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Thursday
Jan112018

Our Next President

Last year I wrote a book called 2020, in which nonviolent resistance forces within the United States revealed governmental malfeasance and organized a movement to elect a new president. It was a work of fiction and based on fanciful circumstances, and on the opposition between evil and saint-like characters. Some readers and reviewers saw it as a portent of our country’s future. But it isn’t.

Unfortunately, too many of us share the view of my novel, which is that the choice of leadership of our country is a battle between good and evil, with the telling characteristic being the leader’s personality or character. It’s easy to arrive at this conclusion, given our current president and his history of lying, of sexual predation, of shady business practices, of intellectual laziness, of infantile public feuding and name-calling, and his demagogic ability to touch the prejudices and fears of his constituents in order to gain their support. But the real disaster of the Trump presidency is not the ineptitude of an ill-prepared and ill-informed president at the helm, but the policies enacted by those he has appointed, and those legislative programs he has supported, which are stripping away our decency toward immigrants, undermining our fight against environmental degradation, hastening the likelihood of further climate change, perpetuating a health-care system that performs more poorly but costs more than that of any comparable country’s, widening income and wealth disparities, and sowing the seeds of international conflict by siding with one faction over another in the Middle East and selling weapons to whomever is willing to pay for them. One maniacally narcissistic president has not been able to do this on the strength of his personality or even of his depravity. His policies represent a political stance, which, as New York Times columnist David Brooks is wont to point out, is more coherent than listening to his tweets would imply.

An alternative president must not just embody a grown-up, liberally informed, honest and fair character, but must be able to lead the country toward a reversal of Trump era deterioration of the progress, albeit shaky, toward the progressive view of what our country is to become. Barack Obama had the right character, but he was a lousy negotiator with congress. His foreign policy was muddled, both in giving international business control over framing agreements such as TPP and in figuring out when and whether to support insurrections in the Middle East. And let’s face it, under every recent administration, Republican or Democrat, income disparity has increased and progress for Black and Brown Americans has stagnated.

Our next presidential candidate must be charismatic—after all, he or she will have to defeat Donald Trump—but must also be an informed, intelligent, savvy and crafty politician with a world view that is progressive, that sees the disparities in our country—between Black and White, between men and women, between rich and poor—and has a view of how to reduce them. And he or she must be someone who understands the forces shaping the world—climate change, international commerce, emerging women’s rights, concentration of wealth in a minority of people, religious fundamentalism, and nuclear proliferation. He or she cannot be a demagogue who creates zeal among his or her base and hatred toward the opposition, who refuses to compromise or understand the motives of those who don’t share his or her image of the world. He or she must, like Abe Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, be able to negotiate with the opposition.

Where do we find such a person?

I’m not sure. For all the attractiveness of Oprah or Tom Hanks, I doubt that the world of entertainment is the place to look. That leaves politics, public service, academia, and grass roots organizing as potential sources of a candidate. We have some promising politicians, young and old, some able civil servants and statespeople, some very well informed academics and, like Barack Obama once was, some ambitious and charismatic grass roots organizers. We need to find at least one who could be our next president.

Casey Dorman is editor of Lost Coast Review and the author of the recent political novel, 2020, which can be found on Amazon by clicking HERE

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