January 20, 2017 4 Comments
And so for the forty-fifth time, we in America will pass the presidency to a new man. That man is Donald Trump, it hasn’t mattered since 8 November whether you (or I) think that is the greatest thing ever or the worst. As I say so often, reality is real. He joins an uninterrupted line that stretches back to George Washington. That is, I believe the longest continuous government in the world, quite a record for a bunch of men who rebelled against the greatest empire in their world, and when they managed to win, designed a government from scratch.
This has been a divisive election, the whole world knows that, and there are a lot of what can only be called sore losers around. This too is nothing new. My friend, juwannadoright, wrote of another one, we both remember.
It was Inauguration Day, January 20, 1961 and I was very sad. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was going to become President of the United States, succeeding Dwight David Eisenhower in that position.
My parents had both supported Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 election and were disappointed in its outcome. Nevertheless, like most of those in the country, they accepted its results and hoped that the new president would be good for the country. Kennedy’s election was not the source of my sadness. It was that we were losing Eisenhower.
I never knew either of my grandfathers. But when I watched Ike on our Dumont television, he always impressed me as the kind of person who, if I were able, I would adopt as my foster grandfather. He impressed me as calm, reasoned and a person who had control of every situation using his extensive life experience as his guide. I felt safe with him running the country. That was true despite the fact that many of our public buildings hosted “Air Raid Shelter” signs on their facades and that we conducted regular air raid exercises at school. The cold war with our recently former ally, the Soviet Union, was in full bloom.
The presidential election of 1960 had not been without controversy. Nixon carried 26 states to Kennedy’s 22. But Kennedy won the nationwide popular vote by slightly more than 118,00, rather remarkable considering that at that time there were 17 million more voters registered as Democrats than there were Republicans. Kennedy overwhelmingly won the electoral college garnering 303 votes to Nixon’s 219, a margin of victory not very dissimilar from the margin that Trump had over Clinton in the 2016 election. Ten states were decided by fewer than ten thousand votes each. It was the closest election since 1916 when incumbent President Woodrow Wilson defeated Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Hughes. Despite a number of state recounts affirming the results, there were those who considered Kennedy’s election “illegitimate.”
She’s right, I remember it too. My parents supported Kennedy, but I remember it was a bit reluctant. They were New Dealers, like so many that lived through the Dirty Thirties and the Second World War, but they were also staunch Protestants. They would never have thought of discriminating in their personal lives against Catholics, but the history of our churches would have entered their minds. But it didn’t work out all that badly, although Kennedy’s inexperience did end up costing America both life and treasure. That’s the way of the world.
Unless we’re very lucky, Trump’s experience may be similar. Obama’s certainly has been, compounded by his seeming inability to learn from his, let alone others, mistakes. There are rumors of protests, well, there usually are, although they are spiced this time with threats of violence. Protest, as always in America, is fine, Violence, as always, is beyond the pale, and no doubt will be met accordingly. And no matter what anyone says, this is not the most divisive time in our history, that was 1861-65, and I pray we never again see the like.
Ronald Reagan, in 1977, gave a speech that summarized many of the problems we face. He said.
But how much are we to blame for what has happened? Beginning with the traumatic experience of the Great Depression, we the people have turned more and more to government for answers that government has neither the right nor the capacity to provide. But government, as an institution, always tends to increase in size and power, not just this government—any government. It’s built-in. And so government attempted to provide the answers.
The result is a fourth branch added to the traditional three of executive, legislative, and judicial: a vast federal bureaucracy that’s now being imitated in too many states and too many cities, a bureaucracy of enormous power which determines policy to a greater extent than any of us realize, very possibly to a greater extent than our own elected representatives. And it can’t be removed from office by our votes.
Hat tip to Steven Hayward at Powerline for that.
That is indeed much of our problem, as it is for others as well. The bureaucrats, however necessary they may be, have grown out of control, of the President, of the Congress, and especially of the People. That is a problem we must solve, our very freedom depends on it. Steve in his upcoming book says this:
“That bureaucratic government is the partisan instrument of the Democratic Party is the most obvious, yet least remarked upon, trait of our time.”
He’s correct, and it would be just as pernicious if it were the Republicans. Somehow, a solution must be found. But not today.
Today is a day to reflect on what we have created and sustained in America. A land that started as a subsistence farming strip along the Atlantic ocean has transformed itself into a free land that is by quite a lot the most powerful country the world has ever seen.
Congratulations, Mr. President and may God bless you and the United States.