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‘I just don’t know what to do’

Nobody understood that, of all his unfit-for-the-presidency credentials, Trump’s ruthless pursuit of power would be his most dangerous characteristic. And he remains just as dangerous even out of office.

Nicholas Boke , a freelance writer and international education consultant, has been published in The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, among other publications. His commentaries ran on Vermont Public Radio in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Chester

I just don’t know what to do.

Political commentaries these days often run something like, “There seems to be a good chance that democracy is in danger.”

Those are the optimistic ones.

Many — from both the right and the left — run more along the lines of “Buckle up! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

If the polls are correct, a lot of Republicans and many independents are pretty sure that the illegitimate Biden administration is looking at the world through rose-colored (read “socialist”) glasses. A significant number of these assume that only physical violence can get us out of this mess.

The same polls show that the majority of Democrats and some independents see the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol as America’s big step toward authoritarianism.

And that, combined with the rewriting of electoral laws in almost a third of our states and the ongoing shenanigans of Donald Trump and his ilk, will set up the elections in 2022 and 2024 to undo much of the political system we have relied on to protect Americans — beyond, that is, their right to bear arms.

* * *

I, in case the previous paragraph wasn’t a giveaway, agree with the Democrats.

And I just don’t know what to do.

I’m 75 years old. I’ve seen a lot, including the Vietnam fiasco, the Nixon scandals, the Reagan undoing of the New Deal safety net, the 2000 election, the rise of the Tea Party.

And then the election of a president who — everybody with a brain, liberal or conservative, knew at the time — had no business being elected dogcatcher, much less president. And whose activities during his tenure only cemented our belief that he was very much the wrong man for the job.

But at the time nobody understood that, of all his unfit-for-the-presidency credentials, Trump’s ruthless pursuit of power would be his most dangerous characteristic.

And that it would remain just as dangerous when he was out of office as when he had been in office.

* * *

So we’re one year into the term of a president who is trying his best, as far as I can tell, to bring back the United States as it had been before excessive individual greed and untrammeled corporate capitalism began to take over a few decades ago.

Joe Biden is doing this with razor-thin legislative support. He’s doing this while national legislators and state attorneys general are trying to get some traction on their efforts to hold Donald Trump and his buddies to account for their obvious misdeeds.

He’s doing so while more than one-third of the people in this country get their news from sources that have no interest in or even understanding of what “news” actually means.

I tell myself, “Well, we’ve been through tough times before. We’ll probably pull through this, too.”

But the simple fact of the matter is that we haven’t been through times that were this tough since the Civil War.

During the closest recent analogy, the Watergate years, more than a handful of Republicans retained their integrity. Of course, Nixon hadn’t realized the power that “primarying” a disloyal candidate could have. What a piker Nixon seems, compared to ex-president Trump.

* * *

I’ve helped a local anti-racism group, and I have taken to meeting with the local Democrats. My wife and I send money to the ACLU, Common Cause, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and we will help moderate-to-progressive national candidates once their campaigns get underway.

But I know that those things aren’t enough to stave off the dangers that seem, to so many, likely to be coming our way.

So, I just don’t know what to do to protect this fragile, flawed system that, at its best, seems likely to at least try to protect and support all Americans, whatever their race or ethnicity, economic status, sexual orientation, and all the rest.

I just don’t know what to do.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #646 (Wednesday, January 12, 2022). This story appeared on page B1.

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