This blog entry is going to get personal.
I was born on an Election Day (in an off-year), and as a child I looked forward to seeing the political conventions on TV. They were more suspenseful affairs then, with talk of smoke-filled rooms and backroom deals. The result, of course, was always that two white men would be nominated by each party to be the standard-bearers. Usually the men had military experience, had served in government in some capacity, and were smart and well-educated. Running mates were chosen to achieve geographic balance so that no one would feel left out. While campaigns could be nasty, the nation would be in good hands, no matter who won.
I lived in Scranton, Pa., a two-newspaper town at the time. The morning paper, the Tribune, tended to favor the Republicans. The Times, which came in the evening, leaned toward the Democrats. If you subscribed to both, as my parents did, you could get a fairly balanced idea of what was going on.
My parents and most of the adults I knew were Democrats, and at some point in my childhood, I thought I had figured out the difference between the two parties. The Democrats were the beer-drinking, hard-working union members who had jobs in factories or construction or maybe owned the corner mom-and-pop store. They were good people who had a good time at their conventions, hooting and hollering for their candidates.
The Republicans, I thought, were what Democrats aspired to be someday. They were enthusiastic in their own way, but more mature in showing their enthusiasm. They had money, and the women had mink coats and real jewelry. They had names like Rockefeller, and the wealthiest among them had class and a sense of noblesse oblige. They spread money around, giving freely to museums and other cultural endeavors, and they didn’t seem to look down on the rest of us, or at least they had the grace not to let it show.
Those good people of both parties are long gone. I can’t imagine what they’d think of the spectacle before us now, with a deranged billionaire in the White House, a Congress divided and getting nothing done, a country that no longer values education or culture.
How did it devolve to the point that the Republicans would back Donald Trump — a real estate heir with no government experience, no record of service in the military or in an organization like the Peace Corps, a man who never helped anyone whose name wasn’t Trump? Where were the grown-ups when Trump was slurring the other candidates and their families, and when “Pussygate” came to light?
And where are the grown-ups now? We have turned our country over to a petulant child who tweets insults and baseless charges — and can’t even spell simple English words like “hereby” and “tap.” And can you just imagine what Dwight D. Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan would have said about a president who seems to have openly colluded with Russia in order to get elected? And yet, if Reagan had a Teflon coating, Trump seems to have impermeable armor.
Those who surround him are scoundrels, liars and fools. An education secretary who thinks that the historically black colleges and universities are an example of “school choice,” an attorney general who lied under oath, a press secretary who refuses to meet with legitimate members of the mainstream media. That’s just for starters.
I keep waiting for the grown-ups to show up. And then I remember — we’re supposed to be the grown-ups.