An Era of Bad Feelings

President Barack Obama met with President-elect Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday, and by all accounts it was quite cordial. Trump, who spent much of the past eight years arguing that Obama was ineligible to hold the office by virtue of his foreign birth until conceding just a few weeks ago that he wasn’t born outside the country after all, emerged with kinds words for the president and a promise to frequently seek his counsel. Obama, who spent most of the past several months arguing that Trump should be ineligible for the presidency for reasons of intelligence, temperament and character, promised to provide whatever help he could to make his successor a success.
Not everyone, though, was so civil. Riots have broken out in Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon, protests of various size and degrees of civility are happening all across the country, there’s been a nationwide outbreak of graffiti and vandalism, and activists are promising that it will increase in the coming days. The late night comics and the big time columnists are grousing about the election, “not my president” is the hot new “hashtag,” and all sorts of people are expressing their dissatisfaction in all sorts of ways. The front lawn of a house next door to our neighborhood coffee shop has sprouted a hand-lettered “not my president” sign, which we noticed as we sat outside and sipped some java on a warm fall afternoon with a couple of seemingly shell-shocked old friends and third old friend who was relieved that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had lost but not noticeably happy about Trump winning.
This sort of thing happens every four years, of course, but in this crazy election year the feelings are palpably more intense and seem likely to linger far longer than usual. Several cities around the country had already endured a year of riots in response to police shootings of civilians, even during a presidential administration reflexively biased against the officers involved, and the “Black Lives Matter” movement that has prompted the rioting surely won’t be any less belligerent with an administration that has promised to be reflexively biased in favor of law enforcement. Various sorts of left-wing thugs were assaulting Trump’s rally-goers and firebombing Republican Party headquarters and spray-painting everything in sight even before he won, and the results of an election are not likely to placate them. That segment of the self-described progressive movement prone to shutting down bridges and disrupting downtown traffic and scaring the tourists away from the shopping districts found plenty to do even during the progressive administration they had all campaigned for, and we expect that an administration they campaigned against will keep them even busier. Some people look for excuses to engage in their hobby of civil disobedience, and they’ll no doubt find a constant supply of them in the coming years.
Should the anti-Trump movement reach anywhere near the level of violence and mayhem of the anti-Vietnam War protests of the ’60s we expect that the president will be eager to deliver some of that ’60s style law and order he talked about during the campaign, and like all arson sprees it will eventually burn itself out, but a more peaceable anger will continue to smolder. Votes are still being counted somewhere, for some reason, but as of this writing Clinton still has a slight lead in the popular vote totals, with well more than half of the electorate voting for someone other than Trump, and if you add in the large number of people who didn’t vote at all it’s a landslide number of Americans who didn’t vote for him, and of those who did vote for him we estimate that about half are like our kaffeeklatsch pal who did so only because he thought Clinton would be even worse, so that’s a lot of dissatisfied people. Given Trump’s proudly pugnacious style of dealing with criticism, we don’t anticipate another Era of Good Feelings.
One must admit, though, that Trump has been on his best behavior since the election was called in his favor. His victory speech was conspicuously lacking in any of the chest-thumping that followed every primary win, and even included some kind words for the opponent he had repeatedly promised to put behind bars. The remarks after meeting the president he had so long claimed was illegitimately elected were uncharacteristically gracious, and apparently he was even civil during a meeting with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who was also the subject of angry “tweets” and veiled threats during the campaign. He did send his first “Tweet” as President-elect to complain “professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very Unfair!,” but at least he didn’t promise some sort of nuclear retaliation against Oakland and Portland. One must also admit that both Clinton and Obama have been uncharacteristically classy about what must surely be a bitter loss, and some of the chattering classes are also chipping in some begrudging bi-partisan best wishes.
That sort of thing happens every four years, however, and it never lasts for very long. After this crazy election  year it should dissipate more quickly than usual. Trump can’t stay gracious any longer than Clinton or Obama can keep classy, and the most hard-core fans on both sides can be a most ungraciousness and classless bunch, and we’re certain it’s going to make for an ugly four years. Those of us who can’t stand any of them will continue to add our sneers and snark, too, but we’ll try our best to propose something as an alternative, and promise that at least we won’t be rioting or setting anything on fire or otherwise delaying your drive home from work.

