Four painters. Two canvases. From the left: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine; from the right: Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
It appears Clinton is channeling her inner Eleanor Roosevelt and Trump is following the narcissistic path of Julius Caesar. As Kaine and Pence provide the background tapestry.
Mrs. Roosevelt revolutionized the traditional duties of a first lady. Instead of playing domestic debutante at the White House, she assumed the role of civil rights activist and public policy ambassador. She became a champion for women’s issues and an advocate for the poor. The renowned all-black fighter squadron, the Tuskegee Airmen, may not have gotten off the ground during World War II if Mrs. Roosevelt hadn’t insisted on riding with one of the black pilots for a test demonstration that made some onlookers cringe in fear.
You want bold. Eleanor Roosevelt gave you bold.
Fast-forward to 2016. Hillary Clinton, the first lady from 1993 to 2001, has run for president of the United States twice. In between, she has been a U.S. senator and secretary of state.
Mrs. Roosevelt, back in the 1940s, once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
Caesar, the omnipotent general of the once-indomitable Roman Empire, famously pronounced, “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” as in, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” He used that phrase in a letter to the Roman senate after achieving a quick victory in battle around 47 B.C.
That sounds like Trump’s calling, doesn’t it.
During the Republican convention, Trump pronounced his autonomy, his unilateral philosophy. He bellowed, “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” Trump proclaimed that bit of unabashed bluster during his closing keynote speech, which culminated a raucous week in Cleveland.
When Clinton garnered her turn the next week at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, she disputed Trump’s singular powers this way: “Americans don’t say: ‘I alone can fix it.’ We say: ‘We’ll fix it together.’ Remember: Our Founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power. Two hundred and forty years later, we still put our faith in each other.”
The Trump Empire vs. the Roman Empire. “Hail Caesar” and “Hail Trump” seem interchangeable.
“Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte could compare to Trump,” Dr. Charles K. Ross, professor of history at the University of Mississippi, told me during the political conventions. “There is an arrogance that he (Trump) permeates in many of the statements he makes, his ideologies.
“He potentially sees himself as one of the key leaders in business in the late 20th century and early 21st century. And we know Julius Caesar thought of himself and the Roman Empire in a similar light, viewed himself in high esteem as a ruler.”
Now that the political conventions are over, we learned that both parties are rife with drama, enough, in fact, to replenish 10 seasons worth of “General Hospital.”
The Republicans had their drama queens and kings, in Melania Trump, Meredith McIver, the speechwriter at the center of the plagiarism maelstrom, and Sen. Ted Cruz.
The Democrats had their drama queens and kings, in Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Bernie Sanders.
Contrast the harsh notes struck by the Republicans versus the dulcet tones by the Democrats. The true reality of the United States probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Critics charged Trump with speaking in only apocalyptic terms during his acceptance address, one replete in agony, armageddon, affliction and anguish. Like a man on fire speaking to a bedraggled bunch, Trump declared to his followers in Cleveland, “I am your voice.”
In the home city of Rocky and Benjamin Franklin, Clinton appeared more excited about America’s future, speaking with effervescent, ebullient and exuberant moments of optimism.
“I know that at a time when so much seems to be pulling us apart, it can be hard to imagine how we’ll ever pull together again,” Clinton said. “But I’m here to tell you tonight, progress is possible. I know because I’ve seen it in the lives of people across America who get knocked down and get right back up. And I know it from my own life.”
Said Ross, “Like Mrs. Roosevelt, she spoke out on various social issues in a very aggressive way. You have to give Hillary Clinton credit for mapping out her own educational and professional career. And she embarked to reach a very high level.”
Clinton left the Philadelphia arena, emboldened with The Telegenic Hug felt around the world, between two historic figures — she and President Obama, the ringleader of her star-powered entourage.
Republicans painted a dire canvas of America, with a half-empty glass; Democrats spoke of hope and a half-full glass.
Then again, when the Democrats are in the White House, Republicans postulate the world as a towering inferno led by spineless namby-pambies; when the Republicans are in the White House, Democrats brand their counterparts as perpetrators of immutable intolerance and condescending elitism.
That’s just politics.
Still, regardless of who occupies the White House next, the American people are protected by something called the U.S. Constitution. Khizr Khan, the father of an American Muslim captain killed in combat in Iraq, so eloquently reminded Donald Trump of that fact during the Democratic convention, while creating a social media phenomenon in the process.
Note the seven articles of the Constitution, you know the stuff about the legislative, judicial and executive branches of the federal government — the checks and balances.
With that, we all should remember this: the Constitution has survived two world wars, a Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, slavery, Jim Crow, the Johnstown flood, March on Washington, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, Selma, the assassinations of President Kennedy, Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy, Watergate, Sept. 11.
And a Civil War. That’s why every American, at some point in their lives, should visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. And do more than just sightsee wide-eyed in awe and take photos with iPhones and Samsungs.
Take time to actually read the inscriptions on the walls that surround the sculpture of President Lincoln. Those words aren’t Caesar-like or Roosevelt-like. They don’t lean to either of those historic figures. They lean toward America.