Thursday, November 10, 2016

Who is President Trump going to be?

Donald Trump has been given great responsibilities and great power by the voters of the United States.  This campaign has not given us much reason to think that he can rise above petty politics and be the better version of himself that the office demands.

But the future of this country depends on him doing just that.   One thing that we do know is that throwing insults at him is not the way, because -- as he told us early on -- his mode of operation is:   "When somebody hits me, I hit back harder."   And he has demonstrated that over and over.

For him to have any semblance of a successful presidency -- completely apart from the specific policy differences we have with him -- he will have to get over the idea that he knows more than the experts.   He needs to accept help from good advisers, to learn from them, to value their advice, to have people around him that will tell him what he needs to hear rather than just what he wants to hear.   And he must humble himself enough to listen to them.

And we have to do our part too.   I was very much tempted to re-post something someone sent me that purported to be a very damning, cynical statement from Trump back in 1998, about running for president and fooling gullible listeners to a certain TV network.   I wanted to believe it true and fling it in his face and, even more, fling it in the face of all those people who naively voted for him, thinking they could believe what he said.  But I decided to fact check it first.   I learned that it is a fake that's been circulating around Facebook and the internet and has been thoroughly debunked by Factcheck as well as the magazine that it supposedly appeared in.  I'm glad I checked first, instead of piling on.

That's not to say that I think the gist of the story is untrue.  I do think that Trump and some FoxNews anchors have told lies, repeated them over and over, and that their loyal watchers believe them.    He is very much a con man or, as Fareed Zakaria has called him, "a bullshit artist."

What I'm talking about here is my attitude -- wanting to take this "proof" that his candidacy was all along a con game -- and keep that meme going.   The Factcheck brought me up short and gave me a moment of reflection.   It's time to let go of that, no matter if it is true.   It wouldn't change the election outcome.  Let's start a fresh page with him in a new role with new expectations.   Let's see what he can do with it now that his election is a done deal.  Let's see if there is something other than the bullshit artist in Trump.

Hillary  Clinton said it well in her concession speech Wednesday morning:  "We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead."

I'm talking to myself mostly.   I think it's time to stop denigrating Trump and throwing all of his own words back at him.   Let's see if he can put his own hateful rhetoric behind him and begin anew.   That doesn't mean that it was not true, but the time for that is over -- at least until we see if he can respond to respect with respect.   Respect for the office of president, even if we don't respect him.

I understand that there are protest marches going on in cities all over the country -- and so far they seem to be peaceful.    That's fine.   I hope they can continue to be peaceful, because it won't serve anyone's good purpose to turn violent or to have outsiders come in to stir up violence.   And people need a way to express their displeasure with this outcome.

I realize also that I can sit here safely in my own home, can afford to be calm and reflective, unlike some who would be more directly affected by the alarming things Trump has said he would do.   People are very afraid.   Muslims are wondering if they should leave the country.   Undocumented workers from Mexico worry that they may be separated from their families.  African-Americans fear going backwards in policing tactics that threaten them.  I understand those fears and the reasons for them.   What I'm trying to think about here is the possibility that Donald Trump really won't do all those things -- or can't do some of them -- that he's been saying.   That some of that was the bullshit artist talking.

Just to be clear:  opposing his policies is another thing than what I'm talking about here:  turning to a new page on the rhetoric.  It's going to be a very discouraging four years as a Congress and President bring changes that undo most of what President Obama accomplished.   That's going to be bad, maybe very bad, even dangerous.  But I'm talking about something else tonight, about Donald Trump, the man who will be our president, whether we like it or not.

This is not just a Pollyanna thing.  It is in our own interest to help him unite us.   We have to be bigger than the Republicans have been these last eight years, trying to make President Obama fail.   Bigger than Trump himself was in challenging Obama's very legitimacy as a birthright citizen.

Let's start by giving Trump space to be his better self . . . and -- dare we hope -- to grow in the office?

In fact, we may get an early, quick read on that in how he speaks about these protests.   First, he should take them as a serious expression of the opposition -- who, he said in his acceptance speech, he will also be the president for.    Does he recognize their fears and that he has given them reason to be afraid?  Will he say something to reassure them?  If he talks about them the way he has talked about Black Lives Matter protests, then the gloves are off.   It's his first chance to show whether he has it in him to unite our diverse and divided country.


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