Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Still 1992, no matter what anyone says

Yesterday marked the voting of the Electoral College, which officially gave Donald Trump the presidency. A number of Trump supporters, noting the outright opposition to his candidacy, have basically told people, essentially, to shut up and get behind the new president because the election is over. They’re not quite right about that.

Actually, it hasn’t been over for some time. Since 1992, to be exact.

Why then? It was Bill Clinton’s first run at the presidency, and no one should forget just how much viciousness the below-the-belt opposition to his candidacy generated. It wasn’t really about policies as such, as Clinton always was, and proved to be, far more moderate than he was painted. Never mind; his enemies just wanted a target to defeat and saw him, correctly in my view, as a singular threat to their desire for power.

What people don’t understand is that when it comes to politics we’ve been in a perpetual state of war since the late 1970s, and that war was started by then-Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich, who perfected the art of irritation and was instrumental in causing the division we see today. (I saw some kind of poetic justice in Gingrich's leaving Congress after he failed to add to the GOP margin there in 1998 by trying to tie Democratic candidates to Clinton's impeachment.)

Anyway, a lot of people were aghast at many of the statements Trump made and wonder just how he became so popular. But if you understand that a lot of people wanted a total jerk who refused to compromise, the answer was obvious. They simply wanted their way, even at the expense of proper governance.

While it's certainly tempting to blame both sides for this equally, it simply wouldn't be accurate. The conservatives began their assault on the "left" decades ago; only over the last decade has the true left emerged and begun to fight but still isn't as large, organized or influential as the right. I’ve noticed that, among the numerous calls for “civility” in public discourse, none of them come from the partisans.

And this is precisely why there never will be healing in this country, at least in my lifetime. These days the two sides are too hardened in their positions to reach out to the other and work together. Trump got elected by not even hinting at doing so and suggesting that only he could cause change ("I alone can fix it").

So, with apologies to Prince, let's get ready to "party" like it's 1992. Because, in many ways, we're still there.

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