The Company We Keep

tt102.jpgMost of us recall the frequent admonition of our parents from when we were younger: Don’t hang out with the wrong crowd. They had a basic fear. Associating with the wrong crowd could unduly influence our moral and personal code in a negative fashion. And when we did dabble in the wrong crowd, in the back of our brain, we knew in this instance that our parents were right.

That is why I find the current situation in relation to the 2016 Presidential contest so confounding and confusing. Nothing more illustrates this point than our Governor, Chris Christie, who has thrown his support behind Donald Trump. This endorsement, strikingly on the heels of Governor Christie declaring Mr. Trump wholly unqualified for the job while he himself was a presidential candidate, has left many of us in New Jersey questioning his true motives for this action. What does this say about not only the Governor’s judgment and philosophical alignment, but that of other state elected officials who have signaled they will follow suit? 

This fervor has created a negative firestorm for Gov. Christie. Six New Jersey newspapers issued a joint editorial Tuesday calling on Gov. Chris Christie to resign in the wake of his failed presidential campaign and his subsequent endorsement of rival Donald Trump. I, myself, am disappointed that elected members of the New Jersey Republican Party, many of whom I call friends are falling in lockstep with the Governor to endorse Mr. Trump. This, even AFTER Mr. Trump’s latest comments where he feigned ignorance about the doctrine of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has not given pause to this march to be “on the team”. 

And, just as important but far more troubling is what does his campaign and the support it generates say about our country and the current state of politics. Take for instance that PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize winning national organization, has rated 77 percent of Mr. Trump’s statements as: mostly false, false or "pants-on-fire lies." The bare interpretation? More than three-quarters of what Mr. Trump has said during this campaign is not only wrong but purposefully misleading, and he is on the cusp of being the standard bearer of the Republican Party. The flood of voters that have flocked to Trump’s banner makes me feel as though we are in some kind of alternative reality. This is the man who some would hope to address as “Mr. President”?

Yes, I understand that the rise of Trump is, in part, girded by the deep frustration and anger that many Americans feel towards our government today. And yes, I too share that frustration and anger that we aren't doing better as a nation but that frustration and anger are leading us down a perilous path. A friend of mine shared with me a point that I believe is spot on, “When have you ever made a long-term decision, while frustrated or angry, that turned out well?”

Think about that for a second. I bet it was not many, and that is what our country is facing right now. Do we need fresh reminders of what happens to democracies when they turn to extreme leaders for answers only for the entire nation to regret the choice later?  We cannot allow that to happen to our great republic.

Mr. Trump has an appeal for some who, rather than join together to demand that our national leaders do the hard work of fixing the underlying problems of our democracy, are more content to just hitch their wagon to whichever campaign can scream the loudest without any substance.  He accomplished this by draping his campaign with a veneer of racism, xenophobia and misogyny, supported by pillars of derision and divisiveness.

The party of Lincoln, who played an instrumental role in freeing the slaves, and the party of Reagan, who publicly disavowed and repudiated any and every tenet of the KKK, has surrendered their party and the personal political imprimatur of many of its leaders to a political charlatan who preaches a doctrine of hate and division.

Super Tuesday’s Republican primary votes and Mr. Trump’s dominant results provide a sad commentary on the current state of American political affairs. Indeed that vote is more than a commentary; it is an unfolding tragedy for all Americans regardless of your political stripe.

Our country is far greater and more promising than the “platform” Mr. Trump espouses. If we are to remain a nation which looks hopefully to the future….with the many colors and fabrics that nurture our country’s strength and celebrates its diversity, we must ALL stand against this candidacy of vitriol. That’s my take. What’s yours?


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