It is our collective frayed nerves that worry me. Christmas cheer has been replaced by dirty snow, unclean toilets, clogged roads and unpaid bills.
The sun is shining. But California is deceptive. Beneath the surface, even here, gloom lurks.
In Los Angeles, the teachers are getting ready to go on strike. And the kids? Do their brains go on strike?
Does anything work anymore?
"Breathe deep," I tell a friend who is about to explode about something someone has said about President Trump. It was a hard Christmas at too many tables. Politics is important — I'm the last to say otherwise — but there is something very wrong when our patriotism and love of country is somehow turning us against one another.
Mitt Romney is right. The fish rots from the head. And we are all being infected by the disease. We must not let him destroy our spirit, our decency, our fellowship, even as he turns his back on our policies.
Shine the light on him. Make it bright. Do no more than repeat his words. He needs no commentary. His own words undo him. His stunts reveal him. His allies shame him.
The problem, Mr. President, is not the left, and it is not the media, and it is not Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer or CNN or the Washington Post. The problem is not Mitt Romney or Nikki Haley or the establishment Republicans or the Clintons or the DNC or Michael Cohen or Robert Mueller or James Comey or Dianne Feinstein.
The problem is not one that can be solved by adding another lobbyist to the Cabinet or another Fox Newser to the Cabinet.
The problem is the president himself, and the more we see of him, the worse it is. Unfiltered Trump is tearing us apart; that he doesn't even care is a measure of everything that makes him the wrong man for the job, and of the danger we face that could yet get worse.
We need some heroes and some patriots, not in anonymous columns and careful leaks but in honest testimony. It is time for Republicans in this country to stand up, to turn Congress into an institution bound by the rule of law and not the demands of partisan politics.
There is no other way.
Trump is liked even less than Pelosi. I'd like to say Pelosi is liked more, but no one is liked. The faces you see are disgust. And fear. And anger. As we look toward our nation's capital, those are the faces of America in 2019.
I will not let the hate make me hate. I will not let the fear make me walk away. I will not turn my back, as much as I would like.
And I will thank every Republican who will hold out his or her hand.
We are better than this.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)