Today we celebrate the independence of the United States from Great Britain. This is my 77th of being alive on this day, when we Americans gather for picnics, watch fireworks, see parades, and celebrate what it is to be an American. There is indeed so much to be thankful for on this day. This is a special country. We Americans are blessed. I would not want to live anywhere else.
Yet this Fourth of July seems eerily different from most of the ones that have come before over the past 77 years that I have been alive. A battle is raging as to what kind of country we are becoming and want to become. The nation has never been more divided except during the Civil War.
On the one side there is the Party of Trump, no longer recognizable as the proud Republican Party it once was. Trump rode the populist wave of “throw the bums out” with a little help from a weak campaign by his opponent, her email saga, and perhaps the Russians. He won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote by over three million votes. Since becoming President he has waged war on the press, alienated our allies, tacitly and not-so-tacitly supported racists and hate groups, and pursued trade policies that many economists think will trigger a recession. He has not supported gun regulations. He has seen his tax cut pass the Republican-controlled Congress resulting in huge windfalls for the rich and a soaring deficit that is unsustainable. He is anti-environment, anti-immigrant, anti-poor people, and anti-people of color, promising to make America great again just like the good old days—as in Jim Crow. His foreign policies are inconsistent and unpredictable. If any of his current list of Supreme Court nominees get confirmed, it is likely to be the end of Roe v. Wade, possibly gay marriage, and most of the remaining civil rights laws.
About 40 percent of the voting population strongly support Trump. Many adore him. He represents change from the status quo; and no matter how how outrageous his behavior or tweets are, his popularity does not seem to budge. He has said that he could kill someone on Fifth Avenue, and it would not make one bit of difference.
There are reasons for his popularity. Most I believe have to do with the fact that a lot of Americans are struggling financially, feel abandoned and dissed by the liberal elite, and are fearful of the changing complexion of America. Some of his popularity, but certainly by no means a majority, has to do with old-fashioned racism. The irony is that many in his base are hard working, white working class people, some former Democrats, who could not be any more different from a man like Trump, who was born into great wealth and has been anti union and anti worker throughout his real estate career.
One the other side, there are the rest of us. About 40 percent of the voting population are people like me who despise the man and what he is doing to our country. We embrace the idea of growing diversity in our country, gay marriage, civil rights, environmental protection, affordable health care, a strong social safety net, heavy investment in infrastructure, affordable higher education, and higher taxes on the rich. We are the hard-core opposition. We are mostly Democrats, but some independents fall into this category.
The other twenty percent –mainly Independents but some traditional Republicans—are not happy with Trump and the way the country is going but are not a sure thing to vote against him when election day comes around. Some have tended to turn a blind eye to Trump’s outrageous behavior in exchange for tax cuts that in the short run make them wealthier. Others see him as the lesser of two evils. A good number of these people, however, will vote anti-Trump. How many vote for a Democrat in 2018 will determine the future of our country.
I am hopeful that the midterm Congressional elections will at least put the Democrats back in control of the House. The Senate is a long shot, but having at least one House of Congress to balance Trump could make a huge difference. The biggest hope appears to be white, suburban, married women who have tended to vote traditional Republican in the past. But given Trump’s misogyny and the #Me Too Movement, they will vote for Democrats to counterbalance the Trump Administration.
But what if this does not happen? What if the Trump opposition does not turn out to vote in great numbers? What if the enthusiasm among Trump’s base results in a much stronger turnout—a Red Wave as Trump is calling it?
This is what causes me to stay awake at night. This is why July 4, 2018, is different. Trump is unique. There has been no President like him in all of U.S. history. Our democracy is fragile. We see countries like Turkey, Poland, and Hungary inch closer to totalarian governments. Neo fascism is starting to brew in Germany and other European countries. Could this happen here?
So on this Fourth of July we should rejoice and celebrate our proud history but at the same time keep in mind just how fragile and how serious the current situation is. Yes, we have had great failures in the past—slavery and Jim Crow topping the list—but have managed to come through them, at least somewhat. We have been though a revolution, a civil war and two world wars. We have faced hard challenges in the past. We are facing hard challenges now. I pray on this Fourth of July, 2018, that we will come through our dark night of the soul.