I don’t know how many national elections you’ve experienced, but for me these happenings date back to Franklin D. Roosevelt. While I was only a child, I learned quickly that my parents, who survived the Great Depression, had a true passion for their president and voted as if it were a religious requirement.
I vividly recall the church bells ringing on an April afternoon in 1945 when the world learned that President Roosevelt had died at his retreat in Warm Springs, Ga. While I was not yet a student of politics, I came to understand how the right person at the right time commanded the loyalty of millions for all the right reasons.
Subsequent elections exposed voters to a variety of personalities, most of whom evoked some type of loyalty or devotion. Harry Truman was a simple Midwesterner who had the courage to order the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and thus end the war with Japan. While he wasn’t very charismatic, the voters recognized leadership and elected him. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, a much-decorated warrior, appeared on the world stage at a time when the country wanted to be kept safe, and he had many devotees.
John F. Kennedy, young and charismatic, was embraced by young and old who believed that he would take America to a higher level. Richard Nixon may have won a few elections, but he didn’t stir the type of loyalty that his predecessors did. He was for some the only game in town.
Ronald Reagan came along at just the right time. America was disillusioned with President Carter and immersed in the Iran hostage crises. Reagan gave the country a feeling that we could truly be great again.
No one fainted with excitement when the two Bush presidents were elected, as they fit the role, but didn’t leave voters screaming for them to become emperors. Bill Clinton was another story. Despite all his weaknesses and scandals, he spoke to something in voters’ hearts, and people truly believed that he felt their pain.
The election of Barack Obama stood out because it was historic, and voters were attracted to the promise of a different type of presidency. Whether his tenure will be considered a success is up to the historians, who will make their pronouncement 10 or more years from now.
When I think about the 2016 election, I wonder whether I should take a shower before I vote or immediately after I leave the voting booth.
Never in my lifetime, or those of many who came before, have we experienced such an ugly and sick election cycle. Never before have American voters been asked to pick the lesser of two evils to be our commander in chief. The candidacy of Donald J. Trump is a warning for now and forever to avoid embracing TV or movie stars or sports icons. They may be slick and smooth in the media, but that isn’t the test of worldwide leadership.
When Trump announced his candidacy, a lot of us from both sides of the aisle thought it was just another commercial for the Trump brand. We started out thinking it was a joke, but it has escalated to an American tragedy. Is this country ready for an uninformed huckster who has insulted the vast majority of Americans and has cast a dark cloud over the most respected country in the world?
Are the majority of voters ready to make an empty suit the leader of the free world? I know that there’s a big swath of voters who are ready to do just that — some because they like Trump for all the wrong reasons, and others who want to kiss up to him for their own personal gain. Trump is incapable of making America great again, but is proving beyond any doubt that he is capable of making America hate again.
I wonder what the Trump kids, an accomplished group, are really thinking? If he were my father, I would be hiding in a closet at Trump Tower, totally embarrassed by his daily rants and his dark views. The last time a candidate with emotional issues was nominated for high office was when the Democrats picked Tom Eagleton to be their vice presidential nominee in 1972. He had the courage to bow out. You can look it up.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.