I have taken a few days to think about how to respond to the tentative election of Donald Trump as President. It is important to remember that his election is not official until the Electoral College votes in December. But I do not expect faithless electors to change the result we saw on Wednesday morning.
Consequently, Trump is — in all likelihood– the next President. His election was a remarkable accomplishment. I have, for the last year or so, been pretty tough on Trump. I do not think I was ever unfair, and though my criticism was at times perhaps a bit biting, I generally tried to tie those criticisms to my own beliefs that the American presidency requires a certain kind of constitutionalism, and a certain kind of mind. That said, in several posts over the last few months, I cautioned that Trump remained a viable candidate, polls and controversies notwithstanding. Now that the election is over, I believe that the President-Elect deserves our support and encouragement. It is not necessary to admire him or to endorse his words or actions in the past (nor should we easily forget those things or treat them as if they did not happen). And it certainly is just and appropriate that Americans challenge him when he is wrong. But he will have many difficult battles to face and many problems to solve that, for now, seem nearly insoluble. And if Hillary Clinton was right when she said that we are Stronger Together, then surely that sentiment applies whether she or Donald Trump is President.
As the new administration is formed, I offer two observations — pieces of advice, really.
First, to the Trump transition team: the campaign is over. Neither Hillary Clinton, nor Barack Obama, is the enemy now. Governing requires discipline, accountability, prudence, wisdom, and fidelity to the Constitution. Governing a great Nation cannot ever be about vengeance or score-settling. Surround the President-elect with serious, thoughtful, sober men and women who care more about their country than their party, and more about the next four years than the last twelve months. Rid the Trump White House of dark and disdainful characters who will only sow division and hatred, seeking out vendettas and governing simply with an axe to grind. Whatever their value during a nasty and divisive campaign, when it comes to governing, these are the people who will lead you to the path of ruin. Aim higher than your campaign did.
Second, to those who did not support Trump (especially Republicans): do not categorically reject the opportunity to serve the country under President Trump. I fully understand that there will be good reasons not to do so. But the President must be able to govern. And his success in governing will in large measure depend upon the quality of the people who surround him.
There are many smart, thoughtful, patriotic people who could assist the President in carrying out his constitutional duties. And many of them did not support, or vote for, Donald Trump. Some of them, in fact, voted for Hillary Clinton. I hope the President-elect will find as many of these people as he can and bring them to his side, whether they voted for him or not. Blind loyalty is not more valuable than a decent and competent constitutional government.