How are historians going to frame this era in United States history? If the president is limited to one term this November, perhaps they will just regard it as an aberration. If the president is successful in securing another term, perhaps they will interpret it as America losing her way, and see this administration as the sine qua non of the downhill slide of a country that was once the leader of the free world.
One of the few times the president has spoken truthfully was during the 2016 campaign when he declared, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters." If the president followed through on this outrageous claim, his sycophants in today’s Republican Party would be falling all over themselves to defend his actions. How did President Trump garner such support that he could make this incredibly outrageous claim, and sadly, there would be an element of truth to it?
Republican politicians are willing to sell their political souls in defending their party’s president to secure political power. Senators Perdue and Loeffler, and Rep. Ferguson, all in their first terms and for the first time experiencing the gravitational pull of political power, are going to be dutiful party members and regurgitate party talking points, no matter how outrageous the claims.
What might historians looking back 50 years from now conclude? I would suspect that they might zero in on the mantra of the president and his supporters to, “Make America Great Again.” That declaration assumes that there was a period when America was greater than it is today, and they long for a return to it. When exactly was this period when America was much greater than it is today?
I have been to Europe three times in the past 18 months. Before each trip I remember hoping that nobody would ask me about this current presidential administration. When I went to Ireland, the birthplace of my grandparents, it happened. But it happened in such a way that the experience was very profound. A cab driver in Dublin brought it up. His voice inflection was truly anguished. He wondered how we could elect such a person. “You are America. You are the great beacon of hope and democracy in the world. What has happened to your great country?” He was truly concerned about us.
I did my best to explain the Electoral College to him. I explained that President Trump was actually the fifth of our presidents to lose the popular vote, but win the presidency. It satisfied him on an intellectual level, but I could tell it did not assuage his genuine sorrow at the state of affairs in our country.
So, how did we get to this point where our beloved America is so fractured that it could elect a president such as this, and continually justify his behavior, no matter how outrageous? It will be future historians that will dissect these troubling times for us and hopefully provide us with answers.