We went into that shark infested water
Look, this just isn’t right. When I was a kid on Fire Island, there were two things that would get the life guards — under chief life guard Buck Wright (if it rained his house would be called “All Wrong”) — to put out the red flags. A red flag meant that you were not allowed in the ocean. One reason was that the ocean was so rough that you might end up drowning, as in dead, and the other, more unusual circumstance, was that there were sharks in the water. It is not unusual these days to hear that someone has been attacked by a shark. It’s never a nice thing to be hurt by a shark and with some regularity, it has been happening.
This has got me to thinking that we might consider putting up some red flags in politics. After all, there are some terrible politicians out there and while they might not bite off our arms or legs, it seems to me that we need red flags to warn people that they should stay out of the political water. Just take a look at Donald Trump. In his case, there should have been red flags all over the place. Remember when he walked down that staircase to announce that he was running? At the time, people who should have known better seemed to think that Trump was a different sort of politician, so they signed on. He was different, alright, but not in a good way.
People really got snookered. Just how did that happen? Were people that stupid? Where were the lifeguards? The guy was, and still is, a dangerous, terrifying jerk. Some people actually liked that. They responded to his crudeness – he said out loud what they were secretly thinking. Others fell for him because he was a so-called TV star.
In this country, people believe that if you do well on TV, you must be worthy. But looking back on Trump when we all first me him, it is clear that he was just as much of a jerk then as he is now. We went into that shark infested water anyway. When you consider what Donald Trump did to us and the many ways in which he tried to corrupt our democracy, here’s the scariest part: he TOLD us what he would do! There are no two ways about it — were he to be elected for another term, all that we respect about American democracy would be reversed. Anyone who doesn’t understand that is sadly mistaken.
Of course, huge numbers of people voted for him and made him president once. Polls indicate that it could happen again. I have pondered why there are people who like and respect the guy. Maybe it’s because this country has a fairly large group of people who are, well, bullies. Bullies vote for bullies. I happen to think that if we had a surefire way of defining who is really a bully, we would find that there are more bullies among Republicans than Democrats. We know, for instance, that Republicans are often better heeled than Democrats. So, if Republicans have more money than Democrats, things being what they are, we can assume that those with the most are likely to bully those who have less.
Look, sharks like to bite. They are turned on by blood. The more blood in the water, the greater the frenzy. So if we are to make for a more cogent, fair society, we need more and better lifeguards. The way I see it, there are a lot of sharks in the ocean and a lot in our politics. Surely you agree with that. By the time we figure out which politicians we are swimming with are good and which are bad, it might be too late and we might get bitten.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected]