Editor’s Note: The presidential election of 2016 has been the most disturbing political event of its kind in my lifetime. Nothing much is going to change that, and I think we have some very bad (and very dangerous) years ahead. All we can do is try to be as optimistic as possible ... which ain’t easy.


Take a Deep Breath and Calm Down

I hate to say, “I told you so,” but, on March 25 of this year, in an article entitled, “Coming to Terms With President Trump,” I wrote, “President Trump … it appears we’ll be seeing it way too often.” Sometimes, I hate being right.

I’d written two op-eds for the post-election period: one for a President Clinton and an alternative for a President Trump. Obviously, the former is scrap paper, and, upon rereading, I realized the latter needed trashing as well. Sometimes, you have to just step back, breathe deeply and ignore your own worst impulses.

During the past year, I criticized the president-elect relentlessly, urging a lesser-of-two-evils vote. I stand by this position; however, the election’s over now. With the electoral votes tallied, we can get back to arguing about why the Knicks stink, whether Bob Dylan deserves a Nobel Prize and if there’s really a war on Xmas. I may not be beaming with pride about my country these days, but we’re all still Americans, and we need to start acting like it.

If it makes you feel better to march in the streets and shout, “He’s not my president!” that’s your right as an American. But understand that it’s pointless and simply not true. If you want to block traffic or burn stuff, as some college kids have done, that’s not your right, so cut it out. (College kids do lots of dumb things they’ll eventually be embarrassed about: In 1972, I voted for Richard Nixon, the only Republican presidential candidate I’ve ever supported. I was young and stupid, and I’m not doing any bragging about it.)

If it makes you feel better to repeat ad infinitum that Hillary actually received more votes than Trump, go ahead. But remember, we’ve had the Electoral College for more than 200 years, and getting more votes than George W. Bush didn’t help Al Gore back in 2000.

If it makes you feel better to denigrate the “deplorables” by repeating Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s description of Trump as the “textbook definition of racism,” that’s okay too. But what’s important to consider is whether they voted for him despite his exploitation of xenophobia, bigotry and misogyny or because of it. Since you can’t really see into people’s hearts, it’s likely to be an inconclusive and unsatisfying rumination.

 

If it makes you feel better to endlessly repeat fact-checker PolitiFact’s statistic that Trump was lying 70% of the time, you might want to look on the bright side. Some of the campaign rhetoric that outraged so many American might have been part of that 70%, and may simply disappear. I, for one, never believed he was going to round up and deport 14 million illegals, and the Muslim travel ban was never realistic.

November 8 filled me with despair. However, November 9 was therapeutic. Hillary delivered a wonderful concession speech, and Trump thanked her for her years of service, without saying anything about harassing her into prison. He was more gracious than at any time during this entire election cycle. (As expected, Obama’s comments were classy and conciliatory.)

On November 10, Trump and Obama met cordially for 90 minutes, and the president-elect was more presidential than he’d been at any point in 2016. What makes America great is that we’re not some “banana republic”: We value the peaceful transfers of power that have been taking place since 1797. And if you want to complain about Trump’s promise not to be so gracious if he’d lost, remember that you can never know what he would have done, and that too might have been part of the 70% campaign hyperbole.

There’s a lot of talk about doing to Trump what the GOP did to Obama. Mitch McConnell and Sean Hannity considered it their duty to make Obama a one-term president, and to oppose every one of his initiatives. But he was re-elected and goes out with sky-high approval ratings. If you consider yourself a better American than Rush Limbaugh, who said he was rooting for Obama (and, by extension, our country) to fail, then prove it by exhorting fellow Democrats to be patriotic, rather than un-American.

We’re all on the same ship. If you’re hoping the captain goes down, then you want the ship to sink, which borders on the treasonous. If you’ve disparaged the GOP’s disgraceful obstructionism for the past eight years, it’s hypocritical to advocate for it now. I have to live here, so I hope Trump becomes a great president. Sometimes people grow in the job.

During the interregnum, we might all do well to hold our tongues and see what happens before passing judgment. If you think it would be great to impeach Trump at the Inaugural Ball, just remember what that gets you — Mike Pence. And Congress is firmly in Republican hands, so it ain’t gonna happen anyway.

Finally, take some time off from social media. Facebook is full of unverified, accusatory nonsense from every side and probably causes migraines. Listen to some music, take your dog for a walk in the woods or go fishing.

I believe three things have damaged the country I love: Republicans, conservatives and fundamentalist Christians, three groups that obviously overlap to a great extent. Many conservative Republicans claim Trump is neither a true conservative (he was a liberal not so long ago), nor a real Republican (he was a Democrat not so long ago). I don’t think anyone believes he’s a fundamentalist, and his claim that the Bible is his favorite book might also be part of the 70%. It’s possible that Trump won’t precipitate the apocalypse.

I’m trying my best to see the glass as half full, so I’d like to reiterate an eight-month-old quote from myself: “America has survived Warren G. Harding, James Buchanan and George W. Bush. We’ll survive President Trump.” At least it’s something to hope for.


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