If there’s one thing the United States is good at, it’s making history. Eight years ago, for instance, the nation elected its first black president. Tuesday night (or more accurately early Wednesday morning), it elected a businessman with no prior experience in public policy beyond commentary on TV and radio shows and igniting questions about the aforementioned black president’s birthplace.
And yet, the election of casino mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump highlights something else significant: the belief that Washington, under both Democrats and Republicans, has become institutionally incestuous, totally concerned about feathering its financial nests for upcoming elections, ducking critical issues such as immigration reform and dancing to the tune of lobbyists with deep pockets.
While Trump’s rhetoric quickly spilled into xenophobia of the worst sort, he also convinced many in the public that their public servants — again, both Republicans and Democrats — were on the take. Indeed, when he began his campaign a year and a half ago, this was one of his more compelling messages — one quickly lost in outrageous behavior and hate-filled digressions.
The latter tactics helped win Trump an election — and now, confident in his victory and with Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan clearly falling into line, maybe Trump’s more subtle message about reforming government scruples will predominate. Surely, that’s one thing all can hope for. The danger, of course, is that Trump will quickly succumb to the very system he campaigned against. Time will tell. So will we.
This election has revealed a troubling divide in America, one in which we readily vilify those of rival political parties more than we do our actual enemies abroad who pray for our deaths. Trump and his Republicans must now do whatever they can to unify this wounded nation. They must not make the mistakes that Democrats made eight years ago by shutting out Republican voices on issues such as health care.
By the same token, Democrats and even those Republicans who opposed Trump on political or ethical principles should hold their fire and let the man settle into power come January. Consider fully his Cabinet choices. Consider his advisers. As we mentioned in our Wednesday editorial, for instance, the presence of local pastor Ramiro Peña on his Hispanic Advisory Council suggests that Trump has an open mind on such issues as immigration reform. Again, we will see.
For those who are afraid, we urge calm. This mighty republic is still governed by the Constitution. Under its devices, after all, Donald Trump was elected. And if lawmakers are true to their own oaths and make the welfare of their constituents a priority, then it will be under the Constitution’s devices, and its devices only, that Trump will govern. And we all have a role to play in making his presidency a success for all.