— Bud Norman

The Latest Skirmishes in the Race Wars

Two more black men were fatally shot by police this week, this time in Charlotte, North Carolina and Tulsa, Oklahoma, and both communities suffered from the rioting and looting that now routinely follows these incidents. The initial news reports were once again inconclusive, all the same arguments regarding law enforcement and race in America were once-again re-hashed, both major party presidential nominees once again weighed in, and by now there’s a numbing familiarity to it all.
This time around the initial news reports out of North Carolina appear exculpatory for the black police officer in a largely black police department with a black Police Chief accountable to a largely black-run municipal government who shot a reportedly armed and black-life-threatening black man, which didn’t seem to give pause to the rioters and looters and their “Black Lives Matter” apologists, while the available videotape and press accounts and even the official police statements out of Oklahoma suggest that the black man shot by a white officer was unarmed and no imminent threat to the bevy of officers who had surrounded him, which somehow resulted in what seems to be a slightly more restrained round of rioting and looting than occurred in North Carolina.
By now we’ve learned to await further reports before reaching any tentative conclusions about these recurring things, and to be grateful that our tentative conclusions don’t settle these matters. The established facts that the shooter in North Carolina was a black man and that the one in Oklahoma was a white woman are deemed irrelevant in our rightward-leaning court of opinion, and we expect that the leftward-leaning sorts will have their own self-interested reasons for dismissing such information, so the rest of the autopsies and witness accounts and physical evidence and press reports will eventually be more or less resolved and then quickly forgotten. How this affects the presidential race, much less the way this objectively undeniable problem of police shootings and subsequent rioting is either resolved or brought to its unbearable conclusion, is also beyond our powers of conjecture.
The initial reports out of Oklahoma are bad enough that even proudly pro-police Republican nominee Donald Trump said he was “very troubled” by the video he’d seen, and rambled out a stronger anti-police case than we’d make at this point, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was “Tweeting” her shared outraged with even the North Carolina rioters and looters, even if her more expansive later comments made clear that she wasn’t in favor of the random attacks on white people that resulted. Perhaps she’ll be able to rebound by noting how Trump has tentatively presumed guilty a woman who has her own story to tell, and perhaps the North Carolina situation is more complicated that it seems and both candidates wind up looking silly in their premature pronouncements about it, but for now it seems his supporters won’t mind that he prejudged a white woman and with her prejudgment of a  black man she looks to come out slightly worse from it in this crazy election year. This is no way to judge a case, of course, but there you have it.

— Bud Norman

A Long, Hot Summer Slides into Cleveland

This has been a riotous summer thus far, and we don’t mean in that in the secondary sense of the term that it’s been at all amusing.
Violent and disruptive protests sparked by the “Black Lives Matter” movement have caused serious injuries to numerous law enforcement officers in Minnesota, Illinois, Louisiana, and Missouri, five policemen were shot down by sniper fire in Texas and at four others have been shot in ambushes around the country, gangs of thugs have inflicted severe violence on attendees at the presumptive Republican nominee’s rallies in several other jurisdictions, not to mention the even worse carnage inflicted by radical Islamist terrorists. There have been less violent disruptions in a number of other cities, including right here in otherwise placid Wichita where on Wednesday when several of our most liberal Facebook friends were complaining about the “Black Lives Matter” protest that shut down essential 13th Street in an attempt to shut down the even more essential Canal Route, and we hear that even in the wake of those five officers’ deaths a similar protest did manage to shut down a far more heavily travelled rush hour interstate route in Dallas.
All in all, we’re feeling rather lucky not to be one of the law enforcement officers assigned to security at next week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
In addition to all the other worrisome warning signs, the always-troublesome New Black Panther Party has announced it will be in attendance and availing itself of its legal rights to carry concealed weapons in Ohio, and it’s safe to assume that various other thuggish opponents of the presumptive Republican nominee will arrive with similar intent, and any old presumptive Republican nominee would have some supporters who would reasonably avail themselves of the same rights as they as peacefully participate in the political process, and although we aren’t attempting any sort of numerical or moral equivalence we feel compelled by intellectual honesty to admit that this particular presumptive Republican nominee has at least a troublesome few supporters who seem all too eager to mix it up and the presumptive nominee’s promise to pay for the legal fees for anyone who punches a protestor in the face. Not to mention that ever-present threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and the general craziness of this moment in American history, and the lack of anything remotely reassuring among everything else that’s going on. All in all, it seems the sort of combustible situation that we’d prefer to watch through barely opened fingers from a safe distance via television and the internet.
The last time we witnessed such potential mayhem at a major party’s presidential convention was when our elementary-school-aged selves watched the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago devolve into absolute chaos on our family’s fuzzy black-and-white television. There’s still some debate whether it was a police riot caused by the overaggressive forces of the local ruling Democratic urban machine or an ill-advised revolution of yippies and hippies and the disrupters of the system that the presumptive Republican vice presidential candidate plausibly blamed, but in any case it undeniably resulted in the plurality election of the Republicans and their “law and order” platform. With the current presumptive Republican nominee promising more of the same “law and order” and in the exact slogan, history might well repeat itself. On the other hand, given the current media landscape and political demographic possibilities afoot, any tragedies in Cleveland might well wind up being blamed on Second Amendment rights and and the presumptive Republican nominee’s “at least he fights” persona, and there will surely be the usual excuses should it turn out to be radical Islamic terrorism, so we can’t discount the possibility that the Republican winds up winning but leaving office despite a landslide reelection victory because of his own character flaws. Some sage once noted that American history always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce, and this combustible situation seems to promise no happier outcomes.
We’ll be watching from a safe distance on television and internet through fingers that are crossed but opened just enough to allow for the watching, and hoping for the best. At every moment, though, we’ll be glad we’re not a cop in Cleveland. There are onlyso  many cops in Cleveland, and  a certain portion of them are need to maintain law and order in those areas outside the Republican national presidential convention, and apparently some of the neighboring police departmentwho t had volunteered their efforts to make up the difference are also thinking they’d also rather watch from a safe distance via television and the internet, and we worry it will continue to be a riotous summer in in the worst and most literal sense of that term.

— Bud Norman