Sorry, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But I’m not buying it.
Donald Trump isn’t going to have a come-to-White-House moment. He won’t change.
Remember when all those Republicans were convinced that a new and improved, presidential version of Donald Trump would emerge after he won the primary? That never happened.
We ought to know Trump by now. Instead, Democrats are on the verge of repeating delusions that got Trump elected.
I might relate to President Obama’s wanting to go through the motions of a come-together moment because it helps make us feel more American again, but it’s not real. The niceties of democracy don’t apply to dictators. Trump is a dictator-elect, not president-elect. Ever the political idealist, though, Obama took the podium in the Rose Garden Wednesday and implored us to give Trump the benefit of the doubt that he’ll stop dividing Americans with racism, xenophobia, and sexism.
“We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” said Obama, who possesses almost a masochistic belief in Republican decency. Here is a group of lawmakers who shut down the government, repeatedly holding our economy hostage. Former Speaker John Boehner once said he didn’t like the word “compromise.”
Was the old Barack Obama speaking to the nation on Wednesday?
“We all go forward, with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens,” Obama said, the consummate constitutional law professor, “because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy.”
At least in Clinton’s concession speech, she took a more skeptical view of our constitutional obligations as citizens. “Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time,” she said. Even Clinton offered rote affirmations, though, about giving Trump a chance, like, “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”
An open mind? Again, I don’t buy it.
I'm not entirely convinced that Clinton or Obama believes what they're saying. They may be issuing patriotic platitudes out of some misplaced sense of duty.
It was just this month on Tom Joyner’s radio show that Obama was warning voters that if they didn’t turn out, then everything he’d accomplished would be undone.
"If we let this thing slip and I've got a situation where my last two months in office are preparing for a transition to Donald Trump, whose staff people have said that their primary agenda is to have him in the first couple of weeks sitting in the Oval Office and reverse every single thing that we've done," Obama said just a week ago.
Then he was being painfully honest. Now he’s about to be erased.
I don't see why loving democracy means we have to let that happen. Obama’s entire list of accomplishments will be undone in the first “100 days” — that esoteric term of political measurement used to judge new presidents. Those policies are actually more than "accomplishments" to many of us. Trump promised, for example, to immediately undo all executive orders, which means federal contractors the likes of ExxonMobil can once again discriminate against LGBT people in hiring.
Trump will go on a Republican legislate-till-you-drop-athon. His frenemy, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, also gave a news conference Wednesday morning and was asked by a reporter how long it would take to undo Obamacare. “Now we have President Trump coming who is asking us to do this,” Ryan bragged, eager to take health insurance away from millions of Americans.
Trump said during the campaign that he’d consider reinstating the ban on transgender service members. That got scant consideration. We also never talked seriously during the election about privatizing Social Security, a longtime Ryan dream. I don’t see what’s stopping Republicans from making any of these policies real, not when Republicans control the presidency, the Senate, and the House.
What’s stopping them, except people?
We have to find out what makes us powerful — and fast, before it’s too late. Republicans can't be stopped from legislating, and that's not a realistic or legitimate goal. But we're obligated by our principles to at least trying to mitigate the damage. The nonviolent protests outside Trump Tower and around the country attracted the cable news cameras. If Trump taught us anything of value, it’s that cameras are power. Maybe that's a start.
The bottom line: Don't listen to Democratic Party leaders who tell us Republicans have license to do whatever they want. Democracy doesn't require sitting on the sidelines, no matter how many days it is past Election Day.
Clinton and Obama want us to go about our business as if this were a normal election, which should then come with a normal handoff of power. Obama is lecturing us with sports analogies that have no relevance to the steepness of the cliff we’re about to walk off.
“I've said before, I think of this job as being a relay runner,” rambled Obama on Wednesday. “You take the baton, you run your best race and hopefully by the time you hand it off, you're a little further ahead, you've made a little progress.”
It’s true Obama has made that analogy before. That’s not how he used to characterize the lesson.
“I need everybody to understand,” he told Joyner last week, “that everything we've done is dependent on me being able to pass the baton to somebody who believes in the same things I believe in.”
LUCAS GRINDLEY is editorial director for Here Media. Contact him @lucasgrindley.