Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

How Many Presidents Will Attend Donald Trump’s Funeral?

United We Stand, Divided We Fall (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

John McCain’s funeral will become part of American history. Not since on the footsteps of the Capital after 9/11 has there been such a bipartisan gathering of the American political community (presidential addresses to Congress are partisan – “You lie”). If we are lucky, his funeral may become the most important event of his life and the beginning of the rebirth of America. As the ugliness of our new civil war mounts, we benefit from seeing this moment when we gathered to pay tribute to an individual who embraced and embodied the American way of life.

From the eulogies of the presidents who vanquished him in political battle, his colleagues and friends in the Senate, and his daughter Meghan, John McCain’s funeral served as a wake up call to a divided country. He challenged us to get our act together, to continue to be the great country we are, to remain the leader the world needs us to be. The funeral was not for immature children who are incapable of understanding the life John McCain led and the vision John McCain had for his beloved country. Imagine dismissing Jesus Christ as a hero because he was captured by the enemy and tortured. Such are the depths to which this country temporarily has sunk. But despite all, the great light that John McCain represented has not been extinguished and the day will come when once again it shines in the White House and we continue our journey as the last best hope of this planet.

His funeral also got me thinking about the funeral to come of our current president. What will it be like? Certainly his body will be transported from one professional wrestling arena to another across the land. His followers will assemble to chant

LOCK HER UP! LOCK HER UP! LOCK HER UP!
BUILD A WALL.
FAKE NEWS.
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

But what about the music? How will the people of America and the world celebrate the passing of this person? I have taken the liberty to make suggestions about the music for the funeral of Little Donny-Wanny. What are your suggestions?

You’re Terminated Daughter-Trumper

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

Dancing in the Street

Happy Days Are Here Again

Conga

P.S. The answer is none. Even if Vladimir Putin is still alive, there will be a warrant out for his arrest if he ever travels here. On the other hand, it is possible Trump’s body will lie in state in the Kremlin.

 

“Fellow Americans” versus “Tribal Rivalries”: Whither America?

Band of Brothers John McCain and Ted Kennedy, Died August 28, 9 Years Apart, of Brain Cancer (Jim Watson, Getty Images)

America has always been a diverse country. America has always been a country of multiple ethnicities, multiple races, and multiple religions. The individual peoples have changed over time. Generally the number increases, but we have always been a country of numerous different peoples. Yet we also are the country of We the People, the opening words on the document that constitutes us a nation. How can we be both?

When I was growing up, there were the three “I’s” in New York City mayoral elections – the Irish, the Italians, and Israel meaning the Jews. Candidates needed to show deference and pay homage to each of the groups. Whether they did so out of any ecumenical belief or the hard reality of practical politics is another matter. Still there were these three groups. Intermarriage then was an Italian-Irish marriage even though both people were white Catholics.

Yes, there were blacks in New York City then, too. They did not have a specific homeland beyond the continent of Africa. As a result, there was no country for a candidate to visit. Instead they trekked to Harlem, the cultural capital of middle-passage blacks since the 1920s and the Great Migration.

Of course, as West Side Story reminds us, these groupings were about to increase by one.

David Hackett Fischer

On an academic level, I became more aware of the diversity of the United States through Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer. As the title indicates, the book divides the English or British into four distinct groups of folkways. He identified them as:

The Puritans who famously settled in Massachusetts and the surrounding areas
The Quakers who tended to be limited to one colony, Pennsylvania
The Cavaliers who started in Virginia but spread to other southern colonies
The Scotch-Irish who tended to be located in the border lands, the back country or fringe areas.

So rather than view the people from Great Britain monolithically, one should understand them as four distinct peoples or folkways.

These folkways brought their lifestyle with them when they emigrated to the colonies. Fischer lists various characteristics by which he defines each folkway in the area of Great Britain where they lived. Then he traces each characteristic or its equivalent to the life they created when they arrived here. In general terms, Fischer finds they each folkway transplanted their way of life from the old world to the new. Thus to claim that the English settled America obscures the reality of the situation – four different peoples settled here.

