I’ve been trying to sort out my feelings about this whole impeachment thing. They’re kind of complicated.
In a way, I feel like someone sent me free tickets to a Yankees-Red Sox game. I don’t like either team. The players make way too much money and their fans are among the most obnoxious in baseball. So do I go to the game even though I probably won’t enjoy it? Maybe I go just to see if a fight breaks out. Maybe I should stay home.
That doesn’t seem to be quite serious enough. Maybe this is a better analogy: war breaks out between North Korea and Iran and I’m supposed to pick a side. What I really hope is that they both lose, but the thought of all the collateral damage scares me. Bad things happen when wildly partisan people start lobbing insults around.
Here’s what I finally decided on. Those of you who are of a certain age will remember the rock band Stealers Wheel. Well, maybe you won’t remember the group, but you’ll remember their only hit song. The pertinent words go like this: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.”
The odd part of this whole thing is that we went through this 20 years ago with Bill Clinton, only the roles of the political parties were reversed. The Democrats of 2019 sound a lot like the Republicans of 1999. This fits in nicely with one of my pet theories on politics — that the people on the far right and far left won’t admit it, but they’re really the same people. Yes, they have different agendas but they use the same methods and in the end, the people who scream free speech or tolerance the loudest really only mean it when it applies to themselves.
So I went looking for some wisdom on the subject and found it in an unlikely place — Rutherford B. Hayes. He was an Ohio politician who served one term as president. Ironically, Hayes was elected in what was one of the most crooked elections in American history. Yet, he was a dedicated reformer. Here are some thoughts from him that still apply today.
On the current antics of the folks in Washington:
“Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office-seeking.”
How about the danger of partisan politics, which by the way was just as divisive in 1876 as it is today:
“He serves his party best who serves his country best.”
Here’s one for Donald Trump’s opponents. I have this nagging feeling that the president wants nothing more than that trial in the Senate and here’s why:
“Unjust attacks on public men do them more good than unmerited praise. They are hurt less by undeserved censure than by undeserved commendation. Abuse helps; often praise hurts.”
Now, I’m not saying this is all unjust, but once Trump survives the Senate trial – and he will, unless something shows up from left field, like Iran and North Korea getting involved – he’s going to make himself out to be the target of a vast conspiracy of vindictive losers. That’s going to play pretty well next November.
So how do I wish politics really worked? Well, here’s one more from our friend Rutherford:
“Personally I do not resort to force — not even the force of law — to advance moral reforms. I prefer education, argument, persuasion, and above all the influence of example.”
As it turns out, Hayes isn’t considered a very successful president. He wasn’t liked by Democrats because of the way he got elected and wasn’t particularly liked by Republicans, either, because he wanted to reform the system, which the Republicans controlled. But I like him, anyway. I think if we had a few more Hayses around these days and few less — well, you can fill in the blanks — we would be better off.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.