Americans had every reason to hope that incessant drama in our body politic would be over on Election Day. Things started out promising enough with Hillary Clinton’s gracious concession speech and a positive meeting between President Obama and the President-elect Donald Trump. It even looked like a budding bromance in the making.
We expected there to be a minor amount of contention over the president-elect’s cabinet appointments followed by some theater in the Senate hearings and then confirmation. Most Americans believe that Trump, barring any egregious nominations, should be able to have his own set of advisors in place, even if one of them is his unpaid son-in-law.
Consistent with this unconventional political year, however, the ramp-up to the inauguration has seemed like an unfortunate extension of the campaign. Every day has brought noisy, contentious political confrontations that have been nothing short of exhausting. The most dramatic was the disclosure by U.S. intelligence agencies of Russia’s hacking with hopes of tilting the election to Trump. President Obama, with the support of many Republicans, rightly imposed sanctions on Russia.
Trump angrily believes people are trying to delegitimize his presidency. He should let that go. Most Americans, no doubt, have accepted that Donald Trump will be the President of the United States.
Particularly irksome is the implication by some that the Russians effectively duped enough Americans to tilt the election. The idea that a country with an authoritarian tradition can affect the outcome of our election insults the American people. I am very sure that American voters clearly understood the difference between Trump and Clinton. In terms of how America chooses to handle the bullies from the East, we will see the new president’s approach soon enough.One thing for sure, Trump’s advisors need to use their influence to restore a level of trust between the new president and the intelligence community.
Adding to the pre-inaugural tension is Congress’ rush to repeal Obamacare without proffering a replacement plan — or even giving Trump the chance to lay one out for the American people. Democrats, tired of being whipped around by criticism of the Affordable Care Act, are salivating at the political consequences of the Republicans potentially letting millions of people flounder without health insurance. Of course, a fair number Democrats and Republicans are also worried about the human impact. Americans, who rely on government support of all kinds for their healthcare needs are justified in having a high level of angst.
While all this may seem depressing, I’m reminded of a question I always asked my students at the University of Miami on the very first night of my political science class: “What happens on Jan. 19 every four years in the United States?” Over a period of 10 years no one had the answer, and I would then say “absolutely nothing. “ They would look at me mystified. Then I would explain how remarkable it is that on the night before the most powerful country on Earth transfers power from one person to another, no one loses sleep. No one fears for their life.
We take this for granted in the United States, but it is so special and unique in the course of human history. I have supported far more losers than winners for president. But every four years I have the confidence of knowing that we don’t have to fear for the safety of our families or fellow citizens.
I am pretty sure when we woke up today the sun rose in the east. My advice is to drown out the noise — as President Obama said, it is going to be OK. As sure as I am that the sun will set in the west tonight, I know our system of government will work. If I were a member of Congress I would be at the inaugural with our former Republican and Democratic presidents to celebrate that fact alone.
And on this day, I will also remind myself I am lucky to live the United States.
Mike Abrams is former chairman of the Dade Democratic Party, a former state legislator and currently a policy adviser to Ballard Partners.