For the sake of our nation, we truly hope that the Donald Trump who will become president is the humble man who called for unity in his victory speech – not the divisive bully who tweeted 3 a.m. attacks against a former Miss Universe.
The stark truth is we really don’t know what to expect from a president unlike any other this republic has ever had, the first without previous service in government or the military.
So it was encouraging that Trump’s first words as president-elect were the right ones – dare we say it, presidential. He pledged to bind the country’s wounds, invited his opponents to work with him and promised to be a president for everyone.
Even after arguing repeatedly that Trump was unfit for the presidency, Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama stoically did their duty as well, saying Wednesday that voters have spoken and that we all need to support the president-elect.
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The smooth transition of power is a ritual essential to the survival of our democracy, and after this scorched-earth campaign, even more important. As Obama said, we’re all on the same team and we should all be rooting for Trump to succeed.
But it’s not going to be easy to lead a nation more divided than almost anyone believed, especially for someone who preyed on our differences. The anti-Trump protests that cropped in several cities are proof of that.
To calm jittery markets and ease many fears at home and abroad, Trump can quickly take several important steps.
He has to publicly and specifically reassure Muslims and immigrants and all those he disparaged that they have a place in his America. He also has to reassure our allies that he knows these alliances are the bedrock of our national security, not a protection racket.
As he starts planning his transition to the White House, he can start surrounding himself with smart, reasonable advisers – maybe even a Democrat or two – on both domestic and foreign policy. The team he has now – Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – brought out the worst of Trump during the campaign.
As he begins to get the same intelligence briefings as Obama, Trump must listen closely to our top military and diplomatic officials. He actually doesn’t know more than the generals, and the sooner he realizes that, the better.
He must be far more transparent about his finances, especially his business dealings abroad. To avoid unprecedented conflicts of interest, he must commit to put his assets in a blind trust he won’t control.
Oh, and it’d be nice if he disavowed his threat to lock Clinton up.
Trump tapped into deep anger at globalization and the establishment, but it’s not certain that he can deliver on the promises that appealed to so many voters – or that he really wants to. It was noticeable that in his victory speech, he didn’t once mention deporting illegal immigrants or building the border wall.
Congress must check Trump’s excesses and bad judgment. Republicans will control both the House and Senate, but they and Trump aren’t on the same page on all big issues. He signed on to their tax cut plan that will be a windfall to the wealthy, but they’re unlikely to go along with his huge infrastructure plan.
As for Democrats, they have a lot of soul-searching to do after this shocking and resounding defeat. But the time for recriminations is short. As Clinton said, they must give Trump a chance to lead. But as Senator-elect Kamala Harris declared so passionately Tuesday night, they also must fight to protect civil liberties and preserve progressive values. Obama’s legacy, including health care reform and the Paris climate change accord, shouldn’t be wiped away so easily.
Trump also can’t ignore California. He offered little to the most populous state and world’s sixth largest economy. Hopefully his new economic advisers will let him know that America can’t prosper unless California’s economy hums along.
On Jan. 20, Donald Trump will become the most powerful person in the world. If he is really going to make America great, he has to prove – both by word and deed – that he’s not the man we saw for 17 months on the campaign trail, but the one who graciously accepted the American people’s trust.