Eight years ago, a new president was settling into office and the country felt cautiously hopeful about the future. Now, by almost any measure, we’re awash in frustration and fear. Those who warned that Donald Trump lacked the temperament to be president, including many prominent Republicans, are already seeing the wisdom of their instincts. Those who had hoped that candidate Trump would somehow morph into an emotionally intelligent president, have had a sobering two weeks.

I’ve always been one of those people who believed in the innate wisdom of the voters, regardless of which party they supported or who was elected. I’ve also felt great sympathy for many of the people who voted for Trump out of frustration with the choices we had and fear for the future. But this time, the voters blew it, plain and simple.

The founders of this country put in place a variety of safeguards to protect us from ourselves, including the Electoral College, which defused power to the states and provided a bulwark against the “superstitious passions” of the uneducated mob, which frightened the founders even more than the distant king. How ironic it is, now, that the Electoral College they set up to safeguard the country has endangered it by making Donald Trump president.

If you’ve wondered if you would ever experience the kinds of national challenges that your grandparents and perhaps parents did, with the Great Depression and World War II, or even the deep divisions of the 1960s, you now have the answer. You are living in extraordinary and even dangerous times for America the beautiful.

In just two weeks, Trump has driven his polling numbers to the lowest of any incoming president in polling history, worried our allies across the globe and reversed himself on issue after issue.

• He’s befriended Russia’s Putin, which promptly responded by escalating its attacks on Ukraine.

• He signaled his disinterest in Syria, where the Syrian army is now advancing toward our Turkish allies and resistance fighters who are fighting ISIS.

• He’s insulted one of our staunchest allies, Australia, which has been in the trenches with us since World War I.

• He’s made a mess of immigration, blocking people who had already been “extreme vetted” over a two-year period, had all of the proper legal documents and, in too many cases, were already in the air traveling to America.

• He’s reversed more than 30 years of U.S. policy on Israeli settlements, only to partially reverse himself a week later.

• He’s promised to produce the greatest infrastructure program ever, only to reverse himself in the first week in office and then reverse himself again in the second. (That means it’s a priority again).

The list could go on, but you get the picture. This is a president who is more ignorant of governing and indifferent to facts than any president in our lifetimes. And it’s not even close.

What the country needs now is not simply more partisanship but an aroused, informed, smart and determined citizenry. That means we all have to:

• Educate ourselves. Read more American history, particularly on the struggle to create and sustain the country. David McCullough’s “1776” is an entertaining and compelling start.

• Be introspective. Listen more carefully to the voices of working-class people who voted for Trump, what they rejected about Clinton, and what it means for the future of the two parties.

• Study history’s autocrats. Explore how other countries have responded to the rise of national populists. Take on one of these books: “Huey Long,” “The Pope and Mussolini,” or “Hitler, the ascent.” Trump is not a replica of any of those people, but in the context of our time and place, his temperament and swollen but fragile ego are.

• Pick your fights. Focus energy on those areas that represent the greatest danger to the country and that can be won. Take the long view. There are big issues coming, after cabinet appointments and the Supreme Court pick, including in health care, the environment, climate change, trade, immigration, the rights of women and minorities and the call for new wars.

• Rally, organize and demonstrate. This isn’t a time to simply focus on the next election. Too much will happen before then. Get up and get out.

• Be wary of manufactured crises. Trump is almost surely going to stumble into an alpha-male chest-thumping exchange with other countries, including Iran and North Korea. When that happens, he’ll concoct an argument about grave new dangers to America. Be immensely skeptical.

Your country is calling you to rise to its defense. To remember our founding principles. To not be what Thomas Payne called the “sunshine patriot.” This is your time to become a full citizen of this noble experiment in democracy, and a true patriot.

Alan Caron, a Waterville native, is the principle of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” (2015) and “Reinventing Maine Government” (2010). He can be reached at: [email protected]

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