James J. Florio
It looks like our nation’s Trumpian nightmare is over.
It became apparent to me that the president was on autopilot toward self-destruction when, after his hospitalization with COVID-19, he embarked on a series of mass rallies without masks or social distancing requirements. Many older people, and in particular women, felt that this decision was incomprehensible.
An important political question was, what would be the collateral damage of this whole imploding campaign? Clearly, in my home state of New Jersey, opponents of the downward vote of all outgoing Democratic members of the House of Representatives paid the price for their passivity in the face of the President’s attacks on public safety. based. It is said that the deepest part of hell is reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, assume a position of neutrality. It is even worse for those who actively support policies and actions that they know are repugnant.
The favorable outcome of the elections does not relieve us of the obligation to try to determine how we allowed the outrage of the past four years to happen – how we leave our basic institutions of government and society itself. be shaken to a dreadful degree. Public accountability, the legislative power of the stock exchange, the independence of the judiciary, the commitment of the United States Department of Justice to the law, respect for a free press, three equal branches and independent of government – all challenged by an administration determined to create chaos by dismissing democratic standards.
A shock to the system
In a sense, we owe President Donald Trump a debt of gratitude for taking us to the edge of the precipice and forcing us to scrutinize a cage of autocratic imperatives to see where a pursuit on his path would have led for us. The fact that we have spent four years on this path should be cause for concern. The fact that 70 million voters backed Trump’s candidacy is forcing the nation to consider exactly what the pull was.
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I would offer this explanation: The basic need for structure and certainty in people’s lives during tumultuous and rapidly changing times is satisfied for some by providing simple answers to complex questions and plausible solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Never mind that the answers and solutions provided by Donald Trump, while easy to understand and straightforward, are wrong.
Immigrants have not created all of our economic problems.
Doctors did not inflate the COVID-19 numbers to make money.
The normalization of abnormal weather events does not happen by accident.
Repeating something, even from the White House, doesn’t make something true if it doesn’t.
Watch for the next threat
We dodged a bullet this time, but we have lessons to learn. We must be vigilant. We are fortunate that Trump has so many obvious character flaws that offend even some who have endorsed his policies.
The concern is that someone more attractive, who still has their values and skills to manipulate the media and intimidate political opponents, but without their pathological affliction, might fit into the extremist model. A person who bends over and takes advice from the same ideological playbook, but who is more adept at hiding character deficiencies would be even more dangerous than Trump. Someone with a little more sensitivity and brains would be a major threat to our nation.
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The first step in avoiding the emergence of such a person is to reject the politics of division and encourage full participation in an effort to involve and inform all of our citizens in the process of formulating national policies. It is essential that we work to put in place policies that combat the instability that will inevitably arise from unmistakable national disparities in income and wealth. Ending the disparities that translate into reduced opportunities for upward mobility is a good place to start.
If we are seeking social and political tranquility, by giving all Americans the opportunity to realize their basic aspirations, reducing these disparities would help.
This should be the goal of our new president.
James J. Florio was the 49th Governor of New Jersey from 1990 to 1994. This column originally appeared on NorthJersey.com.