If luck holds for just a few more days, our republic may survive a tumultuous 2019: bruised, battered and bitterly divided, but intact, however tenuously.
This was not a foregone conclusion, given the hard punches the year threw at our democracy. 2019 will forever be marked in history as the time when a U.S. president was impeached by the House (or a coup was attempted, depending on your perspective), not to mention the secret dossier, kids in cages, a brief but passionate North Korean love affair and at least one quid pro quo. Weaker nations would have stumbled and perhaps fallen under such adversity.
Nor was the nation comforted by the president’s year-end, six-page letter in his defense, it being the equivalent of a Big Chief tablet on which was scribbled in crayon, “I NOT CRAZY!”
Our commentary on these pages has attempted to chronicle at least one half of the country’s dismay at the current state of affairs, usually through humor (or our best attempt at it), occasionally with real pain and persistent, diligent efforts to keep at bay any sense of hopelessness. Ever since the president’s election we anticipated, and have witnessed, a one-man crime spree, but we never expected to see so many good-hearted Americans look the other way while it was happening.
Or so many former Republicans and public servants bravely resist. The latest to speak out against Trump being William Webster: a Nixon-appointed federal district and then appellate court judge who became the Carter-appointed FBI director and then Reagan-appointed CIA Director. Had we written no columns in 2019 and you read instead only the words of today’s Trump disciples back when they were never-Trumpers (e.g., Lindsey Graham), you’d be far more frightened by the current state of affairs than if visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.
As we enter a time of holiday reflection and look ahead to 2020, a few observations on columns gone by emerge. Our best-performing 2019 piece, in terms of clicks and shares, was a parody announcement of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ plans to buy Baylor University, suggesting that we’re most successful when we (1) avoid politics and (2) make stuff up. Our editor, however, encourages diverse opinions on the former and frowns on the latter.
Other themes emerged as guaranteed conversation-starters, too: the enormously elastic nature of the president’s theology and that of his most committed supporters, analyses of the Mueller investigation and predictions related to what may be the last year of this administration. All prompted strong responses, some positive and some…well, not.
Letters to the Editor derided us as narcissists , more endowed (!?!), writers of “supposedly funny trash,” “holier-than-thou attackers” and justifying an exasperation that the Trib “has never stooped this low before.” In response to our regular quoting of scripture, a reader reminded the Trib that “No one knows the Bible better than Satan and his willing followers.” One of our blog readers won the Spirit of Christian Love award for admonishing us to, “Burn brightly when you get to where you are going!”
As we look to 2020, which promises to make 2019 look like a summer ice-cream social, we can make a few commitments. First, we’ll continue to treasure the feedback from supporters and critics alike, and especially from those who may not always agree but share a commitment to candor and dialogue. We are particularly grateful for those who approach us to confess-brag that, “Your columns are full of s--- — but I read every word.”
We’ll also direct the bulk of our criticism toward those in power, when and wherever we think they have abused it. Sometimes this is interpreted as an attack on those who support the current administration and the party that has morphed around it. This is not our intention, although it’s inevitable we’ll be melting some snowflakes along the way.
Finally, we have no intention of backing down or easing up; silence is just not an option.
We wish everyone in this boisterous, noisy and contentious community of readers a period of joyous, restful and reflective contemplation. From London, best wishes for a Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and warm Winter Solstice. For those in Waco presently sporting the “Reason for the Season” bumper and window stickers, don’t forget to replace them come January 2 with a “Democracy≠Crime Spree” in prep for 2020’s election season.