Just Like Me0
By Frank J. Rich
Donald Trump is the president of the United States. As incredible (implausible, inconceivable) as this seemed before Election Day (see the ROI column by the same name), it happened. But how? It’s like imagining that Will Rogers, social commentator and political wit, might have been elected president in his day. The difference—Rogers was well liked! He poked fun at the establishment; Trump poked holes in it.
Both men meant to raise the public consciousness over issues confronting the nation. Rogers would say, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” Trump took a different approach, one whose angular view made the rest of the world look cockeyed. This is, perhaps, the thing they had in common. Each saw ills and gathered a silent majority around his view of them. One more thing—they both had a knack for knowing just what the American people were feeling. No doubt, Rogers’ campaign would have been a “feeling” campaign, as Trump’s was in this last election.
Both men came from means, but found their places in the world more comfortable by aligning with the “everyday Joe.” They valued common sense and honest feelings and validated a “nation in need” in their respective lifetimes. Their personal dreams, one might say, were (in forming their worldviews) realized by an understanding of their unique contributions to their audience. Remarkably, each held sway over America to reach fulfillment, and each owed his success to his ability to measure the pulse of that very same audience. In a sense, each was entertainer while testing his unique brand, and each was sage in accumulating the results.
The lives of both of these men may suggest many things to us, no less than that you too, like the social satirist and the blue-collar billionaire, can achieve your greatest expectations and realize your personal dreams when closely aligned with the people whose support you need to achieve them.
Many say that we are a nation divided. The comment generally refers to the government, its two-party system, and those that line up behind them. Actually, it’s not so uncommon a position for the America we know and love. Except during wartime, Americans have been divided, at least skin deep, over the approach to solutions for the complex and great number of issues nations face. It’s the same for all nations. But for benevolent dictators, whose matriarchal or patriarchal oversight is the warm caring for their (subjects) citizens, such as Peisistratos, the progenitor of his breed, most rulers—either presidential or parliamentary—subsume the character of benevolence behind an eponymous shield that appears to be the same old government: by, for, and of the legislators.
Peisistratos ruled Greece on three different occasions, and was generally liked, and for good reason. He created a time of peace and prosperity for Athens, offering land and loans to the needy. Others followed—Ashoka the Great, Marcus Aurelius, Frederick II of Prussia, and many more. All owed their following and success to a single unifying ethic; they were motivated in ruling by a dedication to the betterment and welfare of their people.
While a two-party system, by design, means to manage the differences between members, especially in representative forms of government such as our democratic republic, toward consensus as an outcome, it is divisive by nature. When each acts as though it is more important to be “right” than to join in consensus, they are serving themselves and not the people. “For the good of the party” may be the revealing ethic that informs the electorate of a divided nation. Thought becomes behavior!
Few among those attacking the presidency, as though “throwing out the bum” were the style of this republic—the presumptive identity of a parliamentary system—have paused to consider that a nation of laws positions those who openly violate them in an effort to eviscerate or otherwise harm the president as felons under United States Code Title 18, Section 871. Its prototype is the English Treason Act 1351, which made it a crime to “compass or imagine” the death of the King. Many claim a desire to “kick him in the face” were they to meet the president. Most are expressing displeasure with his views and the striking difference from their own. The act is hardly the stuff of joining, rather, the frustration in a presidency that is not equal to their bidding.
Perhaps, more than any encouragement issued by politicians is the desire for a bipartisan legislature, a cohesive people, and benevolent leadership. JFK asked that we consider first what citizens might do “for your country.” It may be a well-worn wish, but as prodigious and righteous to act on. In this moment, “we” are “me.”
“Problems are common, but first among them is expecting otherwise and viewing problems as the problem. Few can hurdle this obstacle.” Anonymous