I am not asking you to agree with me, just to understand a frame of reference to this story. I’ll confess that Ronald Reagan is the only president during my lifetime in whom I believed…he is also the first President for whom I actually voted. I believed that he, as President of the United States of America, would serve the needs of the country and the world. He exuded strength and direction, he communicated, he dealt with others in the government…sometimes he supported them, sometimes he convinced them to support him…he was a leader. He made some bad decisions during his presidency, but I like to remember the good ones, the strong ones that positioned this country or moved this country the way I believed.
I’ve lived through many other Presidents—I was born when Eisenhower was in office—but I didn’t really “believe in” any of the others. I was too young to understand Kennedy, so I experienced him and his legacy only through the achievements of the Space Program. I was riding on the Cape May-Lewes ferry and they played the radio broadcast over the loudspeaker the night Nixon resigned; I waited to see where the country would go. Jimmy Carter, I perceived to be “a good man”—his work in Habitat for Humanity has borne that out—but I didn’t believe in his presidency. Even when Obama took office, I perceived him to be a good man—but I didn’t and don’t believe in his presidency.
Through all these presidencies, I’ve always believed that the system would get us through…if the President is imperfect, at least the system will keep the country moving the way I believe. I believed in the system of “checks and balances” that I’d learned in school. Yes, some individuals would unfairly miss out, others would unfairly benefit, but the system kept the country on track…if imperfectly.
Now, my belief has turned to disbelief. I can’t believe that our choice for President this election is between an imbecile and a liar. The “best” the country has to offer is an imbecile on one side—I watch each day to hear what new imbecility he spouts; and a liar on the other—I watch each day to hear what new unethical or criminal behavior she “explains” away. What’s worse, I watch each day to hear how the system is so entrenched in its tribalisms that the country is moving in a way and in a direction that I simply can’t believe. Most people with whom I’ve been foolish enough to discuss the election have told me how they plan to vote “against” a candidate: “I have to keep him from getting into office” or “I have to prevent her from getting into office.”
I still believe in the value of true leadership…both the value and power of leadership in a President, and the value and power of leadership in the world. For now, I’ll have to wait and hope for someone to believe in.