Bear with me now. I’ll get to the part about Trump fiddling in a minute, but I wouldn’t be writing this piece if it weren’t for "Coffee Talk."
No, it’s not a morning radio show. Just a few friends who meet for coffee every Tuesday morning. We’ve been doing it for years now. We talk. More importantly, we listen. We have more questions than answers. We don’t agree on everything but nobody shouts or gets red-faced and blows a gasket.
Talking is how normal people solve problems. Screaming and shouting is a sign of problems with no solution in sight.
The Coffee Talk group is a convivial circle of friends with very different life stories. One is a native of New Zealand, one lived in various foreign capitals as the child of a career diplomat, one, a doctor, is a retired U.S. Army colonel who served in the Medical Corps, another is also a retired physician who served in Vietnam and plays a mean clarinet, one is a personal friend of Jim Walton, one is a retired railroad executive who (surprise!) knows a lot about trains.
Membership in Coffee Talk has nothing to do with politics and has changed over the years due to moves, dropouts and, sadly, deaths. The conversation is typically engaging. The topics range far and wide from ancient history to modern art, from Keynes and economics to music and Artie Shaw. One member of the group was a prodigy who mastered the violin by age 9 or 10.
In normal times, politics hardly ever comes up. We don’t deliberately avoid politics, but we normally have a lot of other things to talk about. These are not normal times, however.
Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about politics. Not arguing or haranguing. Talking.
As it happens, talking about complex problems when everyone respects each other and behaves accordingly often leads to a meeting of the minds. Which is where Donald Trump comes into the picture: It is inconceivable that this president, or anyone with a similar personality, would ever be invited to Coffee Talk.
Not because he’s a Republican, because he’s really not, of course. He’s nothing. Never was. Never will be. Which is why he saw fit to ruin and tear down the Grand Old Party .
The successor to the GOP is his personal party. Without Donald Trump, it has no identity. Its existence as a party is coterminous with his existence, politically.
Dictators are so-o-o predictable. They create a cult of personality and a party that consists of adoring followers and rapturous fans who show up at rallies and give the leader all the love he lives for.
At the last Coffee Talk, one of the guys mentioned three figures in history who remind him of President Trump. Like Mussolini, Trump is "bombastic and arrogant," he said. Like Hermann Goering (head of Hitler’s Luftwaffe) Trump is "crass and corrupt and corpulent." Then this:
"However, the greatest similarity is the Roman Emperor Nero. Like Nero, our President was born into power and privilege. And like Nero, he is a lover of excessive and often crass luxury. (Nero ... almost bankrupted the Roman Empire). Finally like Nero ... Trump has a fantastical and distorted view of himself ... according to the Roman historian Suetonius, (Nero’s) dying words were, "Oh. What an artist dies in me!"
Like Nero, Donald Trump fiddled while COVID-19 burned the hopes and dreams of countless Americans. This fall, we need to vote like America’s life depends on it. Because it does.
Tom Magstadt, of Westwood Hills, co-wrote a book first published in 1984, "Understanding Politics."