This OpEd published in The Sun by my dear and long time friend and colleague Professor Renford Reese was sent to me with a heartbreaking personal message I will keep to myself. Yet in these trying times his very sensible opinion is more precious than ever. His flawless writing speaks of gold.
Donald Trump’s surprising presidential election shows the strength and the weakness of the American democratic process. It is simultaneously both a strength and a weakness that virtually anyone can become president of the United States.
Trump’s provocative campaign rhetoric will make forgiveness, reconciliation and acceptance of his legitimacy difficult for many. No other presidential candidate in our history has used such incendiary language to demean so many groups of Americans.
Trump’s rhetoric suggests that he never actually thought he would become president because at some point he would have realized that as president he would have to govern the very people he was alienating.
After several months of antagonistic rants, Trump now wants to be a statesman. His conciliatory acceptance speech exemplified the graciousness that we expect from our leaders. This speech, however, is symbolic of why Trump will fail as president.
He did not galvanize waves of angry voters by being conciliatory. His constituents want Trump to be Trump. They will want him to continue to engage in “red meat” politics. But Trump is quickly realizing that there is a difference between being a presidential candidate and being the president.
Because of his extreme positions as a candidate, he will have to betray his supporters once he takes office. It has already started with his praise of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
If I am a staunch Trump supporter and I believed him when he said that President Obama was not born in the U.S., and if I believed him when he said that Obama was the worst president in U.S. history then I would be curious and disturbed that Trump recently called Obama “a very good man” who has accomplished a lot. I would also be perplexed by his praise for his opponent regarding her outstanding service to our country when only days beforehand he was leading the chant “Lock her up.”
The fiercely anti-establishment candidate has assembled a transition team that is made up largely of establishment Republicans who will place other establishment Republicans in key positions.
There will continue to be instances such as these that will puzzle diehard Trump supporters and will make them question his authenticity.
Trump supporters will quickly come to realize that President Trump will not be able to do many of the things that he promised he would do as a candidate. He will not build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it. He will not round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants; Paul Ryan recently confirmed this. He will not get rid of Obamacare; he has already reneged on this promise. His ban on Muslims has disappeared from his website. He will not overturn the Iran deal. He will not implement congressional term limits; Mitch McConnell recently confirmed this. He will not lock “her” up; he has already backpedaled on this. He will not end the gridlock in Washington.
When his supporters realize that he cannot do what he claimed, they will feel betrayed. Trump should know that in America, love turns to hate as quick as you can ask, “How?”
Moreover, if Trump supporters do not have a job the day before his inauguration they will not have a job the day after his inauguration. Trump will not magically transform their economic condition. The magic show is over.
Trump promised immediate and dramatic change, which you can only guarantee in a speech. American politics is more complex than a stump speech. It is comprised of compromise and incremental progress, which is something that was not explained at his campaign rallies.
The U.S. president has multiple roles in our democracy. He is the commander in chief, chief executive, chief of state, chief diplomat and chief legislator. In order to be effective in all of these roles, it requires someone who has the intellectual bandwidth, someone who can pay meticulous attention to detail, and someone who is not easily distracted by non-presidential matters.
Trump’s political brand was based on “scapegoat” politics. But with a Republican House and Senate and no Obama or Hillary to blame, he will be uninspired and uninspiring. The media will scrutinize his every move.
Given his past behavior, simply avoiding impeachment might become a benchmark of success for him.
Trump is beginning to realize that he should be careful of what he asks for. His supporters will soon realize this, too. It will be clear in due time that Trump is in over his head as president and his supporters will soon realize that they were hoodwinked by a masterful showman.
And in the end, we can thank our democracy for allowing “anyone” to become president.