They say that in a great country like the United States, anyone can grow up to be president. And it’s apparently true, because Donald Trump and Joe Biden did just that. And if those two can become president, it’s a safe bet that just about anyone can. But when a free country like ours elects two of the most unpopular (and arguably, worst) presidents in our entire history — back-to-back, no less — then you have to wonder what the heck is going on.
How this came about, I think, has a lot to do with the law of unintended consequences, whereby actions of individuals or groups lead to things that are unanticipated, things that no one saw coming — even if, in retrospect, we should have.
For example, we got Joe Biden because we elected Donald Trump. And we elected Donald Trump because of liberal condescension aimed at all sorts of people the elite left didn’t think were worthy of their respect.
So, maybe we should have seen it coming. Maybe we should have anticipated that if college-educated, supposedly sophisticated liberals looked down their noses at the “great unwashed” who live in “flyover country,” those “ordinary” Americans just might feel disrespected — and latch on to someone who they think understands them and cares about them. Enter Donald Trump, who was giving the elite establishment the middle finger, and so were his new acolytes.
A lot of Americans who liked Trump were tired of being seen as hayseeds and dolts. They remembered that Barack Obama in 2008 said they were the kind of people who cling to “guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”
They noticed that pampered college students, many of whom came from well-off liberal families, were shouting down conservative speakers on campuses, claiming they made them feel unsafe.
And they intuitively knew that there was no conspiracy composed of rogue white cops to shoot unarmed Black men, a lie that more than a few on the left were peddling.
By the time Donald Trump glided down that elevator at Trump Tower in Manhattan, millions of “ordinary” Americans had had enough. Their messiah had arrived.
And then we got four years of virtually non-stop chaos, non-stop dopey tweets, non-stop name-calling. How many of us really knew how crazy it was going to be? Trump has been called a narcissist and a sociopath and, while I’m not an expert in such matters, it sounds about right to me.
This leads us to the next bad move Americans made. Trump, thanks to about 80 million voters, gave us Joe Biden. Outside of Biden’s immediate family, who actually thinks that he got that many votes because Americans saw him as a brilliant statesman with great ideas? Not many, I’d bet. We got Biden because voters had had enough of Trump.
And what exactly did we get with “middle-class Joe”? Well, we got someone who ran as a moderate and, in no time flat, convinced himself that he could be the next Franklin Roosevelt. He championed trillion-dollar legislation that fueled inflation that made Americans angry, and so, instead of uniting the nation as he promised, he has divided it — just like the guy who preceded him in office.
Now we’re hearing rumblings about how the next presidential election may be a rematch between Biden and Trump. This raises a question: What in God’s name did we do to deserve this? One doesn’t have the requisite competence to be president, and the other doesn’t have the requisite character.
But if it happens, I know what I’ll be doing — the same thing I did in 2016 and 2020. I sat out both elections and, if these two are the nominees in 2024, I’ll sit out the next one.
The last Democrat for whom I voted in a presidential election was Jimmy Carter, and that was the first time he ran. Even when I agree with Democratic policy on some issues, I no longer want to be on their team. They annoy me for many reasons — and it’s not only their progressive politics. It’s also their sanctimony, their holier-than-thou mentality, that grates on me.
As for voting for Donald Trump, I don’t care how much I approved of his policies — on cutting taxes, slashing regulations, and his policies that helped minorities get good jobs — none of that trumps, well, Trump himself.
My fervent hope is that neither man runs again. And if Trump decides not to run, there’s a good chance that Biden won’t run, either — because even he must realize that the only Republican he has a chance of beating is Donald Trump. So, no Trump, no Biden.
One can hope, right?
Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Substack page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.