This nation is faced with the very real and historic prospect of a “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled” man subverting the power of the people and usurping for himself the reins of government, “destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted (him) to unjust dominion.”
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” — President George Washington, in his farewell address, Sept. 17, 1796
George Washington and the Daily Messenger are eternally intertwined, of like mind then and now.
The first edition of the newspaper that eventually would become the Daily Messenger ran as its centerpiece story an account of President Washington’s farewell address to the American people, in which he warned of the dangers of political parties.
As we now, 220 years later, scan the political horizon, we can see how right he was.
For in 2016, this nation is faced with the very real and historic prospect of a “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled” man subverting the power of the people and usurping for himself the reins of government, “destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted (him) to unjust dominion.”
And yes, we are talking about Donald Trump.
The rise of Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee is an absolute proof of Washington’s warning: a candidate whose principles and beliefs fall well outside those of the party as a whole but who cloaks himself in its mantle and, as a result, receives its coronation.
Trump says he’s a Republican, so he receives the support and endorsement of Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Chris Collins, of Clarence, and Tom Reed, of Corning, along with Canandaigua Supervisor Pam Helming, who is running for the 54th state Senate District seat being vacated by Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette.
Trump says he’s a Republican, so Republicans fall in line behind him.
This, despite Trump changing political parties five times in the past 30 years — how many times have you? This despite his divisive rhetoric, which seemingly has no place in the party of Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan.
Trump’s reckless attacks and unhinged tongue have drawn such scorn of late that the candidate who once confessed never seeking forgiveness and abhorring regret apologized this past week for saying “the wrong thing … particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”
But which words does he regret?
Does he regret making fun of a reporter’s physical handicap? Does he regret impugning the character of Mexicans, Muslims and women? Does he regret suggesting that the current president is not a natural-born citizen or that a former rival’s father was complicit in the assassination of President Kennedy?
And which statements of his do Collins, Reed and Helming support, and which do they reject?
Do they support his repeated calls for violence at his political rallies? (“Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing," in reference to a Black Lives Matter protester.)
Do they reject his suggestion that Arizona Sen. John McCain wasn’t really a war hero because he was captured?
We live now in such a unique and unprecedented political climate that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who unsuccessfully sought the presidency, announced this past week that he stood by his earlier characterization of Trump as a “con man” but urged Republicans to unite behind his former rival.
The reason being? Rubio needs the support of the Republican voters aligned with Trump to win his contested re-election bid. The reason Collins, Reed and even Helming are supporting Trump likely is the same.
You can almost feel Washington rolling over in his grave.
And this is not to suggest that Trump’s opponent in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton, is free of reservations: Is she honest? Is she self-serving? Is she transparent?
No, but at least in her case, those questions are not unique, having been leveled at candidates for as long as politics have existed in this nation.
In Trump’s case we are facing uncharted ground — and quite frankly, we’ve heard enough to know that his callous disregard for decorum, decency and detente have no place in American politics, certainly not with the backing of a major political party.
And just as Washington would urge us all to align our hearts and minds with the nation in rejection of partisan politics and its divisive standard bearer, so too would Lincoln, the first Republican president and first in the hearts of those in support of unity.
“If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”