Our articles often inspire strong, emotional responses, but few pieces have produced as much public anger as Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus’ June 10 column explaining that, as a committed Republican and fierce opponent of Hillary Clinton’s policies, he now is supporting his party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.
(Marcus, in addition to being one of the leading philanthropists in Jewish Atlanta, is the father of my boss, Michael A. Morris, the owner and publisher of the AJT.)
Most of the Facebook reactions were negative. The comments were angry, vitriolic, attacking. Some people vowed never to shop at Home Depot again. Others lamented that Jewish Atlanta receives so much support from Marcus and the Marcus Foundation.
I have no desire to defend Marcus, who doesn’t need my help, or Trump, who doesn’t deserve it. But as we head into July, when the national political conventions will start of the final phase of this presidential election, we Americans are long overdue for a reconsideration of how we debate politics.
Beyond the cynicism that’s an occupational hazard for journalists, my personal political convictions aren’t important for what I’m about to say. Still, I believe in transparency, so here’s where I stand: I owe no allegiance to any political party. I don’t think I’ve ever voted for a Democratic presidential candidate, but I’ve voted for many Democrats for other offices and have voted in far more Democratic than Republican primaries.
I can’t imagine voting for Clinton or Trump. Having worked for Washington-area newspapers throughout Bill Clinton’s presidency, I know far too much about Hillary Clinton. But I don’t trust a volatile political unknown like Trump with presidential power.
My suspicion — and this is coming from the expert analyst who predicted in February that Marco Rubio would be our next president — is that this election won’t prove to be of earth-shattering importance. It feels like 1988 all over again: After an eight-year presidency that shifted the political debate, we have a choice between a third term of similar policies and a sharp reaction the other way.
Either way, we’re likely headed for a recession after a long run of economic growth, and the winner won’t be able to rally the same enthusiasm (either for the first female president or for the anti-establishment outsider). To me, that screams “one-term president.”
A closely divided Congress isn’t going to let the next president do anything dramatic to expand or roll back Barack Obama’s policies. Other than the opening left by Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s balance isn’t at stake. The liberal justices won’t retire under President Trump; the conservatives won’t leave under President Clinton.
Clinton isn’t going to turn America into a socialist state, and Trump isn’t going to make us into a fascist dictatorship. That’s the brilliance of the system the Constitution’s Framers installed 230 years ago. Even if the two candidates were the power-hungry extremists being portrayed, they couldn’t do the horrible things Stalin did in Russia or Hitler did in Germany — nations that had no tradition of representative democracy or individual rights.
The rhetoric of the two main-party candidates is going to be ugly as they try to convince us that electing the other person would be a catastrophe. Don’t believe them. This is just politics, and in four years we’ll try again to find the best person to lead us.
People who disagree with you aren’t evil, no matter how heated the politics at the moment. They don’t need to be insulted or shunned or boycotted.
We accept that truth among our friends. It’s time to extend the same assumptions of intelligence and good intentions to fellow Americans we don’t know.