Historian Jon Meacham thinks so. Meacham thinks our country has endured terrible times, and come out the better for it. In his opinion piece for the Washington Post, Richard Cohen urges us to pray that Meacham is right — and act as if he isn’t. According to Cohen, here’s the problem we face:
“The wave of populism sweeping parts of Europe — notably Hungary and Poland on the right, and Britain on the left (don’t ask me where Italy fits) — is not new for that continent. Britain succumbed to outlandish socialism before, and Poland and Hungary are returning to the comfort of their pre-war roots as nasty authoritarian regimes. But the United States has no such history.
In fact, the United States has had presidents who succored its soul. FDR told us to fear only “fear itself,” George W. Bush went to a mosque after the 9/11 attacks, and Barack Obama, as Meacham reminds us, broke into “Amazing Grace” after nine black people were massacred in a Charleston, S.C., church in 2015.
Now, in stark contrast, we have a president whose rhetoric is ugly and divisive, who is appallingly not appalled by white racists and whose whims go unchecked by important figures in his own party. He does not summon Lincoln’s “better angels of our nature” but instead stokes unreasonable fear of immigrants, of change, of diversity, of government and of the press.”
We are not even halfway through a Trump presidency, and look where we are. Trump can’t even host a winning football team without making it an occasion of rancor and partisanship.
We have a long way to go before it’s even possible to dream of things turning around.