George Santayana was an immigrant.
Born in Spain in 1863, he moved to Boston in 1869 with his mother and siblings. He would eventually attend Harvard College, and then become a professor of philosophy there where he instructed such historic figures as T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost and Gertrude Stein.
As a philosopher, Santayana was one among many. But when it comes to his aphorisms, he was unparalleled. His most famous, of course, concerns history: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He also had this gem: “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”
History is a slippery creature. It twists and turns with every new retelling.
Here we are, a century and a half later, and America seems to be on the brink of another civil war. On one side, you have Donald TrumpDonald TrumpArmstrong Williams: Trump is not wrong about trouble in Sweden ACLU clients hit by travel ban to attend Trump address Dem super PAC ads pressure GOP senators to back independent Russia probe MORE, who is pushing to make America great again. On the other side, you have Democrats and the political left, those who promise to “resist.”
But wait a minute. That doesn’t make sense.
America is not on the brink of civil war. Trump is not Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini. Nor is the so-called “resistance” really a resistance. It’s a political movement.
It’s certainly no French Resistance, which arose after the Nazis invaded and then occupied France in 1940.
The French resistance movement started slow but picked up steam as the German regime revealed itself to be a murderous, plundering, racist group of thugs. By 1944, the resistance became a full-fledged army, capable of going behind enemy lines, cutting off telephone lines, blowing up train tracks and otherwise causing mayhem.
The Democratic resistance movement isn’t capable of stopping Trump’s efforts to appoint his own Cabinet officials because Sen. Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair The Hill's 12:30 Report Hopes rise for law to expand access to experimental drugs MORE (D-Nev.) helpfully changed Senate rules right before he retired.
Nor will Democrats be able to stop Trump from appointing his highly qualified pick to the Supreme Court.
They aren’t much of resistance movement because Trump is not a Nazi and because the United States is not Germany in the 1930s.
An imperfect understanding of history is every bit as harmful as complete ignorance of history.
The Democrats, and more than a few Never Trump Republicans, imagine themselves to be brave, solitary figures standing against the rise of a brutal dictator.
We not only have plenty of institutional checks and balances arrayed against any potential dictator. We also are, as a people, a nation that takes its liberties pretty seriously.
We are not the Weimar Republic. We don’t have inflation hitting 300 percent. Unemployment is not at 30 percent but at 4.8 percent.
We might have our fair share of disagreements, but we have a constitutional process to resolve them amicably, without bloodshed.
The Democratic resistance is taking on a form of fanaticism. Its adherents are redoubling their efforts to stop Trump but forgetting what their aim is.
They are supposed to be working to make this country a better and more prosperous place for their constituents.
And on certain things, the Democrats can legitimately fight Trump, based on philosophical or political grounds. His immigration executive order was badly drafted and counterproductive to both national security and the economy. His gutting of the EPA will be bad for the environment.
But on other things, like rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, keeping more jobs and companies in America, stabilizing our inner cities, Democrats should seek common ground with Trump.
It’s not only good for the country, it will be good politics for them.
What the American people don’t want is eight years of political warfare that achieves nothing but more partisanship and anger in the nation’s heartland.
Santayana once said, “Sanity is madness put to good uses.” It’s time that politicians on both sides bring more sanity and less madness to the process, and move this country forward.
Feehery is president of QGA Public Affairs and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as speechwriter to former Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).