As President Trump rightly noted, “the first 100 days” is a ridiculous standard. Nobody with any sense could possibly expect somebody like Trump to measure up to FDR. I don’t feel any fake urgency for Trump to notch “successes” that might blow up my world or make my health insurance unmanageable. Stay strong, Trump, don’t let anybody gaslight you into reaching for transient “wins” that will boomerang on your sorry rump come next election day–unless you think you can suppress 24.1 million votes. So relax, you will burn in hell soon enough, don’t rush it. You did say that the only way you could ever possibly make it to heaven was to become president. What exactly is your plan now? Because you seem to have forgotten about getting into heaven. Keep your eyes on the prize, or suffer the fate of slobbering for eternity in the lowest circle. Maybe if you joined your good buddy Bill-O in Rome it would help you FOCUS.
If Donald Trump acts like a president of all the people, more power to him. If he acts like a vindictive tyrant, I only hope Americans cross divides, put country first, and resist. His first public words as President-elect seemed nonthreatening and positive. I think he showed some self-awareness of his past by suggesting a while back that becoming president and succeeding was the only way he could make it into heaven. But he has also said, “I’m all about the hunt and the chase…then I lose interest.” If he is able to concentrate on American “forgotten men and women” in a much more inclusive sense (think FDR rather than William G. Sumner) than I expect, maybe he will make it to heaven. As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said today, gotta give him his chance. That’s in spite of James Comey, Wikileaks, Russian interference, and Hillary’s lead in the national popular vote, bitter pills all.
P.S. Hat tip to Beverly Gage’s piece in the NYT, “Just Who Is the ‘Forgotten Man,'” in which she contrasts William Graham Sumner’s 1880s essay, “What the Social Classes Owe Each Other” (not much of anything) with FDR’s 1932 evocation of the “forgotten man” as “a reason to rebuild the economy from the bottom up.” Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Moore, and others have already put Trump on notice that their cooperation can be his if he truly wants to rebuild the U.S. economy on a more equitable basis than neoliberal technocrats and the big banks are expecting.
Democrats have seized quite a lot of moral high ground this year. But they could set a higher bar for themselves in the home stretch. This year is an unusually opportune moment to seize back the high ground from Republicans on liberty and freedom. The GOP has owned this issue for too long, and this year’s Republican presidential nominee does not show any sign of caring a fig for freedom–on the contrary, “I alone can fix it.” So much for limited government and ordered liberty!
Khizr Khan’s speech at the Democratic convention this summer, for example, was all about ordered liberty, but the freedom theme got submerged (for both pro-Hillary and pro-Trump people) in the back-and-forth about whether or not he should or shouldn’t be immune from criticism because Mr. Khan and his wife are Gold Star parents. There is a strong case that Trump was a fool, politically, to attack the Khans, but the substance of Mr. Khan’s message in defense of constitutional freedoms could and should be lifted up more by Democrats.
Democrats could and should say more about freedom as equal opportunity, equal economic opportunity, as described by FDR in his “Second Bill of Rights” speech of 1944. The freedom to be left alone is part of freedom, but not all of it by any means. Most of us are not living on the open range, however powerful the fantasy may be. Most of us really do not want government to mess with our Social Security and Medicare benefits–which nobody has a right to look down on as “entitlements” when we spent decades paying in. Allowing Paul Ryan or the so-called Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to get away with entitlement-shaming is political malpractice, not to mention wrong.
This year is a golden opportunity to reframe and reimagine freedom in ways that actually reflect our experience now. Not sure how many undecided voters are really left (or needed) in this year’s presidential election, but seizing the high ground on freedom will have far-reaching, long-lasting positive effects. As FDR said, “necessitous men are not free.” Lifting up that theme is the royal road to reaching swing voters–and beyond.