As I think I mentioned at some point this last week, this little blog reached its five-year anniversary a few days ago (January 12th for those wondering). Over that period, I have published close to 1.500 posts, but I dare say that nary a one was political in nature.
And that is odd, for I am a political junkie.
I guess I tried to keep this blog out of the political stratosphere for at least a couple of reasons. One, I feel that, for the most part, wine (and cycling) are a-political. I have climbed some of the highest mountains in Europe with a dear friend and a brother who are both considerably further to the right than I. That did not make the mountains any less majestic or the wine after the ride any less rewarding.
But today, as a new president is sworn in, one who has caused considerable controversy, I feel the need to weigh in.
This past November, I did not vote against Donald Trump, I voted for Hillary Clinton and I admit I was devastated when she lost. I immediately stopped listening to NPR, stopped watching Chuck Todd and MSNBC, stopped reading the New York Times. I refused to accept the reality that the next president would be someone who I felt lacked the moral and intellectual capacity to run the country.
But this post is not about him.
It is about the rest of us.
What I fear is that the actions and the demeanor of the new president will cause a further deterioration of civil discourse in this country and it will become accepted to denigrate the already marginalized in this country.
But I hope it doesn’t.
I am not sure why the outgoing president incurred such acrimony from his opponents—I would argue that he was perhaps the most admirable president of my lifetime. He inherited an economy that was in a shambles, but is now chugging along with low unemployment, a surging stock market, and millions more with health care. He has always presented himself with class and treated all with respect (at least until they proved themselves unworthy). Nonetheless, those on the right have decried that he is the worst president in history.
Now, before even taking the oath of office, many of the left are returning the favor. Sure, there is plenty of ammunition there, and I feel much of the criticism is warranted. But I fear that the antics of the new president will further divide, perhaps irreparably, an already deeply divided county.
But I hope they don’t.
A few weeks ago, my aunt died and while I was not able to attend the funeral, my younger sister did and she was able to give me a recap of the family drama that occurred. While it was disturbing to hear that my 50-something cousin had broken up with his stripper girlfriend of two-plus decades and was now living in his mother’s basement, I was much more concerned that my mother refused to talk to her two brothers because they happened to have voted for Donald Trump and she had been a fervent Hillary supporter.
It reminded me of the story that I heard on NPR right before the election where a daughter was convinced that her father no longer liked her because their political views were so divergent.
What has happened to healthy political discourse, of respectful disagreement? What has happened to our long history of compromise, of meeting half-way? When did every contentious issue become a binary choice between right and wrong?
For eight years I heard those on the right say things about the outgoing president that were ugly and cruel. Now, what I see and hear from the left cause me to cringe.
I disagree with much of what the new president has promised to do (and it remains to see how much of it he really intends to do), and I personally think that the he will be an unmitigated disaster.
But I hope he isn’t.
That’s right—I honestly hope that our 45th president is successful.
In a strange way, I think that this president is oddly situated to foster a new era of healthy political discourse and compromise. Given that he has enemies on both sides of the political spectrum, he might actually serve to bring those sides together in an effort to try to reign him in.
Will that happen?
I doubt it.
But I can hope.