Hillary Clinton and President Obama generously used all the right and proper words in their post-election addresses. They shouldn’t have done that.
I didn’t have a problem with their calls for a peaceful, democratic transition of power or their eloquent efforts to buck up their bereft supporters and soothe the shock felt by millions of people across the nation.
What bothered me was they both talked about Donald Trump like he was a normal president-elect, a fellow servant of the Constitution, a well-prepared guardian of the executive branch.
Donald Trump is none of those things — not by a mile.
I am disappointed that Clinton and Obama went along with the make-believe, whatever their reasons.
The election is over, OK. But it is plainly wrong to pretend Trump is remotely normal, reliable and respectful of the Constitution he is to serve. Clinton and especially Obama have a duty to keep sounding the alarm, prevailing on Americans to re-engage with government and be vigilant toward this wild-card president-elect.
Trump already has been “normalized” enough by the fawning TV infotainment industry and spineless Republican Party. The unimaginable has happened, and we’d be reckless to pretend it’s business as usual now.
Do not take from this that I think Democrats should copy the Mitch McConnell stonewall strategy and try to block every move Trump makes with total disregard of real-life consequences.
We know virtually nothing about what Trump might do in office, which is unprecedented. But say Trump proposes a major investment in infrastructure as he said he would. Democrats should aggressively help make that happen. If Trump tries to make Newt Gingrich secretary of state or Rudy Giuliani attorney general, the Dems should go to the mattresses and pray to Jimmy Stewart.
Now that Trump is president-elect (did I just write that?), my assessment hasn’t changed. My concern for the country has ballooned. No way am I giving Trump any free-ride passes. No one should, especially Republicans.
I also am despondent that the values Trump embodies are admired by so many Americans. My confidence that I have even one iota of insight into America in 2016 has been decimated.
Late into election night, my son, who is a college senior, texted, “Tonight is my generation’s Pearl Harbor.”
This resonated on several levels. Nov. 8, 2016, is a date that will now live in infamy. Unlike Pearl Harbor, Trump’s election was preventable. In my son and daughter’s view, their generation did not rise to the threat or even break a sweat worrying.
What most struck my son: Pearl Harbor propelled young Americans to enlist and serve. This is what my son and his cranky father hope for now. We hope that the Trump surprise attack inspires more than it depresses. My son thinks too few young people in college and new jobs — members of the elite denounced by the Trump movement — will enlist in a Trump counter-revolution.
The cause of opposing Trumpism — whatever that turns out to be — doesn’t mean sabotaging his administration for partisan gain. There are infinite opportunities for all kinds of people. For the so-called political elite, it means fixing systems and habits we know are poison. (That is code for “reform,” a word banned by Trump’s language police, I hear.)
For journalism, especially TV, a starter list includes ditching the lust for talking-head arguments, infotainment, celebrity anchors, paid shills, addiction to predictions and grooming reporters’ personal brands.
For Congress, well, it probably means a total deprograming at a cult-rescue asylum at Gitmo. These guys are programmed like lab rats to crave re-election. Fixing that is no simple HR challenge. The good ones in Congress need to be vigilantes on Trump’s trail. They should come from both parties. (I know, hippos should do yoga, too.)
For voters — and pardon my French — get off your butts. You said you wanted radical change when you voted for Trump, yet you re-elected almost every incumbent. Not so swift. And too few people even bother to vote. Tweeting is replacing attending a school board meeting as civic participation. Americans’ knowledge of basic facts in the news (Where is Syria? Where was Obama born?) is appalling, too.
You’re very right to think the system is broken; you’re wrong to think you’re innocent.
None of us are.
And our country is on the precipice of a dark, risky era for just that reason.
Dick Meyer is chief Washington correspondent for the Scripps Washington Bureau and DecodeDC.
©2016 Scripps Washington Bureau