The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Lynn Schmidt is a columnist and editorial board member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
What America needs now is a combination of a modern-day Abraham Lincoln and a real-life Ted Lasso. A leader who will inspire all of us, remind us of the better angels of our nature and who believes in what we can become.
Most Americans are unhappy with the direction of the country. In an NBC poll from January, 71 percent of respondents said the country is headed in the wrong direction. It was the eighth time in the last nine NBC News surveys since October 2021 when the wrong-track response has been above 70 percent.
Americans are also economically anxious and say the economy is the nation’s top issue.
We have been living during a time of profound change to our collective culture. School shootings have sadly become commonplace. We are hyperpolarized, living amid siloed media bubbles and unable to agree on common truths.
On April 4, the country experienced a historically sad day. No matter what you think of the arrest and arraignment of Donald Trump, one should be able to admit that he has added to a list of firsts for the country and he has consistently poked the bear of our national divide. Since he came down the golden escalator in Trump Tower on June 16, 2015, he became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice, to incite an insurrection, and now the first ex-president to be indicted on felony charges.
The rhetoric and comments surrounding Trump’s arraignment were highly disruptive. Ahead of his indictment, Trump had warned of potential “death & destruction” if he were to face criminal charges at a time when 88 percent of Americans had already feared some type of political violence.
April 4 was also an election day whose results proved just how divided we are in terms of ideologies and our approaches to solving problems. Progressives won primarily in blue urban areas and conservatives won in red communities with hardly a moderate to be seen. The statewide Wisconsin Supreme Court race was the one exception where progressives prevailed.
Amid all this political chaos, there was the newest episode of “Ted Lasso” on that same Tuesday. For those of you who have yet to watch this delightful comedy series, Lasso is an American college football coach who is hired to coach a British soccer team. Lasso is remarkably optimistic and always seems to have an enthusiastic phrase for his fellow coaches and players. A sign proclaiming “Believe” hangs in the locker room.
In Season 1, Lasso tells his players: “So I’ve been hearing this phrase y’all got over here that I ain’t too crazy about. ‘It’s the hope that kills you.’ Y’all know that? I disagree, you know? I think it’s the lack of hope that comes and gets you. See, I believe in hope. I believe in belief.”
After Tuesday’s episode was over, I turned off my device and was encouraged, knowing that there have been darker days in America’s history than what we are facing now and believing (thanks Ted) that we may yet find a leader who can galvanize us to better days.
Lincoln was one such leader back when times were much worse than now. In his 1861 inaugural address, Lincoln stated: “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Lincoln expressed hopes to maintain the union and avoid Civil War by highlighting our common history and encouraging citizens living in both North and the South not to view each other as adversaries. In his 1865 inaugural address, Lincoln told Americans to “let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds.”
Our nation’s trauma may not be as severe as it was then, but we are fractured nonetheless. Who knows where this person will come from, but I trust that he or she is out there. This person is someone who believes in all of us, not just the ones who voted for that person, identifies the virtue in each other, knows we are not each other’s enemies, and affirms that there are better days ahead.
In another scene, Lasso tells reporter Trent Crimm: “For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.” In other words, the better angels of their natures.