Judd Gregg: The choice

Judd Gregg: The choice
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A choice for the ages…or of the aged.

Or maybe not.

As we seek to find what defines America and our politics, it becomes less and less clear what that is.


Our history is no longer related as it was, it is promoted for what should have been — according to the dogma of the politically correct educational establishment.

Leadership is no longer acceptable if it does not meet a standard of cultural purity set forth with unwavering intolerance by a non-elected elite.

Andrew Jackson, ironically the first populist president, is vilified for his treatment of Native Americans. Actually, he and the tribes he confronted on the frontier saw each other as enemies. Sensitivity had no role in their contest of survival. But his statue must be removed anyways, we are now told.

The four definitional leaders of our country whose faces adorn Mt. Rushmore are charged with the inexcusable cultural transgression of being white men. 

During their time, when they gave direction and inspiration to our people, we were, of course, pretty much only governed by white men. But such facts are not countenanced in the purge of the history that now consumes our intellectuals.

Leadership is a considerable amorphic thing.

Some people simply stumble into a position where leadership is needed and they execute brilliantly.

President Truman would meet this standard, as he guided the nation deftly in the confrontation with communism and the Soviet Union that followed the Second World War. He was an unanticipated president, an afterthought for President Franklin Roosevelt who chose Truman to be his vice president.

Regrettably Truman’s time for cultural dismembering is on the horizon as the new moral arbiters excoriate his authorizing the use of the atomic bomb. This was an action that saved thousands of American soldiers’ lives and ended abruptly Japan’s fanaticism that had killed millions more. But in today’s context, it is seen as an inexcusable act of violence.

Others come to leadership because they are naturals at it.

Presidents Reagan, Eisenhower and Kennedy embodied the attributes that caused many in their time to look to them to guide the nation well — and they did.

The constant theme that epitomizes good leaders, at least as it involves our nation and our presidency, is that they seem to have an intuitive understanding of the strengths of the American people and an even stronger sense of the specialness of our way and our culture. Most importantly, they know how to communicate this strength and specialness in a manner that energizes the hope and opportunity that is core to the American experience.

We now are in a time of populist excess.

Populism, whether on the political right or left, affronts the sources that generate effective leadership.

Populists build their identity by identifying an enemy and then using that identified enemy as a prop to promote themselves to power.

Populist followers are not about inclusion but exclusion of all who might question them.

Whether on the left or the right, whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE or Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (D-Mass.), they hold intolerance as their core value. They are not drawn to the American values of merit and inclusion.

Those voting in the election in November will need to sort out this contradiction between the populist movements and the need to have leaders who can step beyond the intensity those movements generate, speaking to more noble national ideals.

Both the left and the right argue with intensity that they are doing what is right. Their opponents are not to be countenanced.

This is the level to which our political process has devolved in this time of social media and talk-television intolerance.

But the folks who decide these elections are not the people of the base of either party.

They are rational individuals who have values and purposes that are far broader than the constantly narrowing forces of the populist movements.

When it comes to determining the outcome of closely involved contests in statewide races, where senators are elected and electoral votes are counted, the crucial voters tend to be disproportionately well-educated women in suburban areas.

These voters are now confronted with a choice.

Do they choose Trump, whose purpose is to denigrate those who oppose him and whose style has demeaned the office of the presidency — but whose leadership up until the coronavirus had, in part, taken the nation to a new level of prosperity?

Or do they choose former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Five things to know about Georgia's Senate runoffs MORE, whose party has charged off into the hills of social justice, political correctness and rising socialism, even as he tries to proffer decency and stability as his identity?

It is a choice between someone who seems uncontrollably insecure and someone who has a posse of elitist radicals nipping at the role of leadership he seeks.

It is not a clear, unchallengeable choice for those whose votes will decide who is to be the next president.

The problem for those who view the contest fairly and without an intense ideological prism is that if Trump is reelected, there is no predicting what he will do.

He is not a conservative or a liberal. His governance involves a significant mixture of both. He is about himself and nothing else.

Some days when he looks in the mirror and gets his marching orders, he governs well. Some days his advice to himself amounts to an incomprehensible, chaotic mishmash, or worse.

On the other side, if Biden becomes president and the Senate swings to a Democratic majority, Biden will be hit with a flood of radical laws that will fundamentally change our form of government.


The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will be granted statehood and the Democrats will create a permanent majority in the Senate.

There will be a bill paying massive reparations for slavery.

There will potentially be a packing of the Supreme Court so the left will control all the constitutional levers.

There will be the ‘Green New Deal,’ nationalized healthcare a.k.a. Medicare for All, and absolute amnesty on immigration. The list goes on and on.

President Biden will not be able to withstand this evisceration of our historical form of government, conceived by James Madison and built on the idea of compromise.

If it were known that the Senate would continue with a Republican majority and that the government would be divided, those who will settle these elections — independent female voters in swing states — might have an easier option.

No such certainty exists to moderate their decision.

This makes this vote an unusually intense choice based on the question of the essence of American leadership.

It is not apparent that either Donald Trump or Joe Biden sees the path.

Whoever creates separation from the excesses of the cadres of his populist base; whoever over the next three months actually touches on the characteristics that have given us effective presidents throughout our history; whoever is able to embody leadership in the American tradition of optimism and opportunity, will get these voters’ support.

He will win.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.