In the history of the American presidency the tendency of the American people has been to exaggerate both the virtues and flaws of their presidents. Our presidents have become – whether earned or not – the secular icons of the republic; emblems of nationhood embodying the values Americans have claimed to cherish. At the same time, charges of presidential misconduct and moral turpitude have also captivated the nation’s attention.
Scandals plaguing the presidencies of Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton are well documented and undoubtedly shaped both scholarly and popular views of their presidential careers. But these bedeviled presidencies are hardly alone. Thomas Jefferson, one of the most revered of all Americans, was assailed as being a revolutionary, a tyrant, an atheist, an anarchist and Franco-maniac. John Adams and John Quincy Adams, pillars of personal rectitude, were constantly harassed while in office by charges of corruption, fraud, and abuses of power. The political opponents of Andrew Jackson spread rumors about his poor health, berated him for removing public office holders, and charged that he traveled on Sunday when he should have been in church. The size and violence of anti-war demonstrators eventually caused Lyndon Johnson to limit public speeches to military instillations. Even Harry Truman, somewhat of a folk hero for his plain speaking honesty, was accused of corruption and cronyism.
While scorching criticism hurled at modern day presidents is nothing new, what is new is the hate-driven assaults by congressional Democrats, left wing media, and conceited celebrates striving to first nullify the election of our current president and, secondly — following his inauguration — drive him out of office. Majority rule is a hallmark of democracy. As were nearly all of our presidents, our current president was elected to office by a majority in the electoral vote. Millions of voters supported the candidate receiving this electoral majority because they agreed with things he campaigned on: border security, keeping terrorists bent on murdering Americans out of our country, jobs, tax reform, an improved healthcare system, and a more robust military. Yet many Trump haters are disgusted with these voters, blaming the “deplorables” and the Russians for denying their candidate her lifelong goal of becoming our first female president.
There was an era when the political parties selected their presidential candidates and conducted vigorous and often contentious campaigns. Yet, when the votes were tallied, the losers acknowledged defeat and began formulating strategy for the next run four years later. Not any more. Now the democratic process is not valid unless the “right” candidate wins. There was a time when Americans believed that death threats made by throat-slitting terrorists were real. Not any more. The lessons learned from the tragedy of 9/11 seem forgotten by many. The philosophy now seems to be that of our smooth-talking former president: can’t we all get along if the United States is a little nicer. There was a time when politicians elected to national office went to Washington with some intention of doing what was best for the “general welfare” — the nation as a whole. Not anymore. It’s not about what’s best for our country. In the Age of Hate, it is mostly about revenge.
Glenn H. Walker