It seems today that the only thing that unites Republicans is their disdain for Democrats and the only thing that unites Democrats is their hatred of Republicans.
Meanwhile, both parties face their own internal struggles. For Democrats, secular progressives want to slash and burn everything about America that causes them outrage while traditional liberals favor more government spending and social change but still salute the flag.
Among Republicans, Trump loyalists are in ascendency, rationalizing whatever position the President tweets, while limited-government conservatives spin themselves dizzy, applauding Trump when he does something conservative but rolling their eyes (or worse) when he’s crude, undisciplined or philosophically incoherent.
Both Trump and his secular progressive counterparts relentlessly stoke support from true believers while antagonizing most everyone else.
A growing number of Americans (myself included) just want our elected lawmakers to “shut up and do your jobs!”
We long for the days when the news wasn’t always dominated by spats between the President and his antagonists.
Of course, today’s 24/7 “news” contributes mightily to this problem. “Objective journalist” seems like an oxymoron. In the 1960s and ‘70s, CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite was “the most trusted man in America.” Today most popular media talking heads are avowed partisans, grinding an ax either for or against Trump. Only Congress is less trusted than TV news.
Both of my parents were Democrats until the late 1990s. They didn’t trust Richard Nixon, but I don’t recall them ever speaking of him with disdain, other than to occasionally refer to him by the well-deserved nickname, “Tricky Dick.” Similarly, they didn’t trust Jimmy Carter, believing him terribly naïve about the danger presented by the Soviet Union and global communism which was reaching its zenith in the 1970s.
But Nixon and Carter, both of whom turned out to be embarrassments to their respective parties, understood that Americans expected them to behave like a president, at least in public.
Perhaps that’s the sentiment behind the emerging crop of bumper stickers and yard signs touting: ANY FUNCTIONING ADULT 2020.
No doubt the signs are intended as a slap at Trump, whose self-absorbed, often-juvenile temperament irritates all but his most ardent supporters. Trump behaves like everything is about him – excoriating Republicans who dare to criticize him and relentlessly using Democrats as his political foil.
Of course, Democrats could have chosen to behave like the adults in the room by demonstrating that they were serious about tending to the country’s business without stooping to schoolyard antics.
Instead, Democrats played right into Trump’s hands by making everything about him – usually at the expense of demonstrating any capacity for governing responsibly. If Trump is for it, then Democrats are against it – even if “it” is something Democrats supported in the pre-Trump era.
Democrats tried to beat Trump at his own game, but frankly he’s much better at it than they are.
While I’ve abandoned all hope that President Trump will act presidential, his Democrat foes don’t strike me as an improvement. Joe Biden is incoherent. Bernie Sanders is angry and unhinged. Elizabeth Warren is a know-it-all scold. Michael Bloomberg is Napoleon with money to burn.
But just because they’re not Donald Trump doesn’t make them “functioning adults.”
For many Americans, the 2016 election forced them to decide which candidate they disliked less. Trump was viewed unfavorably by 62% of Americans; Hillary Clinton by 52% – the two worst scores for two presidential nominees in Gallup polling history. Had Hillary been elected, her popularity wouldn’t be much different than Trump’s is today.
It’s hard to imagine that Trump’s image will change for the better, but once again, his best asset is the unlikability of his foes. Biden, Sanders, Warren and Bloomberg are all disliked by more Americans than like them.
So, no matter who wins in 2020, Any Functioning Adult is a real longshot.