Adaptation works best when change is incremental and occurs at a slow to moderate pace. Alternatively, change can overwhelm and frighten. And when we are frightened about our jobs or inflation or our social values we are not at our best.
Fright and maybe panic can take us where on reflection we wish we had not gone. Drug abuse, for example, has always been around but now predators can prey on our fright, our destabilization. A staggering number of people looking for escape find it in opioids and too many, terminally, in fentanyl.
So let me move on because citing social pathologies simply eats up words and your time. When it seems like we are in a descending cycle government seems more important, even if we understand a good society results from widespread self-discipline and personal generosity.
Debates come and go, today’s debate about what our government should or shouldn’t do to aid Ukraine is illustrative. The critics will say, “if we spent those dollars at home we would solve, well, whatever. Really? Since when have either of our political parties worried about borrowing more money to do, whatever? The real message is cynicism.
As we track cynicism look at today’s political polling, it essentially has President Biden and former President Trump in a virtual tie. The tactics of cynical politics are winning. This is especially true when the polls also show over 2/3rds of the electorate do not want a rematch. According to Real Clear Politics average of all polls Biden’s unfavorability rating is 54.9% and Trump’s is 56.9%. Elections of renewal turn on favor, not disfavor.
A long time ago at the insistence of my mother I typed: “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country”. It still nags me. It was originally used to test typewriter performance and capability. So let me comment, as President Biden would say “here is the deal”.
I am not, as readers of my column know, a Donald Trump fan. But let me theorize. The first assault alleging Trump criminality originated in New York by the Manhattan District Attorney forging in Trumps’s unseemly relationship with Stormy Daniels. It would be correct to say that this conduct had been prosecuted in his run for the presidency in 2016.
Additionally, Trump supporters perceive Biden’s hand in the federal indictments while covering for his son. Is it possible that Hunter Biden was skillful and disciplined enough to earn millions without his father’s help?
While dealing with perceptions, I suspect most Trump supporters want a rematch. It brings to mind Muhammad Ali rematches. When Ali was at his best a rematch was warranted and he won. But today? Biden? Trump? And as we face those dramatic societal changes that have turned many worlds upside down do we want octogenarians dealing with the tensions between the common good and the technological good?
On a number of different levels, it is fanciful to regard Biden as a man of the future. Indeed, it seems passing strange to me that his political party’s leaders would think otherwise.
We can all anticipate the campaign ads if a rematch occurs. Trump will double down on MAGA with an insistence that he is a Savior while bleating incendiary captions about Biden and Vice President Harris. The horrific Afghanistan pull-out will be the visuals. On the other side Biden too will double down on MAGA; extreme will be the beginning and end as Trump’s mug shot becomes iconic.
In 1981 Ali was 39 years old when he fought Trevor Berbick. He lost in a unanimous decision. As the much beloved Ali lit the Olympic torch in 1996 Bob Costas from NBC Sports said: “Once the most dynamic figure in sports and now trapped by a mask created by Parkinson syndrome.” What will our collective mask be? How will our foreign friends and enemies view us?
So let me end by turning away from the tactics of cynicism to more hopeful ones. Predictably political professionals have sprayed toxic liquid on an organization called No Labels. As I type, it is taking advantage of political malpractice and preparing for a convention in April, 2024. Its mission is to choose candidates who will appeal to the 70% who don’t want a rematch. If political malpractice ends, No Labels goes away.
Predictably again, the crystal ball gazers say it can’t win. Maybe they are right and maybe it will hurt Biden more than Trump. Yet, overall many Americans want to be hopeful and need someplace to place their hope.