I woke up this morning to find my daughter dressed all in black. A budding feminist with friends both brown and Muslim, she is worried about what a Trump presidency will mean for her and her future. Her fear is understandable. An orange man-child with a fragile ego and a Twitter account now has access to the nuclear codes.
“Donnie” Trump (as I prefer to call him in keeping with his maturity level) is an opportunistic blowhard, but there is a difference between a president and a carnival barker. Campaigning is one thing, governing another. And when it comes to governing, there are good reasons to believe that we are going to be mostly okay.
1. We are not going to repeal Obamacare.
Many Americans have opposed the Affordable Care Act from the beginning, but they have also supported many of its key provisions. Few want to go back to the days when they could be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. It is hard to imagine a Republican repealing tax credits for small businesses to cover their employees or taking away discounts for seniors to buy prescriptions. If the Affordable Care Act gets repealed, it will be in name only. Whatever replaces it will be mostly the same. It may even contain a few improvements now that Republicans no longer have to posture against a black Democrat in the White House.
2. We are not going to build a wall.
Mexico will not pay for it. Congress won’t either. One-thousand miles of twenty-foot high concrete slabs is going to be expensive, infeasible, and ineffective. It will not take much research for congress to decide that Trump cannot keep this promise. The same goes for his promise to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. It will be a logistical nightmare and a humanitarian crisis. Americans are plenty racist, but most of our racism is subterranean; it exists as sets of stereotypes and biases. Trumps xenophobia has done much to energize his basket of deplorables, but most of the Americans who voted for him are not deplorable people. Enthusiasm for mass deportation is not as high as Trump and his supporters would have us believe.
3. We are not going to torture terrorists and murder their families.
“Torture works,” Trump said. The senate and most experts disagree. At least Trump is calling torture what it is. He lacks the discipline to apply the euphemism, “enhanced interrogation,” as a salve to our consciences. Republicans may support torture because they think it makes them look tough, but now that the high from our post-9/11 jingoism has worn off, it is doubtful the public will tolerate bringing back waterboarding.
The Director of the CIA, John Brennan, has said he would disobey any order to use torture on a prisoner. As for killing the families of terrorists, a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, there are good reasons to believe that the military would disobey that order too. Many of those who voted for Trump were voting against Clinton. The racism and bigotry Trump’s campaign has exposed is disturbing, but it is not the majority. Individuals can do horrible things under certain conditions, but Trump has not created those conditions.
Let me put it this way: Think of every soldier you know. Now, how many of them would willfully slaughter children?
4. Trump will face serious opposition from Congress.
If the Republicans have taught us anything over the past eight years, it is that a small group of people can stymie the reasonable plans of a reasonable president, and Trump is anything but reasonable. It is true that the Republicans hold a majority in the House and Senate, but too many of those Republicans, and more importantly their constituents, have expressed misgivings about Trump. Trump will get no blank checks. It will not be difficult for Democrats to find allies on the other side, especially if Trump proposes anything that might “go too far.” Ironically, we may get more moderate laws under Trump than we would have been able to get with Clinton, because congress would have opposed her at every step. Trump, on the other hand, is a mile wide and a half-inch thick. Other people will have to come up with the laws that get passed, and those people will not be motivated to make Clinton look bad or to make Trump look good.
5. Trump probably will not last long in the White House.
I predict three years before impeachment. The role of the media so far has been to report on the “Trump spectacle.” Few resources were dedicated to the kind of investigative journalism that would have prevented The Great Debacle of 2016. But now the media itself is at risk. While Trump has made fascistic statements that threaten a free press, he has also talked about making it easier to sue reporters and news organizations. So forget the Constitution! Trump is now a threat to their bottom line, making him a clear and present danger, and justifying a reallocation of resources into actual news. Trump has gone to great pains to hide his past, especially his past financial dealings. He is the only president in recent history not to release his tax returns. What little the press has uncovered so far has already shown him to be a poor businessman, grifter, tax dodger, and sexual predator. Somewhere back there in his past is a crime, and it is only a matter of time before the next Woodward and Bernstein find it.
It may not seem like it now, but we will be better for this in the long run. Can Trump do serious damage to our country? Yes! But the past eight years have shown how good we are at walking ourselves back from the brink. We Americans are a resilient people. We are idiots sometimes, but resilient. The next few years may be tough, but they may be good for us in the long run. Consider how the first black president has fostered conversations about race, power, and privilege that we could not have imagined during the Bush years. There would have been no Barack Obama were it not for President Bush. Bush was a mistake that made us better. Trump can be the same.
Of course, it works the other way too. There would have been no President Trump if there were no President Obama. Trump’s rise to power is just part of what some have called “whitelash.” The past eight years have shown us degrees of ugliness and racism that few Americans wanted to believe still existed. They have helped us to understand how far we still have to go. We Americans tend to oscillate between foolishness and wisdom, shame and pride. But this awkward march we make through history is how we grow as a country.
Make America great again? Hardly. But we may become a greater version of ourselves when this is all over. We will struggle, but we also have an opportunity to strive and to grow. We have an opportunity to work toward that day when we will become the kind of people who can look back on the year 2016 and say to ourselves, “Okay. Let’s never do that again.”