In President Reagan's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 1984, he declared "we proclaimed a dream of an America that would be a Shining City on a Hill." In his farewell address in January, 1989, he stated
We proclaimed a dream of an America that would be a Shining City on a Hill
The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the "Shining City upon a Hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim.... He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I've spoken of the Shining City all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it.
Reagan was primarily an actor, only secondarily a governor and senator, hence a very clever politician. However, he may have believed his remarks, and arguably most Americans traditionally have done so. More realistic is David Rothkopf, who recently observed
It is not written in stone that the United States of America must always exist. It is not guaranteed that the country that goes by that name will always be a democracy. You cannot assume the greatness or strength or stature we have grown accustomed to will always endure.— David Rothkopf (@djrothkopf) November 1, 2018
Would that most historians understood this. Their willingness to hold on to what we may learn on Tuesday is the myth of a shining city on a hill inspired Bill Maher's closing remarks on Friday.
It was a commentary which (at 51:50 below) started strong ("starting soft and slow, like a small earthquake"), picked up strength, and ended powerfully. The full video of "Real Time" is below but I'll start the transcript with Maher (at 53:20) imploring historical pollyannas
But stop trying to calm us down right now. Do you know when it's okay to yell "fire" in a theater? When it's on fire.
Lastly, Trump's son-in-law said "he's a black swan." A black swan is something we've never seen before, that defies all prior expectations. That's what we're dealing with, a black swan- with a mushroom penis.
This attitude that America is like a cat- it always lands on its feet. I don't buy it. I don't buy that just because something didn't happen before, it can't happen now. Rome didn't fall, and didn't fall, and didn't fall, and then it fell. Gonorrhea has been around for a long time and we could always kill it with penicillin. But now there's a drug-resistant super gonorrhea and we can't.
Was incivility bad at other times in our history? I'm sure it was. I've heard the anecdotes that during a brawl in the House chamber in 1798, Congressman Matthew Lyon of Vermont threatened to beat Roger Griswold of Connecticut with a pair of iron tongs.
I don't give a s _ _ _. This isn't two gentlemen slapping each other in the face with gloves. This is a slow-moving coup. This is the head of the federal government calling the American citizens who make up the free press the "enemy of the people."
And that's why, here on our final show before the election, I want to talk directly to the millenials or Generation Instagram or whatever they're calling you. We need you. We need you like you need your anti-anxiety meds. Not to protest or to post something. We need you to actually vote because historically, you are the least likely to.
I get it. You're young and young people aren't big on planning for the future. That's why we have laser tatoo removal. But we need you to turn out in unprecedented numbers and we know you can- look at the March For Our Lives. That's how you should approach voting for this year- as a march for your life.
It's your future- not mine. But to paraphrase the Farmers Insurance guy "I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two." And to paraphrase the Allstate guy "You're not in good hands."
Getting this moment wrong and not voting will be just like your student debt. It will haunt you for the rest of your life.
Getting this moment wrong, you can say good by to reproductive rights, to legalized pot, possibly to gay marriage, and definitely to what's left of the environment. If Trump wins he'll cast it as a complete endorsement of his most un-democratic behavior. If you're 18 and that happens, you stand a very good chance of not living in a Western-style democracy for part of all of your life. Yes, it can happen here.
If historians want to look at an example of "we've been here before," look at this picture (shows massive Nazi rally). This is not Nuremberg in 1934. And here's the Garden in 1939 after Hitler had done some pretty awful things and yet 22,000 Americans were cheering him on (shows picture of huge numbers giving Nazi salute).
I'm not saying Trump is Hitler- Hitler volunteered for the army. But Trump is a wannabe dictator and he does have a knack for getting what he wants to be. So mark Tuesday, November 6 down. Mark it on your calendar like you're Brett Kavanaugh trying to get s _ _ _ -faced."
Because Tuesday is win or go home for democracy.