The conventions are over and the contest for the presidency begins. So, let us, too, begin at the beginning.: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” So says the Declaration of Independence.

Ironically, it is the right to pursue happiness, a right the American Dream is built upon, that has allowed Donald Trump to be running for president of the United States. That promise to pursue happiness has not been, and is not being, realized for at least the past 30 years, and it is getting worse. In speaking from his own egotism, Trump is exposing our national underbelly, which is in need of a checkup.

One wonders why so many will vote for him, a man with so many glaring defects of character and temperament. Really, though, he is only the point man.

Media time and talent is being wasted analyzing the man Trump when it could be used more productively by critically examining how government is failing us and why the dream is quickly slipping through the fingers of a large segment of the American population.

We all know what the problems are, many of them generated by the economic imbalances caused by the pursuit of wealth. We are slowly losing our backbone, the middle class. It is an imbalance fostered in many ways by those with power, including members of our own Congress who legislate on behalf of the powerful, while being indifferent to the needs of the needy.

Even educated middle class Americans are angry with the establishment because part of the dream has always been that the new generation will do better than the previous one. Not so any more!

This disenfranchisement and anger is hard to address because of the way our American democracy is structured. Over time, we became the Blue States and the Red States, while at the same time our major Congressional parties became more and more adversarial little boys clubs instead of adults legislating what is best for those they represent. They seem to have forgotten Abraham Lincoln’s reminder that ours is a government “of, by and for the people.” Cooperation has become a thing of the past.

Soon enough the winter of our national discontent became the Occupy Movement, a soft civil war that did not have a center or organization, dooming it to failure. All the while, the pressure from the growing number of those left out of the pursuit of happiness was growing.

As the middle class grows thinner, the frustration grows deeper and broader. They are “The Left-Out Ones,” the ones whom our government has relatively abandoned. The manufacturing jobs they might have are being shipped overseas, all in the quest for higher profits, as the rich become richer and the poor poorer. The perpetrators of the housing market collapse go about their business as we see and wonder why.

Of course, Trumps plays with our fears, a most primitive engagement with our souls. It has worked before: See western Europe in the 1930s. The mantra of fear is easy enough to capitalize on these days as terrorism and guns lurk in the background of our minds as we take our children to school, go to a movie or shop in the market place.

He is trying to make us fear those who he thinks are different from us, the Other, whether they be Mexicans or Muslims. He denigrates women, lies, finds fault with almost everyone who disagrees with him, deflects accountability, doesn’t pay his bills, easily finds the negative, is not uplifting.

He does not have the temperament or gravitas needed for a President of the United States. Yet he is sucking many into his emptiness.

Americans want change, and he is offering it. On the face of it, that is a good thing because, Lord knows, we need it. There will be, though, a grave price to pay under a Trump presidency: consequences!

Our worst instincts of language and respect for others will have a new and lower bar; there will be civil and military disorder, more distrust, protests, and the fabric of our country will be torn as we and he realize that the president of America is decidedly not omnipotent. We will grow tired of his egocentric ways, and he will be abandoned by people of consequence.

Important, too, is that he is not going to make friends with our enemies, and he will make enemies of our friends.

We have reached the tipping point. It is critical that we think about the consequences of who he is, the standard bearer for pessimism and fear, cynicism and contempt, gloom and doom.

Gerard Brooker, an English teacher for 25 years, is a resident of Bethel.