What a day. I woke up once again wondering how the hell Donald Trump could have been elected to the presidency. It still seems unreal to me that enough people in enough places voted for this guy, enough to edge out a flawed, but much more qualified candidate. Unlike some of the liberal persuasion, I don’t call into question the legitimacy of his election. I have faith in our country and its traditions. I know the vote was fair, even if actors inside and outside the country were trying to influence the outcome.
Once again, I had to confirm to myself: yes, indeed, Donald J. Trump was elected. And today, the added twist: he is to be inaugurated. Oh, Jesus.
A couple of hours later, I witnessed Trump getting sworn in. I am old enough to know now when a moment is a moment for the ages, and the transition of the presidency from Barrack Obama to Donald Trump is one of those moments. The ceremony and the pageantry is a wonderful thing, and I am repeating what every news agency today has said over and over: the peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy. And today was an example of how remarkable that is.
I was eager to hear Trump’s speech. I hoped that he would deliver something Trumpy, but inspiring. I hoped that he would broaden his reach and embrace America in full. I hoped he would show some humility. I hoped that the realization that he is now actually the president would inspire some presidential words.
The first three paragraphs found me thinking, “hey! maybe…” But then, oh my! His launch into America as Dystopia made me wonder when he would blurt out “May the odds be ever in your favor!” It was bleak, and frankly, he was not talking about an America I know. He was not talking about a world I know. Once again I realized that I was expecting too much of Trump. How could I be so foolish? Trump doesn’t change.
I saw a pro-Trump friend of mine today. He’s a good guy, and he was happy his man is now sworn in and ready to go. He asked me how I felt about the inauguration. I replied “I am cautiously optimistic.”
I love the term “cautiously optimistic.” It is similar to “trust, but verify.” To me it means, I expect things will go well, but I am not blind to the obstacles. I know it will require vigilance and perhaps an intervention to help circumstances along, but in the end, things will be okay. And that is how I feel about the Trump presidency.
When Trump won the election, it felt as if my heart sank into my gut. There was a moment in the evening where it became clear that he would pull it off. That was a bleak moment for me, because in my heart I believed he was completely inadequate to the task.
The day after the election I thought, well, let’s give the guy a chance because no one wins if he fails. I thought that his winning might change things. I thought he might move from running his campaign to getting ready for the White House. I thought he would cool his rhetoric a bit and try to broaden his scope. Once again, how foolish of me! He and his followers are some of the poorest winners I ever saw. During the transition period, Trump just stayed Trump, thin skin and everything. He confirmed my opinion of him.
As much as I would like to think he will eventually “grow” into the job, which seems ludicrous to me since the man is seventy years old, and as much as it would be great if he decided to put away the twitter and become “presidential,” I know he is not going to do it. He is consistent in his opinions, and he is consistent in his attitude, and he doesn’t seem to learn anything.
Why then am I cautiously optimistic?
Because, I believe in America. I believe the checks and balances of the three branches of government will prevail in the end. Even though Trump seems to have a stacked deck in that he has a Republican Congress and has the next Supreme Court justice nominee in the queue, he does not have carte blanche. Every member of congress and Justice of the Supreme Court is a patriot, not to mention the members of his own branch, and there is only so far that Trump can go. Trump can propose a lot of things, but he can’t do it alone. Contrary to what Trump says, he does not have a mandate. He did not win the popular vote, and he squeaked by in the Electoral College.
I have friends who liken the “rise of Trump” to the rise of Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy. It is important to note that despite Trump’s rhetoric in his Inauguration Speech today, American is not in dire straits, as Germany and Italy were. American in 2017 is not 1930’s Germany.
Germany and Italy, and indeed the rest of Europe, do not have the tradition of liberty that we have in America. The closest thing we have to a national religion is the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, most notably the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. It is sacred to us. The secret of the First Amendment is that while some of us might want to shut other people up, each of us demands and expects to get our First Amendment rights. We do not have the libel laws England has, and we can argue politics and curse the president or mayor all day long without the fear of being locked up. This recognition of our own right to free speech and of the other rights of the constitution are so ingrained in us, it is akin to being in our DNA; they are so much a part of us that we are unconscious of how important they are, or that others in other countries do not have these rights. But they are there, and there is no breaking them.
Yes, it is chilling when Trump talks of “loosening” our libel laws – but he runs up against the congress and the Constitution if he actually tries to do it. It is impossible that the American people will ever accept a law that says that it is libel to criticize a public official. The whole point of the First Amendment is to allow that type of speech to exist.
The machinery of legislation is big and slow. Trump has made lots of promises but he has to “sell” congress and the American People in order to get laws passed. He can’t sign laws that congress doesn’t send to him. His authority to issue executive orders can cause damage, and that is a weak link, but the big things require the legislature and the courts.
I believe after watching this person in action for the last year and a half that he is inadequate for the job. If I am right, it means he will fail and fail big. I think it is inevitable that he will make some seriously policy and legal errors because of his inadequacy. I believe that Congress will do its duty when the time comes and impeach Trump should he need to be impeached. I believe the machinery of government will work to spit out Trump should he really turn toxic.
I also believe that the Press will do its job and tell the truth about what is going on, good and bad. The press’s role will be huge in this presidency. Trump has been extremely hard on the press, but that kind of thing inspires the press. Trump will be covered extremely carefully over the next few weeks and months.
I believe America has the civic immune system to spit out a demagogue like Trump. The Union is bigger than one man. As a result, I am cautiously optimistic.