I’ve been on the losing side of a lot of presidential elections.
In 1964, when Lyndon Johnson swamped Barry Goldwater, I was a misguided Goldwater voter who joined my fellow losers to proclaim: “27 million people can’t be wrong!” We could not account for the wrongness of 43 million LBJ voters.
In 1968, Hubert Humphrey was my home-state hero and Richard Nixon was, well, Richard Nixon. Another painful loss.
In 1980, my wife, a North Carolina native, spent weekends helping Jimmy Carter – the first president, she said, who didn’t have an accent. Once again I lamented the election when so many fellow Democrats defected to Ronald Reagan.
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All those losses were heartbreaking, but never did I fear for the future because there was always a general sense of where candidates stood on key issues.
We may not have agreed, but we never feared what they might do as president.
I cannot say the same for Donald J. Trump.
I’ve been trying to tell myself that Trump has been acting when he has said the things he said. There was, for instance, the absurd charge that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama co-founded ISIS. A couple days later he said he was being sarcastic.
I’m hoping that sarcasm – well, sarcasm as he defines it – is what he had in mind when he said he wanted to ban all Muslims, deport 11 million undocumented workers and their families, punish women who get abortions, end health insurance for 20 million Americans and support racial profiling.
There were his disparaging comments about our president and our military leaders, his mocking of a disabled reporter, his disrespect for women, his glee in turning his more rabid supporters against reporters.
Unfortunately, Trump’s words are all on the record and some of his most venomous words have drawn to his side some of the most hateful elements of American society – the Klan, the white nationalists, the neo-Nazis.
Of course millions of good people also voted for Trump.
Many of them believe they have been left behind by an elitist, high-tech culture.
Just as many are rightly angered that the same Wall Street heavies who trashed the economy were rewarded with bonuses worth millions – and not one went to jail for illegal actions.
Apparently these voters don’t share my fears about a Trump presidency and I can only pray they are right.
I confess it was heartening to see Trump act normal, even a bit humble, after the election, saying he wanted to be president of all Americans.
And he certainly treated President Obama with respect, even deference, during their cordial meeting Thursday, saying he would seek Obama’s counsel in the days ahead.
Those were reassuring words, but when I think about the candidate we watched for the past 16 months I have to ask: Which is the real Donald Trump?
I don’t know. Does anyone?
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.