By Tommy Hough
Like you, I'm heartened today, and I feel a great sense of relief with the changing of administrations in Washington, D.C. The last four years have been so traumatic for our nation, I think we're all in a state of shock that may last for some time.
Unlike previous periods of national unrest, this time we didn't have the benefit of an opposition with a shared adherence to reason, a commitment to accuracy, or a willingness to exist in a shared reality. With everything we've grown to deal with over the last four years, from choosing which presidential or policy outrage to respond to, which one to put in perspective, and which one to put on the shelf because we didn't have the emotional bandwidth that week to process it, it may take several weeks for us to fully realize the transition in administrations has occurred and find a spring in our step again.
To our nation's credit, in times of peace, war, and tragedy, we have always ensured a secure, peaceful transition of power. Today was a continuation of that great tradition. But I find it terribly sad that, for the first time in our history, we've had to conduct a presidential inauguration under such highly militarized conditions, with over 25,000 National Guard troops mobilized to protect Washington, D.C., and ensure the inauguration goes smoothly in the wake of the domestic terrorist attack on the legislative branch of our federal government.
Even President Lincoln's second inauguration, held at the height of the Civil War in 1865 with tens of thousands of Union troops defending the nation's capital, wasn't as divorced from the public as today's transfer of power was. That necessity demanded it makes this an extraordinary, and regrettable, moment in our history.
It remains unbelievable, even after four years of the previous administration's incitements, that concerns are as high as they are over the threat of attacks by radicalized right-wing elements, empowered by ridiculous conspiracy theories and decades of misinformation, emboldened by easy access to murderous weapons of war and military hardware, coupled with the grotesque lie enabled by the departed president and his acolytes in Congress that the results of the 2020 election were fraudulent.
Who among us would have ever believed hordes of our fellow citizens – armed, violent, prepared to take hostages and conduct "citizen's arrests" for absurd, wholly imagined crimes – would behave as they did on Jan. 6th, engaging in an attack on our democracy that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer, and which drove another officer to take his own life several days later?
Who among us would have ever believed fellow Americans would be incited to sedition by a sitting President of the United States? Like the authoritarian carnival barker he is, the president ginned up his mob on live TV with the most inflammatory remarks ever uttered by a chief executive, and then dispatched the mob to the Capitol saying he'd be walking with them while instead he slinked back to the White House to safely watch the mayhem unfold on television. And who would have ever believed these individuals would then photograph themselves, in real time, live streaming their violent crimes on the web in all their grotesque entitlement.
Who would have ever believed reason and reality would be in such short supply among Americans in the third decade of the 21st century?
You and I, and our neighbors and communities, are facing the cumulative effect of over 40 years' worth of crafted misinformation, whipped into a frenzy by the now previous administration. While many cite President Reagan's repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 as the beginning of the era of rage-filled, reason-defying, bloodthirsty political rants on AM radio promoted as entertainment by the kind of irresponsible media that now bequeaths to us public psychopaths like Alex Jones, our modern age of destructive, falsehood-driven media can be traced back even further, to Reed Irvine's comparatively sober Accuracy In Media movement from the late 1960s.
As I tell friends, colleagues, and volunteers who aren't old enough to remember, our political discourse wasn't always as toxic as many on the right have made it today. Congress had a 40-year period of largely progressive and effective policymaking from 1954 to 1994, when compromise was key, and working together in good faith to find solutions across party lines as partners was normal, and valued. Our political process must to return to that tradition.
The ugly, chronological points that fueled our national schism: Lee Atwater and the 1988 presidential election, Newt Gingrich and the 1994 midterms, the absurdity of the Tea Party in the 2010 midterms, along with increasingly destructive media outlets more concerned about likes and views, controversy and conflict, rather than effective, sober reporting, are still with us. It's up to all of us to move beyond that, and put a premium on a shared reality in which we make real world decisions for the betterment of all Americans.
Some people think politicians are all talk. Plenty are.
But the key is listening, and working together with compassion to address the problems of our nation, and our neighborhoods, together. I hope you'll join me in this effort here in San Diego. More to come on that front soon.
In the meantime, I hope you, your family, and your loved ones are safe and well. Take a moment to breathe in the air and appreciate this day, and celebrate our deliverance from ignorant tyranny. And resolve to remain engaged to ensure fringe madness remains on the margins, not in seats of power.
A San Diego County planning commissioner and former radio host at 91X and FM 94/9, Tommy Hough works as an environmental consultant with the ReWild Mission Bay campaign, and is a California Democratic Party delegate and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.