When we met this morning, Clancy apologized that this would be the last coffee for a while. He was being called overseas for a consulting assignment to advise the United Nations in efforts to stem the tide of dictatorships in former democracies in the West like Hungary, Turkey, and Poland.
I began the conversation asking, “Is there a way out of this mess?”
“That is the question, isn’t it? “Clancy responded, “I know that I may sound pessimistic at times and have painted a scary picture of what could happen, but it does not mean that it has to happen. If there is a solution, it must be political. An armed rebellion as some are predicting could trigger the end of our democracy. The decisive factor will be in the election results: can the Democrats hold off the radical Republicans in the hostile climate we are in? Since we last talked, I have become more hopeful about the mid term elections coming up in only a couple of months. Polls now show very close races, which could mean the Democrats might hang on to majorities in both houses.”
I chimed in,” A long shot, and if this happens, we will have the Supreme Court to thank with its 6-3 unpopular ruling against abortion along with a thank you to Trump for championing a bunch of weak candidates and nut cases. Another one of life’s ironies.”
Clancy continued, “If the Republicans win either or both Houses, it will be a different story and a grim one. I am not so sure about the long term. There are plusses and minuses, room for hope and room for despair. The American population is becoming more diverse as the minority populations increase. While we would hope that would result in more compassion and support for corrective action on race issues and economic disparities, I am aware it does not always work out that way. Nevertheless, I remain cautiously hopeful.”
“On the negative side,” he continued, “liberal or progressive policies might further energize the Right Wing extremists including armed militias and hate groups, leading to an armed rebellion that some are predicting. Ditto, if Trump gets indicted or convicted. It could become very messy. Also, politicizing the election process like counting votes by party operatives could also spell doom. Gerrymandering and dark money remain huge obstacles titling the scales toward Republicans. The 2024 election will be one of the most important in our lifetime. In the best of all worlds, we need to move back to center right and center left candidates and elect officials who are more pragmatic and want to get things done rather than cram their ideology down the voters throats or start a revolution. The stakes have never been higher.”
“So you are saying that the answer is nominating candidates on both sides who want to get things done?”
“I know,” Clancy sighed, “Wishful thinking; and if we are looking for a silver bullet, we won’t find one. If I had to pick one thing that is most important, however, I would say it is presidential leadership. Exhibit A is Donald J. Trump. Trump may be a symptom, but he is also a cause. His outrageous and irresponsible behavior is responsible for aggravating the divisions in our country, energizing extremists, and taking our country down a dangerous path. A second Trump Administration would be a disaster and could mean the end of our democracy. The wannabees waiting in the wings for a Trump misstep, or a jail sentence might be as bad or worse. Most echo his tone, and most are smarter. What the Democrats need going forward is a charismatic, smart, center left, Democratic candidate for President of the United States, who can relate to all types of people. While I give Biden high marks on some things, and given the hand he has been dealt, consider him a good–but not great– president, charismatic he is not. Plus, he is too old for a second term. Hey, he was born in November 1942, making him about eight months younger than you. He will be in his early eighties in 2024. Please. I am in my early seventies and can’t imagine taking on a job like that at my age. Should anyone your age even be allowed to take on the presidency of the United States of America? Would this ever happen in corporate America?”
“Heavens no! From my own experience 80 feels different from being 70. We start to slow down, and frailties become more apparent. Several friends my age are dealing with serious health issues. Dementia is a challenge for some, and some are dying. But who would be the best person? If only Obama could run again. I love that guy!”
Clancy continued, “What Joe Biden should do is announce after the midterms that he will not run for a second term and let the sorting out process begin. There are a lot of good people out there, though I realize that it may not be all that easy, and it depends on whom the Republicans put up, especially whether it is Trump or a Trump wannabe.”
Clancy paused for a moment, sighed, and then continued, “I know that we are living in dangerous times, but I also have got to tell you this: I have faith in the American people. Basically, we are good people. Sure, there are bad apples and some with dangerous intentions, but they are in a minority. We have faced challenges before and come through them—the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Cold War, the Kennedy and King assinations, Vietnam, segregation, and the period of Jim Crow. Look, we can survive the Trump Era. I know that this is a statement of faith rather than a fully researched fact, but I refuse to throw in the towel.”
“Well, I replied, “I will say this: I admire your unexpected but guarded optimism. We will know soon if you are right about the 2022 election.”
We both were silent for a moment realizing how high the stakes are. I told Clancy that I want to believe he is right about the American people but also know that it means getting strong Democratic candidates to run for office and working hard to get them elected, and this will not be easy. Also, we need to level the playing field on economic disparity issues, continue the fight for racial equity and social justice, and make America a kinder and gentler place. And if we fail, things could turn very bad.
“Joe,” he said, “I never said it would be easy.”
I sighed and gave Clancy a big hug. “Hope the assignment with the UN works out well,” I said.
Clancy smiled, gave a thumbs up sign, and headed off. I am not sure when I or if I will see him again.