This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Often when someone in a public service job leaves that position, nobody really tells you why.
They want to spend more time with their family. They are going to take the opportunity to explore other opportunities. Yada. Yada. Yeah, right.
But sometimes you can catch a hint of whatever the boss, or the board, found lacking in the old person when a certain quality is stressed in the search for the new one.
The chamber of commerce in a town where I was a reporter bounced their public relations/lobbyist person after only a few months without any explanation. The unattributed rumor, supported by some personal experience, was that she was just too abrasive a person for a job that demanded tact and diplomacy.
That theory gained validation when the posting for her replacement came out and stressed as a qualification for the job "a professional demeanor."
I mentioned that to my brother and he said, "Yes. Demeanor, debetter." (That's funnier if you say it out loud.)
So now the entire country has seen the end of the Barack Obama era and has embarked on the Donald Trump epic. That happened in large part because a lot of people who had voted for Obama before maybe twice passed over his preferred successor and put Trump in office instead.
Why would they do that? Perhaps because they came to think that Obama's cool and even-tempered persona bleeding over into Hillary Clinton's wonkishness and multi-point plans for every issue wasn't what we needed in a scary world.
That it was time to go from demeanor to just mean.
A picture perfect intact family, both parents with Ivy law degrees and their first daughter Harvard-bound. Rocking designer clothes and shades. Making fun of themselves with Fallon and Colbert, always fully in on the joke. A platform that stressed ending foolish wars, healing sick people, eating better and just being kinder was welcome at first. So much so that they even gave the president the Nobel Peace Prize right out of the gate, not for anything he had done but just because he wasn't his predecessor.
Effete. Urban. Boring.
Now we have a foul-mouthed, womanizing, race-baiting, contractor-stiffing serial bankruptcy artist in the White House because, after all the mindfulness and calm of the last eight years, a key slice of the electorate including some past Obama voters decided to see those Trump characteristics as strength.
No foolin' around. Insult anyone. Lie about anything. Sometimes cringe-worthy. Sometimes funny. But useful in getting the county out of its perceived victimhood and kicking some long overdue butt.
Sure, Obama got Osama, droned who knows how many terrorists (and bystanders) and deported boatloads. But that was all done too smoothly. Too quietly. Without the glee necessary to make voters especially conservative, Rust Belt voters who miss the day when folks like them ruled the world stand up and cheer.
Obama's core decency and broad intellect created in him an optimism that the long march of history was on his side. He believed that America and its values were moving inexorably toward the top and that evil regimes from Moscow to Damascus were collapsing of their own weight.
So when Russia's Vladimir Putin turned out to really be as scary as Mitt Romney said he was, or when Assad's Syria became an almost Cambodia-scale killing fields, Obama would not, could not move against them.
Trump won't, either. But, in the minds of his supporters, that's not weakness. It's being one of the tough guys.
Obama's presidency was in no way a failure. We've had a taste of first-world health insurance and it will be hard to give it up. Marriage equality arrived. We opened the door to Cuba. Some steps toward facing climate change were taken. For eight whole years, the world didn't hate us.
But for the moment, as Obama's reality-based community moves out and Trump's deplorables move in, there's a smidgen of Jimmy Carterness to it all. A feeling that decent human beings are at a huge disadvantage in politics. That we are fortunate if we have cold-blooded politicians with Shakespearean fatal flaws such as Lyndon Johnson Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Vietnam or Richard Nixon Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, EPA, the opening of China, Vietnam.
If it is possible to be less than a blank slate, Trump is that. All kinds of things, good and bad, might happen.
At best, his Obamacare replacement really will "cover everybody." At worst, he will be an argument that the way to the top is not to be a leader, but to be a bully.
George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, hopes to spend the next four years being a really nice guy. No matter the temptations.