The decline of a nation usually is the result of internal forces that undermine its strength and confidence. The likely nomination of Donald Trump and the possibility of his being elected president is more than alarming; it’s perilous. I have lived under thirteen presidents and during seven wars. The election of Trump represents a clear and present danger to our union like no other I have seen.
To borrow from Macbeth: Trump “struts and frets his hour upon the stage, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Why then are so many enthralled by the antics of a man so manifestly ill-equipped and unsuited to lead the nation? We’ve had a few great presidents, others that were good, some were mediocre and a few incompetent. But none as transparently narcissistic as Trump.
Megalomania is the only explanation for how he presents himself. Without a hint of subtlety or humility, he glories in the attention he needs and demands. Like some Roman emperor, he wraps himself in a toga of wealth. It is the flagrant display of his self-worth. His measure of success is money, power, and adulation; his political ascent a “reality” TV show becoming all too real: the ultimate insider presents himself as an outsider.
The Trump phenomenon has capitalized on the “blame mentality” by oversimplifying the complex issues the nation faces. It’s a target-rich environment – government (foreign and domestic), politicians, immigrants, Muslims, and minorities. Supporters, who either don’t see or ignore his obvious flaws, have found a strongman, someone to express and validate their anger.
It’s road rage on an epic scale and in the past it has given the world Hitler and Mussolini. Good, God-fearing people committed national suicide by placing their trust in demagogues who stoked and channeled their anger to achieve power. It can happen here if we are not careful. As his Republican opposition collapses, one is reminded of W.B. Yeats’s observation: “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
Within an evolutionary paradox, advances in science and technology meet little resistance while humanity struggles to capture and sustain improvements in how we treat one another. Government plays an important role in both as it seeks to balance economic progress and social welfare, strengthening commerce while making sure the many and not just a few share in the benefits. Of late, the good will necessary to make these adjustments is absent.
At times, human development appears decades behind scientific and technological progress. The two do not evolve in tandem. Humanity always seem to be trying to catch up. Despite all the new information technology, there is less meaningful communication in Congress now than when all they had were telephones.
I certainly don’t know how to make people better. But I do know Donald Trump is not the answer. One needs to recognize and acknowledge flaws before trying to correct them. When you view flaws as strengths, when you regret nothing, when you will do anything and believe you are only accountable to yourself, you may be successful in business. But you will be a dangerous president. The presidency is not a show; it’s not a stage or a performance. It’s real and the consequences of making a serious mistake can be catastrophic.
President Obama is Trump’s opposite. Whether you agree with him or not, he is a gentleman, smart and prudent. The most important quality he has that sets him apart from Trump is humility. You need an oversized ego to become president (Trump’s is huge), but without humility there is no restraint and an unrestrained ego in that office is a menace.
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.