Not too long ago America had a habit of electing leaders like George H. W. Bush whose principles and values stood tall. A sense of vulnerability was part of the charm. Winning wasn’t everything. Civility and decency resounded in DC, too. What happened behind closed doors wasn’t what happened in Vegas.
The civil servants were civilized. America’s long streak of classy presidents (whether you agreed with their values or not) ended in the recent presidential election.
The office of the Presidency was once held in high honor. It wasn’t run by hucksters and con men. You didn’t get the sense that the White House had become a flea market for goods and services sold behind closed doors at the expense of national security. There was a greater degree of transparency. Good intentions were broadcasted. The Bible was being read and followed.
George Herbert Walker Bush was one of the good guys who became president. He once handed out awards for volunteerism and called for “a kinder, gentler America.” He had a diverse cabinet and understood immigration.
The Republican Party of the 1980s is a far cry from what it has become today.
Winner-take-all has become de rigueur. The joy of winning seems less exciting than seeing opponents lose in the eyes of the current president. His influence has trickled down and created a culture where seeing other folks lose is the ultimate goal in business, sports and everything else. The me-first rhetoric in America is downright nasty. People (liberal and conservative) are saying things and doing things that harm civility without recourse. Children are growing up in an unfiltered world because grownups are missing in most boardrooms. Today, the art of business prevails over the art of living, at least in the current White House.
If business trumps everything then where do values fit? Marvin Olasky wrote a great book many years ago which looked at social issues using the lens of empathy missing in today’s harsh conservative rhetoric.
Along with George H. W. Bush, recent presidents implemented policies which embraced values and safety nets. Just as a reminder to Donald Trump: one in 10 people still can’t afford a cup of coffee in the world, let alone a roof over their head with healthy meals and access to healthcare. No one seems to know what happened to the compassionate conservatism brought forth by President George H. W. Bush.
Today, winning in politics has become a gladiator’s sport. The meanest amongst us win because the nicest amongst us have grown comfortably numb. The markets are good for business, yet there are no inherent values in markets themselves. What happens when they come tumbling down? What values will define and sustain a nation when the downward cycle of business returns like it did in 2008 and in 2002?
A higher power can’t be too happy about what’s happening on Earth. It’s sad to see leaders like George H. W. Bush and John McCain move on. Hopefully, the loss of George H. W. Bush will resonate in the halls of the current White House.