Don’t Expect New Year’s Resolutions in Politics

Len Bourland
Len Bourland

February is an interesting month. Sort of a transition time. We’ve survived the longest, coldest, dreariest month, and the State of the Union, which nobody really thinks is in very great shape — especially in an election year.

Our New Year’s resolutions are so over; we’ve backslid into some of those old habits we meant to reform and really, really tried to for a time. So much for the paleo diet or giving up wine. Maybe we’re binge watching Downton Abbey or the next season of House of Cards, but lest I be the cynic, are anybody’s old New Year’s resolutions coming true?

Good job, you few, you very few. One thing, however, is certain — my prediction on what’s in the news. It won’t have changed all that much. I predict by February every night we can tune into extreme weather, murders in Chicago, volatility in the stock market, streams of immigrants, ISIS, and “can Donald Trump really say that?” But as the French maxim goes, “La plus ca change, la plus c’est le meme chose.” The more things change, the more they remain the same. Like politics.

Presidential politics have never been this nasty with the Trump “jerk” factor, right? Not so much. The only time Americans have agreed on anyone or anything was on George Washington, who thankfully nixed the idea of being called “Your Excellency.” He wanted none of the trappings of court life. Perhaps we need to review that again in the age of the imperial presidency. I don’t think George was worried about his presidential library when he left office.

Remember Rutherford B. Hayes? Of course not. He was only president because of a backroom deal by Southern Democrats in 1876 to throw him the election if military Reconstruction ended and those Yankee soldiers got out of the Solid South. Grover Cleveland? “Ma, Ma where’s Pa?” was the slogan of his opposition to expose a brutal sex scandal and an illegitimate child and his campaign’s cover-up. Yawn. Turned out nobody cared. Andrew Jackson’s wife was scurrilously criticized during the campaign as an “adultress” because her abusive ex-husband delayed their divorce and she unwittingly married Jackson before it was finalized. Sigh. War hero Gen. U.S. Grant was a notoriously scandal-ridden presidential drunk. Shrug.

Before the age of radio, movies, television, cellphones, and technology, politics was a national entertainment with candidates often delivering lengthy oratorical speeches. Voters were passionate about their candidates. Yet who remembers what Millard Fillmore, John Tyler, Chester A. Arthur, William Henry and/or Benjamin Harrison stood for? Will my grandchildren give a flip about Dick Nixon or Jimmy Carter? Today we have 140 characters (not running for president although it often seems like it), but in the tweets and re-tweets, usually involving Donaldisms, nobody has the attention span to listen to oratory.

Methinks the Republic may little note nor long remember most of our “issues” 100 years from now, maybe not even 20 years from now. And who really thinks posting snarky comments about a candidate you don’t like on Facebook will change anybody’s vote?

While February may be a short month, it’s going to be a long election year. Might be less stressful to take another stab at going gluten-free or cleaning out the attic or whatever those old resolutions were. La plus ca change.

Len Bourland can be reached at [email protected].

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