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Whatever once united us as a people seems badly frayed

Oct 13, 2016

I’ve been fascinated by politics my entire life, and have usually regarded election night the same way football fans regard the Super Bowl.

Whether the candidates I supported won or lost, I felt sort of a letdown after it was over; I’d have to wait another four years before a new presidential contest.


This time, however, I cannot wait for this divisive and nasty election to be over.

But when I said that to a retired Michigan circuit judge, she asked me “Do you really think it will ever be over?”

By this, she meant that the losers were unlikely to accept either the result, the legitimacy of the verdict, or even pretend to wish their opponents well.

The night Ronald Reagan overwhelmingly defeated Walter Mondale, his Democratic challenger, Mondale addressed his supporters. “He has won. He is our President,” he said, pledged to support him wherever he could for the good of this nation, and urged the 37 million people who had voted for him to do the same.

I don’t see that happening this year.

Last night I was at a gathering to celebrate the end of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Among the guests was a prominent and very conservative federal judge. A lifelong Republican, he told me he couldn’t possibly vote for Donald Trump.

... he then launched into an attack on Hillary Clinton, the viciousness of which startled me.

But he then launched into an attack on Hillary Clinton, the viciousness of which startled me.

He said she couldn’t possibly pass a character test, had played things fast and loose with the famous classified emails, had lied about Benghazi and had used her foundation as a pay-to-play operation. He was, essentially, convicting her without a trial.

I asked if it didn’t bother him that Trump essentially said, during the last debate, that if he won he would get a special prosecutor and throw his rival in jail, as if this were some sort of 1950s banana republic.

The judge repeated that Trump was totally unacceptable, but did not seem to have the same emotional revulsion against him as he did for Hillary Clinton.

There is, indeed, something I don’t understand about the depths of hatred many people feel towards her.

This isn’t something that can be fully explained by her sometimes questionable behavior, which has certainly included at least shading the truth, and other behavior of the sort politicians often engage in. I would attribute it to misogyny, but I’ve met women who also feel that way.

Whatever once united us as a people seems badly to be fraying, something evident on every level of government.

Whatever once united us as a people seems badly to be fraying, something evident on every level of government.

Governor Rick Snyder is now being sued for having the state pay millions for legal counsel to protect him from potential civil or criminal liability in connection with his mishandling of the Flint water crisis.

Normally, doing that would have been the job of the Michigan attorney general’s office, which employs hundreds of lawyers to represent the state.

But Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette neither like nor trust each other. So despite the fact that taxpayers already are burdened with a whole department to do this work, we are now going to pay millions more for outside counsel.

The Pledge of Allegiance ends by saying we are “one nation ... indivisible.” We might want to question how true that is anymore.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.