A column by Nick Hoppe in Monday’s San Francisco Chronicle reflected on his father Art, a longtime Chron columnist, writing in 1971 against the Vietnam War. In effect, Art Hoppe rooted against his own country. That poses some interesting questions.

We lost. Withdrawing our last combat troops in 1973 enabled North Vietnam to overrun the south and enter Ho Chi Minh City in 1975. What if we’d won? Would we have defeated our real enemies—the Soviet Union and China?

We didn’t need to be in Vietnam. China was a half-hearted “ally” of Vietnam. In 1979, the two nations fought a brief border war after Vietnam invaded Cambodia. As to the Cold War’s bigger picture, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Two years later, the Soviet Union dissolved.

Hoppe asks his own tantalizing question: What happens when Americans—himself included—root against our country today because we see it engaged in wrong behavior. If the American economy prospers—more jobs, a rising gross domestic product, a stock market climbing again—does that justify Donald Trump in the Oval Office?

Hoppe concedes that rooting against America is rooting against himself. He has to make a living. He has a 401(k) plan. Are he and so many other people opposed to Trump willing to suffer short-term, and perhaps painful, economic stress to limit Trump’s time in office? Bear in mind that the report from the special commission headed by Robert Mueller could offer proof of collusion with Russia and lead to impeachment—or not.

I suspect that many Americans are undergoing such a challenging conflict. They want to succeed personally. And they’re not selfish. They want others to succeed. Still, they hope the nation experiences failures. Yes, they’re alarmed that 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed without pay for four weeks, but they view the partial government shutdown as an opportunity to de-legitimize the president. Trump states that the furloughed workers support him along with farmers. The latter, unfortunately, can’t utilize critical government services informing them of the best times to plant and enabling them to apply for loans. Do those who suffer the most pain really want to endure it?

My key question: If under Trump’s policies—steep tax cuts for corporations and the super-rich, economic and environmental deregulation, trade wars, strained international relationships—the economy continues to grow—and we all do better—shouldn’t “Trump 2020” be on everyone’s lips? Does it matter what insults he hurls? What encouragement he offers racists? How he maintains a relationship with Vladimir Putin?

Isn’t it all about the money?

A look at history: In the 1920s, after Benito Mussolini took power, his government circulated word that the fascists had upgraded the nation’s dilapidated railway system. Even after World War II—Il Duce was shot and his mangled corpse hung at a half-finished gas station in Milan—his supporters comforted themselves by reflecting that “at least the trains ran on time.”

What trade-offs are we Americans willing to make for a thriving economy? Will we sacrifice our democracy, granting its imperfections? Is there a price high enough to impel us to sell out the Constitution? Or is rooting against ourselves, as Nick Hoppe suggests, an illogically logical proposition?

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.


  1. Tracy on January 18, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    Interesting myth…Italy’s railway had entered a state of disrepair after World War I, but there had been a number of improvements that made the rail system run better. Mussolini liked to say he was responsible for those improvements. However, those improvements took place before Mussolini stepped into power. He couldn’t really take credit for them, although that didn’t stop him. More to the point, the trains didn’t always run on time, either.

    I’m not in favor of “soak the rich” proposals that Bernie and AOC espouse, but I also realize that income disparity in the US is horrific as well. It’s complicated, but I’m fairly sure that Drumph isn’t making anything better.

    • David on January 18, 2019 at 6:36 pm

      My point re Mussolini, Tracy, is that perception is some people’s reality. It doesn’t matter whether Il Duce made the trains run on time or not. Has Donald Trump made the American economy better or has momentum remained from the Obama administration to which Trump added a tax cut sugar high? Key is that some people were and are willing to believe that an autocrat can push buttons and make things happen. Where they see gains, they are willing to denigrate democracy or cast it aside. We saw what happened to Italy and to Mussolini. In 2020, if the economic indicators hold—even while so many Americans continue to struggle—and Trump runs for re-election (remains to be seen), Trump will point to his favorite indicators. He’ll state that he alone can keep the economy growing. His base will believe him, even those not getting ahead. Perhaps especially those not getting ahead. Will others drink the Kool-Aid? This story is as fascinating as it is troubling. One thing can be said with certainty: time will tell.

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