Fischer continues the story beyond the colonial era. He tracks the migrations of these peoples across the United States as it expanded westward. Most famously are the New Englanders who became Yorkers around the time of the Erie Canal. They kept moving west across the northern portion of the country. Their distinctive trait was doing something they already had done in the 1600s in New England – start a college.

He concludes by identifying the folkway to which the individual American presidents belonged. The early domination of the Cavaliers (Virginians) and New Englanders (Adams father and son) are obvious. Today we have no appreciation for the significance of the election of Andrews Jackson, the first of many Scotch-Irish presidents. Now he is just a dead white male; back then he was our first diverse president.

Overtime, it became harder and harder to assign a folkway to an individual president. The complication was due to intermarriage. I am referring not only to intermarriage among these four groups but with other groups. Consider the situation just in New York where I live. In addition to the British folkways there were Dutch, French Huguenots, German Palatines, and Sephardic Jews (actually the Bronx was named after a Swede who married a Dutch woman and this explains why in Sweden there is a Yankee aka Bronx Bombers following). In time there would be Dutch and German presidents often with a connection in biology or spirit to an English folkway.

Returning to the New York, there were another group of people who often have been overlooked. Irish William Johnson was the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs. In the course of his work, he dealt not only with various European peoples noted above, he dealt with various Indian nations as well. At that time, Algonquin, Haudenosaunee, and Lenape were not all just one indigenous people. For that matter, neither were the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, Oneida, and Tuscarora all just one people. Imagine lumping Koreans, Vietnamese, and Chinese together as one people today! Johnson is an unsung figure in America history who engaged the diversity of the peoples here more so than any other individual in the 18th century.

Colin Woodard

Recently, Colin Woodard, has continued this line of thought. He is the author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. As the title suggests, his purview extends beyond the four folkways analyzed by Fischer. Woodard certainly is aware of Fischer’s work and he has expanded on to reflect the greater diversity which exists today. On July 30, in an opinion piece for the New York Times, “The Maps That Show That City vs. Country Is Not Our Political Fault Line: The key difference is among regional cultures tracing back to the nation’s colonization,” Woodard applied his template to the recent presidential election.

[O]ur true regional fissures can be traced back to the contrasting ideals of the distinct European colonial cultures that first took root on the eastern and southern rims of what is now the United States, and then spread across much of the continent in mutually exclusive settlement bands, laying down the institutions, symbols and cultural norms later arrivals would encounter and, by and large, assimilate into.

In other words, New York is still a commercial city (thank you Dutch) and Boston is still a college city thank you Puritans).

His analysis tracks 11 different groups.

Tracing our history, I’ve identified 11 nations, most corresponding to one of the rival European colonial projects and their respective settlement zones. I call them Yankeedom; New Netherland; the Midlands; Tidewater; Greater Appalachia; Deep South; El Norte; the Left Coast; the Far West; New France; and First Nation. These were the dominant cultures that Native Americans, African-Americans, immigrants and other vital actors in our national story confronted; each had its own ideals, assumptions and intents.

Woodard’s 11 regions

Through a series of colorful maps, Woodard then compares the vote percentages from 2016 to these cultural demographics. His explanation for the stark differences he finds in each of their choice of presidential candidates is:

Why the differences? I’ve long argued that United States politics resolves around the tension between advancing individual liberty and promoting the common good. The regional cultures we think of as “blue” today have traditions championing the building and maintenance of free communities, today’s “red” ones on maximizing individual freedom of action. Our presidential contests almost always present a clear choice between the two, and the regions act accordingly.

Take a simple and well-known example not in the article: healthcare. The “individual freedom of action” or “don’t tread on me” faction despises being told what to do and having no choice about it. Whether a law is in their best interest is secondary to whether it is being imposed on them by condescending arrogant self-righteous elitists or not (the 2010 election). And why should the Democrats try reasoning with such people in the first place? As Junior Trump said, they are not even people. Oh wait. He was talking about the Democrats. How can there be “come let us reason together” when neither side can acknowledge the humanity of the other?

