By James W. Dolan
In a recent letter to the Boston Globe, the writer commented on a Scott Leigh column highly critical of President Trump. After acknowledging that Trump is a “dishonest, divisive, dysfunctional president,” the writer asked, “What it would take for Republicans to abandon him? Since the government is “hopelessly broken and dysfunctional, too,” he suggested, Americans may want a “bull in the China shop to disrupt things.”
Apparently, adding more chaos to what he views as an untenable situation is preferable to “traditional politicians who pander and grandstand, who seek the moral high ground on every issue, and who are beholden to special interests and the less moderate primary voters.”
He complained of traditional politicians “promising everything to everyone, including things they know can’t and won’t be accomplished.” Saying he was “fed up with business as usual,” he apparently believes, even after three years, that Trump is the better alternative, although, as a nation we are more divided and less respected.
How can the writer fail to see that Trump fits precisely his definition of a “traditional politician” with the obvious exception of “seeking the moral high ground on every issue?” For someone without character, honor, veracity, integrity, humility, or restraint, there is no moral ground. There are no core values beyond his own desire for power and adulation.
I understand why many are fed up with business as usual. But to see Trump as a solution is delusional. He has all the worst characteristics of traditional politicians with none of the values associated with many of the best. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Barack Obama, to name a few.
The solution to being “fed up” is not to wreck the joint in the belief that things can’t get worse. They can. I believe there are no solutions to the human condition, but there are better ways. More often than not, incremental changes that address institutional failings can strengthen our democracy and improve lives. Campaign finance reform, term limits, elimination of the Electoral College, requiring balanced budgets, reducing military spending and, perhaps most important today, fostering a spirit of bipartisan cooperation.
I once was skeptical of term limits but am now convinced that with two-term limits, political survival would no longer be the primary motivation for elected officials. They could spend less time raising money and more trying to achieve meaningful accomplishments. The time now spent in assuring re-election far outweighs that devoted to enacting constructive legislation.
Disappointment, frustration, and anger with Washington are understandable, even unavoidable, but “fed up” is dangerous. It provides an excuse for an extreme response. The kind that can and has produced demagogues. Balance and moderation are early casualties when a seriously flawed candidate prevails. Promising a return to “the good old days” is a false option.
First, because when carefully examined, they were not as good as may appear in hindsight. Second, evolution cannot be stopped. Each generation must deal with the often unique problems of its time. However, the need for leaders of character, honor, integrity, and humility is constant. Bull in a china shop is a “break it down” strategy when what we need are leaders committed to “build it up.”
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.