A Critical Moment For America

A Critical Moment For America


Leonard Zwelling

Sometimes, in fact most times, a particular inflection point in history can only be perceived in retrospect. When was the critical time that the arc of history changed? When was it clear that the South would secede from the United States? When did Hitler make a mistake, extend his military in two directions and cost Germany the war? When was the moment when it became obvious that the United States could not win the Vietnam War? Ditto Iraq? Did anyone know it when it was happening?

Today we are at one of those inflection points. We know it.

Mr. Trump has brought us there almost single-handedly.

In the Sixties when the civil rights movement really took off, the focus was uniformly on African-Americans and the poor way they were being treated. Today discrimination includes acts against people of Hispanic origin, Muslims, Asians and virtually anyone who is not white, Christian, heterosexual and at least second-generation American born. That is crazy. But who can we thank? Mr. Trump.

The political parties have never been more polarized. There are no Republicans left of any Democrats nor any Democrats right of any Republicans. There is no center. And the vitriol accompanying our political discourse has reached an all-time high. Ethical leadership is at an all-time low. Who can we thank? Mr. Trump.

Now even the economy is being threatened by a trade war with China. Neither country is better off with this tariff battle. China is losing money in exports. Americans are paying higher prices for many imported goods and the war of words and monetary systems is escalating. Who can we thank? Mr. Trump.

Finally, America is in desperate need of moral leadership and civil discourse. Neither party is supplying that. It seems clear that most of the Democratic contenders for president are emerging from the current system. How can they help? They can’t. They are all part of the problem. A current senator is not going to have many new ideas to change the course that we are on although they profess to have just that right balance between new ideas and deeply held and readily communicated convictions. Frankly, they all have developed a stump speech and tend to stick to it. Only in the debates do we see momentary glimpses of the real people behind the masks. But there are far too many faces up there to ever get a good sense of any of them. Americans want to kick the tires on the candidates, but not on a semi truck number of tires.

It is clear to any right thinking (sorry Trumpers) American that we must have a new president in 2020, but it is just as equally clear that none of the challengers has emerged as being the one to make a successful campaign against Mr. Trump and win all of the Clinton voters and a goodly number of the Trump voters in purple states. That is why I say we are at an inflection point.

If Trump wins again, history will be unalterably changed and America taken in a retrospective direction it has not been in since the presidency of Herbert Hoover. I believe that Mr. Trump would lead us into war, depression or both if he is to remain in the White House after 2021. We must have change.

That being said, we also need a Democrat of the stature and heft of FDR if we are to begin to make our way out of the Trump-induced coma of bigotry and divisiveness and rejoin the world.

I am hoping that someone in the field of Democrats can emerge who can articulate both a vision of our future and a way to get there.

I am reminded of what I was taught so many years ago by a leadership trainer about what you say during your first speech to those you have been newly selected to lead.

I have a vision for us.

I have a plan to get us there.

It won’t be easy.

It will worth it when we arrive.

Does anyone in that field in excess of 20 people say that to you? Not me. Not yet.

America has a decision to make and on that decision our future will depend. It simply cannot be a future of macho posturing, lies, deceit and criminal activity. Elect Trump again and that’s what we will have. Better we elect anyone else and then indict Mr. Trump.

Inflection points can indicate a change of slope up or down. Let’s hope America chooses up.

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