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History doesn't repeat -- it does, however, rhyme

It has always seemed to me a bit surreal that history can repeat itself, and that those marker moments from the past actually mirror the present.

Yet it seems all but impossible not to turn to the past, understanding that while any particular wedge of history may not be a repetition, it may, however, rhyme and thereby yield insight and understanding of the present.

So here we are, swept away by a once-in-a-century occurrence, a crisis of stunning proportions, a pandemic that has shaken our nation to its core. It’s proven to be a trifecta of trauma, a lethal virus for which there is still no efficacious treatment or vaccine, a microbe so relentlessly contagious that it has pushed our economy off a cliff, compounding our suffering, our fear, and our loss. And of course, almost from the get-go, the Trumpian response has been political.

We have watched daily as this administration, enabled by the Republican Party, in briefing after briefing, has demonstrated a breathtaking level of incompetence, chaos, blaming and misinformation, often rendering its own guidelines meaningless.

Ultimately, all that we can do is wait, knowing that there will soon be an election which will present voters with a massive opportunity to rescue our democracy from this cohort that today occupies the White House, ordering room service while relishing pulling the levers of power. And for them it’s all about power.

History instructs us that such a moment — absent a pandemic — took place in 1932. America was in the depths of the Great Depression. Herbert Hoover, the Republican incumbent president, was running for a second term. The nation was in crisis, most Americans desperately poor, unemployed, facing a relentless reality of breadlines, homelessness, and social fragmentation. Hope had vanished like so much wispy fog.

The Democratic challenger was Franklin Roosevelt, who promised the country a “New Deal” and a new direction, one that would end what had become a national nightmare created by Hoover’s economic policies. The result of that election was a spectacular landslide for FDR, one that extended into the House and Senate.

Which brings us to our own jarring, inflective moment, a nexus of events that calls for a reliance on science, political will, and unparalleled imagination.

Which brings me to Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency. If the American people conclude that the 2020 election must be about experience, competency and decency, well, not only should Biden win, but his election will hopefully be Roosevelt-like: a crushing Blue Wave so extraordinary that there will be no room for Trump or his ilk to call into question the results. Words such as “rigged” or “fake” will be purged and the will of the voters made unambiguously clear. The electorate will thereby make known that this election is a reaffirmation of America as a resilient and vital democracy.

This will require a remarkable deeply talented band of sisters and brothers. There will be much to do, beginning with the 2020 campaign, which will require countless Democrats to take the field of play, their mission to convince the country that our democracy cannot endure four more years of Trump et al. The damage done, before and during the pandemic, has been considerable, their mantra of party before country now writ large.

It is also true that the Republicans will likely not go quietly. The campaign for the White House and the Senate will be a brawl, a saloon fight using all the leverage that can be purchased by a $1 billion Republican war chest and the bully pulpit of incumbency.

But it is the voters, all of us, and a Blue Wave Congress, that can fix it. Let us begin with the national disgrace of insinuated racism and then move on to health care and economic opportunity. All while remembering: E Pluribus Unum.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.

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