2020: Buckle Up for a Rough Ride

Here we are, saddle pals, heading into a new year, a new decade and a host of new elections nationwide. It would be wonderful to say it’s going to be a great year ahead, but that would require some serious myopia on the challenges facing the nation and world. Realistically, it’s going to be a very rough ride stoked by partisan hatred as we wrestle with a host of difficult issues. But strength and unity can and often do come from adversity, which is what keeps hope for a better future alive and inspires us to do the best we can to make that dream come true.

On the national scene, the utter chaos is only likely to increase. Donald Trump is now the third U.S. president to be impeached in the nation’s 230-year history and to say he’s not taking it well would be a vast understatement. Ranting, raving, rage-tweeting and desperately finding someone to blame, some alternate reality where it’s not happening, some slippery escape hole, has consumed Trump.

Yet despite his endless protestations of innocence, the American public remains unconvinced, with the latest polls showing 55% supporting both impeachment and removal from office for the con man turned president. With his approval rating remaining underwater and never breaking even 50% — as it has throughout his tenure in the Oval Office — his re-election chances remain sub-optimal.

Republicans are basically stuck with him as the titular head of their party — although cracks are appearing from senators who will sit as jury for his impeachment trial. Moreover, his evangelical support is likewise cracking as Christians with any sense of propriety realize Trump embodies all of the “seven deadly sins” — pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. And that may, as in a classic Greek tragedy, bring about his downfall.

In the meantime, the Democrats are having their own candidate conundrums, with Joe Biden slipping as the irrepressibly progressive Bernie Sanders continues to rise. Despite the mainstream media’s “Bernie Blackout,” abetted by corporate-friendly Democratic Party operatives, Sanders’ message continues to resonate with voters. That’s no surprise since his main themes are universal health care, free higher education, addressing income inequality, combating climate change and serving the populace at large, not the bloated interests of the 1% that have skimmed most of the cream from the American dream.

Sanders has been significantly bolstered by the support of Democratic rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who says Bernie’s progressive vision — which she wholeheartedly shares — is the future of the Democratic Party.

Closer to home, despite hollow promises, billions in bailout, and more than 15,000 lies in three years, Trump’s trade turmoil continues to impact Montana’s agriculture and manufacturing economy. As for the Republican members of Montana’s congressional delegation and wannabe leaders, the silence is deafening. No plans, no action and no relief in sight.

Luckily for Republicans, Montana’s Democratic Party remains moribund and largely invisible at a time when the future and the increasingly disruptive impacts of global warming demand aggressive response. Unless something changes, Democrats will become a self-fulfilling prophesy of Montana as a red state since you can’t win if you don’t show up.

There’s no question that the political outcomes of the coming year are incredibly important to the future. But keep in mind that divisive partisan politics actually play a very small part in the everyday lives of working and raising families. With that in mind, it’s important to hold loved ones close and keep having fun in Montana’s wonderland as we buckle up for a rough ride in 2020.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.