Sure, if you’re in the approximately 52 percent majority of voters who supported someone other than Donald Trump, go ahead and mourn. When a former Ku Klux Klan leader like David Duke is giddily celebrating a political triumph for his values, how can we not ache for our own?
Yet, like it or not, we Americans have a new president-elect, and it’s time to buck up. I’ve seen past elections that were regarded as the end of the world – including, in many Democratic circles, the Reagan triumph of 1980 – and the republic survived. This time as well, our institutions are stronger than any one man. We are not Weimar Germany.
It was disgraceful that many Republicans eight years ago tried to make President Barack Obama fail. That’s not the path to emulate. Today, having lost, we owe it to our nation to grit our teeth and give President-elect Trump a chance.
Having said that, Trump has talked about repealing Obamacare, deporting millions of our neighbors, instituting religious tests, overturning Obama’s actions on climate change, and moving the Supreme Court far to the right. How can progressives respond with anything but resistance – or emigration? As it became clear that Trump had been elected, Canada’s website for immigration crashed from too much traffic.
It’s complicated, but let me offer a few reasons to hold off on your visa application:
▪ Trump is inexperienced and makes extreme statements, but he’s not ideological. He used to be pro-choice, then suggested that women should be punished for getting an abortion, but neither is a core view – because Trump doesn’t have a core. He is an opportunist. He blustered about building a wall and banning Muslims but won’t do either, because those ideas are unworkable. (The wall could cost $25 billion.)
The area where Trump would be most dangerous is foreign affairs, because there he can act largely at will, unconstrained by law. Yet it is perfectly possible that Trump will appoint as secretary of state an experienced Republican like Richard Haass, with Stephen Hadley as secretary of defense, thus signaling that adults are in charge of foreign policy.
The thought of Trump with the nuclear codes is terrifying, but if he was to give a crazy order, no one knows if aides would circumvent it. In 1974, when President Richard Nixon was drinking heavily during the Watergate crisis, his defense secretary, James Schlesinger, ordered the military not to obey any presidential instruction for a nuclear attack without checking further.
▪ Democrats are too quick to caricature Trump supporters as deplorables. Sure, some are racists or misogynists, but many are good people who had voted for Obama in the past. My rural hometown, Yamhill, Oregon, is pro-Trump, and I can tell you: The voters there are not all bigoted monsters, but well-meaning people upended by economic changes such as the disappearance of good manufacturing jobs. They feel betrayed by the Democratic and Republican establishments, and finally a candidate spoke to them.
Liberals condemn the stereotyping of Latinos or Muslims but have been quick to stereotype Trump voters.
Look, ordinary Americans have not somehow lurched into bigotry, even if they have backed a man I consider a bigot. A Bloomberg poll found that if Obama had been allowed to seek a third term, he would have defeated Trump in a landslide, 53 percent to 41 percent. And just four years ago, the presidential election was between the African-American son of a single mom and a Mormon.
▪ Trump was absolutely right that the economic system is broken for ordinary Americans, especially working-class men. Since 1979, real hourly wages for men have essentially been unchanged for the bottom half of Americans by income.
Today, we’re a country divided not only by ideology but also by identity. Whites voted for Trump by a margin of 21 percentage points; blacks for Clinton by 80 percentage points. If it had been only women voting, Clinton would have won in a landslide. (Thank God for women and people of color!)
Unfortunately, Trump’s proposed policies would exacerbate the inequity that he campaigned on. And normal checks and balances will not apply, for he will be working with a Republican Senate, a Republican House and a majority Republican Supreme Court.
One crucial check could be the news media – if we are up to it. I’ve been very critical this year of the role that we in the media, especially cable television, played in Trump’s rise. We need to be watchdogs, not lap dogs.
The time for ranting is over, and it’s time to accept the inevitable. Trump has surprised us in many ways this year, and let’s hope and pray that he will stun us once again by repairing the tears he made in our social fabric. Let’s give him a chance – for those are our democratic values.
And if he falls short, let’s hold him accountable – for the sake of those same values.