the presidency to someone — Democrat or Republican — focused on loving our country more than hating others. To remind us what such a president sounds like, I cede the rest of my space to President George Washington and the letter he wrote, after a visit, to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, dated Aug. 18, 1790. (Hat tip to the Jewish Women’s Theatre in Los Angeles, Dana Milbank, NPR and all others who have referenced this letter in recent days.).
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