by Gallagher & Schleicher
A double-edged sword of historic proportions:
1. Per a Northeastern University study, national college enrollment continues to rise while degrees awarded in history continue to fall.
2. Per British writer and philosopher George Santayana: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Fear not, fellow traveler, the dearth of future historians need not preclude an accurate accounting of the Trump administration. You’re needed to bear witness.
Whether labeled “Making America Great Again” or perhaps “The Trump Doctrine,” the hell-bent drive to rack up as many Really Bad Ideas (RBIs) as possible as quickly as possible is truly impressive. Leading by tweet, suppressing the vote, coddling dictators, golfing while polar caps melt, presiding over cronyism and corruption and, last but not least, placing brown-skinned children in cages, he paves with bad intentions a winding road we fear has concentration camps as a final stop.
So go ahead and write these items down now, adding a couple of your own, so that an absence of history books and history professors doesn’t prevent your great-grandchildren from gleaning highlights of the first term of the Trump administration. Leave space to write of the can-you-believe-it, who-would-have-thought, norm-busting calamities he will unleash as his first four years in the White House wind down.
What we can’t predict is whether there will be a second term. Trump is a force unto himself. He is no more a mere symptom of these hate-filled times than Martin Luther King Jr. was a mere symptom (and not a driver) of the civil rights movement. Behold a president who might be mistaken for the fifth horseman of the apocalypse, judging by the deaths that will result from his willful ignorance of climate science and the prodigious destruction of American values and institutions he leaves in his wake.
Will the Republicans fall in line — their greatest virtue or vice, depending on whom you ask — and re-elect a man even they must confess is often repugnant? Or will his base turn out to have bled away a large swath of female and suburban voters who simply cannot bear another four years of his coarse bullying?
Equally important to the question of whether he gets another four years to divide and conquer our citizenry is whether Democrats can unite behind a candidate versus incessant sniping over an inability to find a flawless torchbearer. We propose members of that party pledge a ratio of no less than five-to-one posts condemning Donald to those criticizing someone who may be our last hope to stop him.
Enormous shifts in history are often decided by slight changes. For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost, so the saying goes. We do know that like some world-infamous autocrats who preceded him, Trump is easily underestimated till just before it proves too late to stop him. Yet Democrats, independents and never-Trump Republicans proved in the 2018 elections that Trump is not invincible.
If Trump does lose, we predict that, as with many authoritarians, pulling back the curtain will reveal a wizard much weaker than he had seemed. As his recent firing of pollsters demonstrates, he loathes those who dare to bring him bad news. Here’s hoping he continues to ignore warnings of falling poll numbers till they’re so low even Putin cannot pull them out of the ditch. Our great-grandchildren would love the storybook ending as Trump rides off into the sunset (to a beach house in Sochi?), even if we’re left with something short of happily ever after.
The hard truth: It will take many decades for Uncle Sam to recover, even if only from one destructive term. Historians, if any remain, will never again doubt that a single person can make such a difference.
David Gallagher is a transplanted Texan, living and working in London and tweeting at @TBoneGallagher. David Schleicher is an attorney splitting his time between Waco and D.C. and blogging at www.ContranymTimes.com. This piece originally appeared in the Sunday, June 30, 2019 Waco Tribune-Herald, where the Davids are on the Board of Contributors.