The ancient Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times!” applies to our entire nation this year, and times are especially interesting following November’s elections The federal government has been led by a Democratic administration, for most of its time in office opposed by a Republican-led Congress whose major goal seems to have been blocking whatever President Obama had hoped to accomplish. That is now changing. We are seeing a transition from that ungainly balance of power to one in which the administration will be headed by a Republican President Trump, with both houses of Congress firmly in Republican hands.
Making this particular incoming governmental body more than usually interesting is the degree to which Donald J. Trump will be an unconventional President, regardless of party. To begin with, he is well aware that the official vote count shows that although his rival for the Presidency lost the determining Electoral College vote, the popular vote count went for the Democratic candidate by a margin reportedly over 2.5 million votes. It is difficult to claim a mandate when the opposition candidate received that many more votes than you did. Most states and counties voted in favor of Donald J. Trump. Most voters opposed him.
As a college professor, my life is filled with ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity. My daily contacts include not only Christians and Jews, but practicing Muslims of several races. There are Hindus teaching mathematics, traditional Chinese teaching elementary education, and atheists teaching English Composition. My own classrooms include conventional students from traditional backgrounds sitting next to unmarried mothers and students in same-sex marriages. Former military members struggling to overcome PTSD are seated next to young men and women right out of high school. With an incoming President whose campaign rhetoric insulted minorities of all kinds, disabled Americans and returned Prisoners of War among them, and an incoming Vice President who has disdained the science behind evolution and global warming, faculty and students are more aware than most Americans how interesting these times are.
Here in South Carolina, our Governor is leaving office to represent us at the United Nations. There will be some pieces moving around the chessboard in Columbia as the Lieutenant Governor takes her place. The President Pro Tem of the South Carolina Senate normally then becomes Lieutenant Governor, but the incumbent has stated that he has no intention of doing that; he would rather see the Lieutenant Governorship remain vacant than leave the most powerful position in the Legislature. Our local Senator Shane Massey is publicly opposing such an intentional inaction, in the process bucking the power structure in state government. The confusion inherent in a new federal administration is even being felt in Columbia.
As the crystal ball begins to clear and the new Republican administration takes shape for better or for worse, one thing remains certain: we are all of us, like it or not, living in interesting times.