By John Bonanni
Newly elected presidents win elections by convincing voters of their opponent’s inability to avoid the mistakes of the previous administration. Inevitably, the victor creates their demise through the overexposure of a personal or political agenda; usually fostered by a congressional ambush of the opposing party. The self-assassination of Bill Clinton’s character
sidetracked his plan of prosperity for all and reset tolerances of moral relativity. George W. Bush’s candidacy was little more than a minor political blue blood riding on family gravitas with historical probitas. Barack Obama offered a passive standard of diplomacy and strategic leadership. All eventually failed the promise that has never been entirely kept since the country’s inception.
In 2008, we were at the threshold of the most significant opportunity for nation building since the American Civil War. Our discriminatory traditions that had evolved from reluctantly
freeing uneducated, labor-trafficked men and women of color to tolerating them as socially inferior, ineducable freeloaders continued its function in the form of economic discrimination.
We continued the traditional pattern of political yin and yang that had occurred since the country’s founding. From Edward Rutledge to Henry Clay to George Wallace—and there is a
basketful of biased politicos who fill the bill of racial complicity throughout our history—to today, race-based statesmanship had been a covert operative. It is not the failure of the political process. It is a persistent disregard for ethics, integrity, and human dignity.
The 20th-century remake of Abraham Lincoln, in the person of John F. Kennedy, redressed wounds that were assumed to have been healed by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments one hundred years earlier. Progress was made, but racially biased entrenchment merely found new ways to function.
Somehow, the promise of tolerance and inclusion in the Obama Administration produced another racial equality revival. What could have been a correction of racial modus operandi erupted into a seizure of miscalculations and false patronizations; resulting in a political upset that produced the present near-constitutional crisis.
Democratic arrogance and dismissive self-righteousness in concert with Republican managerial ineptness and empathetic bankruptcy emboldened politically under-served voting blocks to deliver Donald Trump, a presidential entity who assumed the self-assassinating character of Clinton, the mismanagement of Bush, and the tenuous soapboxing of Obama into a predatory, reactionary, and dysfunctional sideshow of fright and oratorical floundering.
This new mix of presidential malfunction further damaged the dubious claim of American exceptionalism. From “Putting People First” (Clinton), “Compassionate Conservatism” (Bush), to “Yes We Can” (Obama), it seemed that no variation on the American exceptionalism theme in recent generations could achieve enough improvement to convince disenfranchised voters that change was working. America, apparently, needed to be made great again.
America is not unequivocally great. No country is. It has great ideas. We had tripped at the starting gate in 1776 by denying inalienable rights to an entire race of people, and inequality festered for generations to come in racial theatrics supported by both progressive and conservative agendas. How can a country claim exceptionalism as a clarion call when a fifth of its population had been dehumanized and considered property? Perhaps if we had addressed the accessibility of opportunity for all citizens, we might now be enjoying the pleasure of each other’s prosperity as a national pastime.
For generations, inert executive and entrenched legislative leadership have responded with obstructionism and preoccupied our energies with perfunctory grandstanding, bequeathing to us the civil unrest of our cities, the bankruptcy of our healthcare, the corruption of our processes. Did not these conditions of inequality demand the attention of the elected administration and the American public? Did we not dump excellent English tea for this misrepresentation? The pursuit of reconciliation through economic equality had been abandoned
So, we suffer still, not having completed the national purpose of self-determination. Democrats lure disenfranchised groups with proudly hailed social engineering programs that barely sustain a living environment. Republicans smugly shake off organizations they deem to be unworthy takers. Forever in debt and bereft of resources, these groups never gain access to building financial well being.
Our legislators bludgeon our economic stability, chalk up an astronomical national debt service, shackle tools of commerce and reduce educational institutions to reclusive safe spaces instead of centers of tolerance. This recurring depletion of statesmanship creates a congressional and social oligarchy and invites irreparable harm to democratic function. This time, with an administration filled with generals and independently wealthy individuals, our government resembles the largest, most powerful banana republic in history; which is the antithesis of a constitutional republic designed to empower every individual.
John spent a career in theatre management on tour, on Broadway, at Radio City Music Hall and many places in between managing every sensitive person he ever encountered. He now writes about them, among other things.