University of Pennsylvania

In the commencement address this year at the University of Pennsylvania, college president Any Gutmann said:

The great seal of the United States reads E Pluribus Unum: From Many, One. Graduates, during you time here, you have come to know the Red and Blue version we hold so dear: E Pennibus Unum: From many Penn People, One Penn Family…

Putting aside the boosterism for a moment, she defined that unity as:

Liberty not chains, opportunity without limit, love without condition, and learning without end.

She certainly is right to note the college experience as a bonding experience for those who can afford Ivy League colleges. On a cheaper scale, being part of a band of brothers also can bring people together. The new exhibit “Comeback Season: Sports after 9/11” at the 9/11 Memorial addresses the same point. Richard Sandomir in “As America Grieved, Sports Helped Console Us” (NYT 8/10/18, print) recently wrote about the exhibit:

Sports may not always seem important ─ they’re just games, aren’t they? ─ but they are tribal events that unify people in large communal settings for a common purpose.

Remember when all Americans including those in Jersey City chanted “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

In contrast to Gutmann, an Iranian Jewish immigrant Penn alum who has embraced being an American citizen offered a more emotionally intense perception of E Pluribus Unum then she finds at Penn, Harvard, Yale and Princeton:

[W]e lovers of America want to conserve the Constitution with its entire Bill or Rights intact. We don’t believe in multiculturalism because we believe that “America” is the name of the one culture of this country…it’s a culture with many languages and cuisines and clothing and religion and music [FOLKWAYS]…a culture that all of us from varying backgrounds embrace and love with all our hearts. It is the culture of freedom. That’s the only culture I feel a part of right down to my bones. E Pluribus Unum ─ out of many, one ─ is printed on our coins. Out of many peoples, we form one culture as Americans.

Right now the Democrats and the Republicans are in agreement in rejecting these words. One party slices and dices the American people into as many hyphens as it cans with the intent of cobbling together a winning coalition. The other party relies on one big hyphen that actually combines multiple folkways but only with one race. No candidate or prospective candidate champions the E Pluribus Unum mantra.

So whither America? A nation of “Fellow Americans” or a nation of tribal rivalries? We know where John McCain stood. But he is dead and there is no one now to pick up the torch.

Band of Brothers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Died July 4, 1826 (Wikimedia Commons)

John McCain and The Donald: The Warrior and the Swamp Builder

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” Donald Trump “John McCain is a hero, a man of grit and guts and character personified. He served and bled and endured unspeakable acts of torture. His captors broke his bones, but they couldn’t break his spirit, which is why he refused early release when he had the chance. That’s heroism, pure and simple, and it is unimpeachable.” John Kerry (www.washingtonpost.com)

John McCain is an American hero. To call him a hero is not to necessarily agree with all that he said and did. Even he has regrets about things he has done. What it does mean is that when the batting average of his life is calculated it will be sufficient to warrant inclusion in the American Hall of Fame.

McCain’s significance extends beyond who he is as an individual. His importance extends to the country he loves and the party which nominated him for the office of President. All things considered, when one looks at the Republican Party today, it is hard to imagine how it could have nominated any of the candidates it nominated in the 21st century prior to 2016 given where we are today. As a result, part of McCain’s story is not only who he is a person, but what he represents. The decade from his nomination in 2008 to the present is one that will be studied by historians seeking to determine what happened to America.

Let’s start by comparing and contrasting the 2008 candidate who lost and the current president.

John McCain dedicated his life to the service of his country.
Little Donny Waany is a narcissist who always puts his own interests first.

John McCain put his life on the line for the country he loves.
Little Donny Waany fights in scripted professional wrestling arena performances and would never put his life on the line for anyone.

John McCain reads books.
Little Donny Waany can’t.

John McCain has favorite authors.
Little Donny Waany has favorite cable TV announcers.

