single header

If you want to comment online, use the Reply form following this commentary.

Americanism: What is it?

Howell Hurst 2020 Presidential Election, Defining Trump, Economy & Finance, People, People Politics, Presidential Election, Trump


When after World War II Democratic President Truman persuaded former Republican President Herbert Hoover to assist him in feeding several hundred million Europeans brought to their knees by that conflict, he little ever expected praise from Hoover.

However, after Hoover did indeed take on and accomplish the task of helping Truman devise and execute what eventually came to be known as The Marshall Plan, he did pay Truman the complement in a speech, of acting in a manner that stepped beyond politics and embraced the basic concept of helping fellow human beings in need.

These two American presidents literally persuaded American citizens to sacrifice to a degree their own food consumption so that America could send massive amounts of food to both European allies and our former enemy, Germany.

John Steinbeck, in his essay “America and Americans” argued that an essential American trait is the contradiction of our unabashed personal desire for financial security commonly married to our ability to come together and help others in need.

Steinbeck was not an idealist, and he did not picture Americans as saintly in any way. He simply pointed out that our form of government empowered us to materially guide our nation ethically and morally when the need arises.

The argument Steinbeck made was that at heart most Americans are ethically and morally valid human beings. That they can and do often step beyond mere self interest laws to invoke the laws of humanity.

Hoover and Truman helped increase the power of the American presidency. They helped establish that in great part the power of the American president is one intrinsically entwined with the concepts of ethics and morality.

It is a lesson that should not go lost on the present President and his administration. Insensitivity to the needs of many people has been quite evident in their alleged Law and Order philosophy. So has it also been somewhat lost on us.

The Trumpian nationalistic attempt to picture America a victim in the world is, factually considered, unfounded in fact. The 35% of Americans who see themselves as victims needing a Savior to help them survive in America do not share the uppermost trait of the 65% not enamored of Mr. Trump.

That trait is the ability to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and physically move on, even geographically when necessary, with their lives in the face of the many obstacles commonly produced by our oligarchical corporate-dominated economic system that so regularly tosses so many of its members aside as if they were just so much unimportant stuff.

Mr. T. and his followers are in my opinion frightened personalities. Most Americans, I too, have had various fears to conquer living in our country. We have not always mastered them as well as we wished.

But most Americans have not turned against practically every tradition of America, finding and creating endless conspiracy theories about the press and the many departments of our government, to create an external excuse for our fears, when the reason is more likely internal.

We, the 65%, should not turn against the 35% polls indicate exist – but it is our job to see that either this president actually changes his behavior to better match that of the clear-cut majority of Americans, or that we find the legal means to replace him. Without such a president we cannot help the others rise above their predicament.

Our job is to retain the dignity of the presidency. It is not to protect a president who does not know how to display dignity. Our job is to insure that our laws are valid laws, not that they protect a philosophy foreign to our instincts as members of our democracy, however flawed it may occasionally be.

Steinbeck was right. Our instincts are frequently paradoxical but there is no doubt that most Americans care for people. While we have our own homeless, many veterans, the world has millions of refugees of war, racial minorities in our own country face questionable force from our police, and our Federal administration has a right-bent political philosophy, it is our job to carefully check our own values as individual citizens.

We need all to be “Liberal,” not politically necessarily but philosophically, at the moment. We currently have a highly disruptive government. Disruptive is not what a government should be.

If a die-hard past Republican Hoover and a populist Democrat Truman could collaborate to feed hundreds of millions of people after a war, we are surely capable of weathering the peculiar political tornado presently whirling our values about like so much chaff. We have citizens of our own who need and deserve our help.

We are Americans. We need and must demand an American president. Anything less is unacceptable.

Return to Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.