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Goshay

Every columnist has had a "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment.

Mine came on the day after the 2016 election with my piece, "Our Long National Nightmare is Over."

It was the journalistic equivalent of describing the Hindenburg as a parking mishap.

The headline came from the late President Gerald Ford's hopeful but naive quote about a post-Nixon America, but Americans would never again exercise the same measure of trust in their presidents.

In 2016, it was assumed the incoming president would drop the campaign shtick and rise to the seriousness demanded of his office; that he would put away the self-aggrandizement and verbal antics that catapulted him into the most important job in the world.

Four years later, we are beleaguered, appalled and exhausted, which helps to explain why Donald Trump's presidency could come to an end in 2020.

Tuesday's electoral response to this "Rashomon" presidency, as someone once described it, was a desire and longing for character and decency - which are not antithetical to strength and power.

Why did we expect something different? Because we are Americans, most of whom are old enough to remember how presidents comport themselves once they reached office, regardless of their campaign rhetoric.

In America, there's always hope that the new president will do a decent job of it because failure is a shared burden. While running in 1948, President Harry Truman frequently flayed the 80th Congress as a body of "do-nothings," but once he won, he also placed a slogan on his desk: "The buck stops here."

In 2016, enough voters ignored the blinking red lights and blew past the "Bridge Out Ahead" sign, causing us to crash land in a place we don't recognize. Foundational institutions that have long served as guardrails are being attacked and eroded under the guise of smaller government that has caused a crisis of faith.

Despite Trump's disparagement of women, and Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug abusers; despite his making fun of a disabled person; despite Maya Angelou's warning that "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time," it wasn't enough to extricate him out of what probably began as a marketing gimmick.

Because too many people felt left behind, his fantasy became their reality.

But we humans are creatures of habit, meaning we can endure only so much chaos, uncertainty and upheaval. As Americans, we can only abide so much anger, lies and misinformation before things began to come undone.

At our core, we see ourselves as Bedford Falls, the fictional town in "It's a Wonderful Life." Art critics hate Norman Rockwell, but there's a reason his paintings resonate so deeply. He portrayed us as we have always longed to see ourselves.

When a politician misuses the authority of his or her office to prime people's irrational and primordial fears, it conveys a deep cynicism about the country he or she promised to serve.

This is what has become so discomfiting to so many.

Finding the right balance in such a diverse country requires some soul-searching, political courage, and a real belief that it is both right and just. Stoking and fueling division is in direct conflict with who we tell the world we are.

Sowing seeds of doubt in the only process that protects us from sliding into the quicksands of despotism is as much of a threat as those who take advantage of peaceful protests by wanton looting and burning.

Bullying, name-calling and intimidation fomented by an American president is a distressing peek into a future from which there may be no escape.

To encourage, then apply lipstick to such behavior to truss it up as patriotism, may well be our undoing.

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Charita M. Goshay is a nationally syndicated columnist for Gatehouse News Service. She is a native of Canton, Ohio, and a graduate of Kent State University where she majored in communications. Goshay has been employed at the Canton Repository since 1990. She can be reached at charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.

Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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