John McCain’s closest Republican friend is Lindsay Graham.
Little Donny Waany closest Republican acolytes are Nunes the Clown and former Christian Mike Pence. Nunes couldn’t detect the Russian violation of America in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Clinton even though Senate Republicans and the intelligence community could. He couldn’t detect a Russian operative if she was staring him in the face. Pence is chomping at the bit to replace his chaotic adulterer-with-a-Playmate-and-porn-performer boss.

John McCain has friends who aren’t Republican and whom he invited to speak at his funeral.
Little Donny Waany once donated to the Clintons when he thought it would help him and now demonizes them when he realized it wouldn’t.

John McCain can give a speech.
Little Donny Waany is functionally incoherent even within the limitations of a tweet.

John McCain is an outcast in the Republican Party and can be ridiculed with impunity by the White House without the Republican Party standing up to defend him.
Little Donny Waany sees no reason to apologize for his staff ridiculing John McCain. After all, he did it first.

John McCain is a person of honor.
Little Donny Waany thrives on demeaning and insulting people.

John McCain tells the truth.
Little Donny Waany can’t.

John Mc Cain believes in America’s role in human history.
Little Donny Waany doesn’t even understand the concept.

John McCain is an adult.
Little Donny Waany is an immature child.

It’s hard to believe the two people are members of the same party yet alone could be nominated to the same position a scarce eight years apart.

Already in 2008, change was in the air. McCain now regrets his decision to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate. In hindsight we can see she was the wave of the future for the Republican Party. All things considered, Palin rates more normal than previously given credit for. Better a candidate who can see Russia from her backyard than Putin’s poodle whose top
priority is to end the sanctions against Russia. If elected do you really think Palin would have refrained from condemning Putin by name for his attempted assassination of Russian dissidents in England and then congratulated the dictator on his election victory? Just as Little Donny Waany has helped boost the memory of the presidency of George Bush in hindsight, so too he will boost the memory of Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008. She may have been many things but a swamp-building-bigoted-liar wasn’t one of them.

What frequently is overlooked in the decade of degradation of the Republican Party since 2008, is the role of the Democratic Party in causing and supporting it. It is easier for Democrats to claim the high road than to look in the mirror. It is easier for condescending arrogant self-righteous elitists to blame Putin for the electoral loss just as Donny Waany blames the 5 million illegal voters for the popular vote lost then for them to face the shortcomings of their message. It is easier for condescending arrogant self-righteous elitists to look down on the deplorables then to recognize them as worthy of respect who should be treated as human beings. It is easier for condescending arrogant self-righteous elitists to salivate over the coming demographic deluge then it is to face the truth of the Party’s own contribution in expanding the voter pool who would find the immature child acceptable as a leader. There was a time when Democrats took pride in feeling your pain, now they relish in causing it and exult in the demographic tidal wave that will wash these people from power forever.

Donny Wanny didn’t create that voter pool, he exploited it for his own purposes. Who would have predicted that there would come a day when evangelicals would embrace a dishonest adulterer with no core values save his own gain? Something had to happen for evangelicals to willingly stoop so low and abandon their values. So far there is nothing to indicate that Democrats even realize their role in causing this to happen, that they care, or that they are going to do anything about it.

Perhaps the non-Peolosi supporting Congressional candidates with military backgrounds demonstrate that the real world is sinking in with Democrats. The cessation of declaring war on people who think of themselves as Americans and not hyphens shows that at least some Democrats have woke and smelled the coffee. Democrats would be better advised to reach out to Republicans who admire John McCain than to condemn all Republicans as Trumpies. Once there were Scoop Jackson Democrats whom the Democrats abandoned and then welcomed their leaving the party and voting Republican. Now there are John McCain Republicans who have been abandoned by the Republican Party, are disgusted with what it has become, and are looking for something better. There is nothing to be gained by insulting them and everything to gain by reaching out to them. The true tragedy would be if there is no place in either party for Americans who admire John McCain, American hero.