October 24, 2016
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Americans are stressed by a presidential election that is removed from the vaulted experience most of us were taught to expect. Though there have been many rancorous contests and too many unqualified Oval Office candidates (and presidents), 2016 is a special disaster that has pulled us into a swamp of prejudice and misdirection and which has us mired in quicksand looking for some hero to bring us to safe land. The American people are good people, but too many are wearing ugly faces today.
So much has failed in the United States, since at least John Kennedy’s death when youthful hope in particular fell into disillusionment. The great rise of a vibrant middle class after World War II began to lose steam as Europe, Japan and full Asia repaired their economies and improved material output. American business did not sufficiently retool, trade policy was inadequate, vital investment money was lost to the tragic, needless Vietnam War, and national government became so large, so remote that whatever hope future generations had that the American Dream would continue from the Eisenhower years increasingly became clouded by special interests and, frankly, incompetence.
Advances in human caring and dignity, in neighbor helping neighbor that president Johnson that began in his Great Society programs were initially threatened by the cost of the Asian war and then by government itself, which is historically unwieldy and inefficient. Sometimes it can do nothing right because it falls over itself.
Nixon gave us more government distrust, and Reagan promised that if we delivered big business and the one percenters tax and regulatory breaks, they would build us all a reinvigorated middle class.
Did not happen.
Deregulation has not increased competition and lowered prices while offering choice; Wall Street has become even more greedy; tax write-offs are taken by big business even as they move jobs offshore; there has been little reinvestment in jobs and new technology; and special-interest power has grown astronomically, aided by a high court that believes “free speech” is the interests’ right, even if big money, hidden big money, stifles the little man’s voice.
Both parties have enabled all this in one way or another, either deliberately or by failing to compromise, by not agreeing on needed reinvestment, by not seeking common sense on government regulation, by throwing money at well-intentioned solutions that never fully result. Most of all by not representing the people.
No wonder there is distressing Election 2016. No wonder there are the disenfranchised, the distrusting. No wonder many believe our government cannot solve any problem.
A revolution is ahead, and God may it be peaceful. This nation, begun as a republic, is now an oligarchy, the Founders’ intent of equality, freedom from dictatorship and the fulfilled promise of growing prosperity sullied by greed and misdirection.
Election 2016 will not be the one we need to get back to basics. We await a Lincoln to stir us to moral goodness; a Teddy Roosevelt to remind us that Republican big business requires regulation for shared prosperity; a Franklin Roosevelt to show us anew that inherent in growing as a progressive nation is recognizing that we must care for our neighbor and that government is part of that in a country built by diversity and challenged by varied need; and we require a George Washington, who declined a second term, even a lifelong presidency, to underscore that we are all plain citizens, not special interests. There is a time to serve and a moment to leave.
It’s revolution, or we will fall as Rome did.
But that is not yet here, and we must first face this presidential contest, which will either turn the tide back to at least the semblance of hope, or it will take us deeper into the dark waters of the ignorant hateful who have been raised and enabled in shameful ugliness by both parties’ neglect and failure.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org This may be reproduced.