By Simon Gonzalez
We are a divided nation. Granted, that’s not exactly a newsflash. It was a frequently repeated theme before the presidential election in November, and the stories have intensified in the run-up to Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday.
Back in October, stories focused on the difficulties presumptive winner Hillary Clinton would face in uniting the country because of how many Trump supporters loathed her. There were more “divided country” reports after Trump’s upset win, but speculation about how the president-elect would unite the country vanished. It seemed to be taken for granted that we were now hopelessly ripped asunder.
The idea that this is somehow a new phenomenon is silly. We are always divided politically. In every presidential election, about half of the folks who bother to cast a ballot are backing the losing candidate.
Even so, there is ample evidence that the country is highly divided. It’s not clear, though, just who is to blame.
Mr. Trump isn’t helping things, to be sure. It would help if he could use diplomacy and tact and stop reacting to the media, celebrities and anyone who disagrees with him. Sticks and stones, Mr. Trump. Rise above it!
At least he acknowledged the divide and the anger and promised to do something. “IT WILL CHANGE!!!!” he tweeted.
But there’s only so much Trump can do. It’s difficult to come together with people determined to widen the rift.
If you are truly interested in uniting the country, you don’t riot in the streets because your candidate lost or threaten to disrupt inauguration events. You don’t start impeachment petitions before the man has even taken the oath of office.
You don’t organize boycotts of a company because a board member donated her own money to Trump’s campaign. You don’t threaten to blacklist singers for performing at the inauguration.
And you don’t boycott the inauguration because you “don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president.”
That last quote is from Georgia congressman John Lewis, who went on to say, “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”
In the interest of fostering unity, let’s review some facts.
Some 63 million people voted for Trump. Those dastardly Russians didn’t make them do it. The emails leaked to Wikileaks weren’t fiction. If they destroyed Clinton’s candidacy, it was because they exposed the dark inner workings of the Democratic National Committee and her staff.
The election is not illegitimate because Clinton “won” the popular vote. Trump carried a majority or plurality in 30 states, giving him a comfortable margin in the Electoral College. He ran according to the rules, and triumphed.
Trump won because he out-campaigned his opponent in the swing states, particularly in the Rust Belt. He flipped 220 counties that voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Even “Time” magazine, no friend of the incoming president, ascribed the shift to “the success of his trade and economic message in the nation’s heartland.”
Like him or not, whether we voted for him or not — Mr. Trump is about to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. The best thing we can do now is let him do the job for which he was elected.
It is ridiculous to root for Trump to fail. If he reduces the debt, boosts the economy, simplifies the tax code, and pushes the Republicans to come up with a better health insurance plan, that’s great for everyone.
Trump has appointed conservatives to his cabinet, but he is not an ideologue. The Never Trumpers on the Republican side opposed him because he’s not conservative enough.
North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis got it right in an editorial run by the Charlotte Observer: “If the election was a mandate for anything, it was for elected officials in both parties to break through the gridlock to finally start producing results. … Republicans should remember that when Trump campaigned, he wasn’t holding up a conservative manifesto at every rally. Instead, his message was simple: cut deals and deliver results.”
If Trump can do that, maybe he really can heal the divide.