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How We Got Here

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Yesterday, National Review published part of an interview Kathryn Jean Lopez did with Eric Metaxas:

KJL: You write that “we need a culture of virtue, and our leaders have a vital role to play in that regard.” Is it really the role of our political leaders to model virtue?

ERIC METAXAS: Generally speaking, yes. How they behave affects how citizens think of the whole government and the whole nation. When one has a Washington in leadership, or a Lincoln, one knows that one can generally trust one’s government to do the right thing, even when it is very, very difficult to do the right thing. Virtuous leaders inspire virtue in the citizenry. They help us believe that the system is not rigged, but that it’s generally something that works and that needs our attention as citizens, that invites our attention.

KJL: Does that automatically suggest one cannot vote for one Donald J. Trump?

METAXAS: Not only can we vote for Trump, we must vote for Trump, because with all of his foibles, peccadilloes, and metaphorical warts, he is nonetheless the last best hope of keeping America from sliding into oblivion, the tank, the abyss, the dustbin of history, if you will. If you want to know how bad things are in America, and how far we have gone, read the previous sentence aloud over and over.

I read that yesterday, and I do not know if Metaxas meant to do this or not, but those two short answers may be the most massive condemnation of Barak Obama’s presidency yet undertaken.  Consider, in the first answer he makes case that the tone of the nation is set by the presidency – in this case the Obama presidency.  In the second answer his phrase, “how bad things are in America, and how far we have gone” makes plain that the Obama presidency has lead us nowhere good.  You want to explain Trump’s ascendancy, look no further than Obama’s presidency.

Most conservative critics of Obama have endured the charges of racism that seem mandatory whenever one criticizes Obama – at least when it comes to matters of policy.  But few have been willing to criticize the president for the tone, demeanor and temperament that he has brought to the office for fear that the racism charges might stick in such an instance.   While radically and unconstitutionally expanding the powers of the office, he has by that tone, demeanor and temperament made it a smaller (“Insignificant; unimportant“) and meaner (“inferior in grade, quality, or character”) office than it once was.  So much has Obama done to the office  that Metaxas’ last sentence above rings so very, very true.  So much has Obama demeaned the office that Trump does, at this moment, represent our “last best hope.”

What’s sad is that the Democrats want to run the same playbook all over again, only instead of Obama hiding behind his race, this time it will be Hillary hiding behind her gender.  At the very least Trump has no protected class status to hide behind.

We should have seen this coming, and we should have done something about it.  Last cycle the nation turned down a man of undeniable, unassailable and impeccable character for four more years of Obama.  We made the mistake of assuming Obama was an exception, due in large part to his race, instead of a signal of what was to come.  We made the mistake of letting his race matter when it does not.  We violated Dr. King’s dream and judged by color, not character.

Let’s not make that mistake again.  And if Trump is indeed our “last best hope,” then let us endeavor to invest that hope in Trump as a beginning, not an endpoint.  Not the bottom of the slope, but the point at which the curve turns up again.  Trump may be what we have, but it does not mean he is where we are going – that’s up to us.



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