For me this is the belief that through its cycle of struggle and renewal, the United States is in a continual process of becoming a better version of itself.
What I have seen directly over the past decade, roughly half in China and much of the rest in reporting trips around the United States, has reinforced my sense that our current era has been another one of painful but remarkable reinvention, in which the United States is doing more than most other societies to position itself, despite technological and economic challenges, for a new era of prosperity, opportunity, and hope. We have small-town inland America—the culture I think of myself as being from—being credited or blamed for making a man like this the 45th in a sequence that includes Washington, Lincoln, and FDR.
In change elections, the incumbent president and his party are out of favor, even reviled: Hoover after the start of the Great Depression, George W. Through 2016, Barack Obama’s popularity kept rising, and if he could have run again, he would have been a favorite for reelection.
But even the much less popular candidate from his same party comfortably won the popular vote, and the Democrats gained seats in both the Senate and the House.
And even as the rustling began he felt still, he felt calm.
Not from a personal depression, but with the deepest grief and sorrow as one might have for a dying loved one who lays helplessly in the hospital.
The wars in Vietnam and Iraq were disastrous mistakes. For a democratic process to elevate a man expressing total disregard for democratic norms and institutions is worse.
The American republic is based on rules but has always depended for its survival on norms—standards of behavior, conduct toward fellow citizens and especially critics and opponents that is decent beyond what the letter of the law dictates. The American leaders I revere are sure enough of themselves to be modest, strong enough to entertain self-doubt.
Sadly, those who seen to scream about diversity the loudest, want their way so badly - they refuse to see the value and integrity in honest disagreement.
The next dozen years were nearly nonstop trauma for the country. Americans of my children’s generation can remember the modern wave of shocks and dislocations that started but did not end with the 9/11 attacks.