by Max Brantley
By Ernest Dumas
Most Americans—make that most of the 57 percent of adults who cared to vote and their children—have been anguished the past week, having lost their sense of safety and belonging and their vision of what their country is. One of the encyclopedic services of the pundit class is to offer healing balm to the despairing, a role I take seriously.
It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
That is my admonition. Everyone should hold on to that notion of the Trump presidency until it is proven wrong, which could be before this reaches print but maybe not.
Let's start with the immediate problem of the crude reprisals against blacks, immigrant children, gays and girls in schools and on social media starting almost at the tardy bell the morning after the election. It turned out that Star City, Hamburg, Little Rock, Conway, Fayetteville and other Arkansas schools were not alone. It was a national phenomenon. Children were taunted and told to get ready for the Trump train back to Africa or Mexico. I had written on election day that people might have more to fear from many Trump followers than from the old billionaire tax scofflaw himself.
True, it is not encouraging that one of Trump's first two hires was the white nationalist icon and sworn enemy of "the political class," Steve Bannon, as his senior policy adviser. Remember, the president is free to ignore his senior adviser. The other hire was Reince Priebus, the Republican chairman and icon of the political class, who will be his chief of staff.
A few hopeful post-election signs: Trump said he was not going to appoint Supreme Court justices committed to rolling back the court's protections for married gays and lesbians. He said he was fine with gay marriage. He is not going to go along with the bathroom foolishness of people who are upset about transgenders using toilets of their choice. He let it be known that he would appoint a gay person to a major position, probably ambassador to the United Nations. A billionaire gay man was one of his biggest boosters.
Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes asked him about all the taunts and harassment of schoolkids that followed his election. He said he hated to hear it, though he thought it was overblown. Would he publicly denounce the harassment?
"I would say 'don't do it, that's terrible, 'cause I'm gonna bring this country together,'" he said.
OK, that's not much. President Obama expected Trump would eventually appeal to the country's forlorn minorities and bring the country together. It ought to be done at the foot of the Statue of Liberty and include an appeal to huddled masses yearning to breathe free in one America. It could happen. It could happen.
Trump has already said he would not, after all, expel 12 million immigrants as he first promised but over time maybe 2 million he figured were criminals. Barack Obama has evicted close to 3 million. Instead of a giant wall, Trump expects to erect a wall here and there and maybe fences other places, if he can get the Republican Congress to appropriate the billions for it.
History is replete with presidents who campaigned on one ideology and followed another, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, to mention two. Trump once denounced Reagan for raising the taxes of real-estate tycoons like him and causing the recession of 1990. He lobbied Congress to put his tax breaks back into law.
What is to stop Trump from returning now, as the leader of America, to two of his most passionate goals before he got into the Republican primaries last year: universal health insurance and halting global warming?
When he first started talking about the presidency he said health care for all, something like universal Medicare, would be his main objective. Nothing, he said, is more fundamentally American than seeing that everyone, whatever their resources, got medical care when they needed it. But he swore in the campaign to repeal Obamacare. But will he really end coverage for the 22 million Americans who got health care through Obamacare but who couldn't afford it otherwise. What he needs is to be able to say that he repealed the law called Obamacare, not that he scrapped its coverage. He said he wanted to keep parts of Obamacare and implied that he would find a way to continue coverage through some device. Mirrors are one way.
During the campaign, Trump said global warming was a hoax perpetrated by China, for what purpose no one knows, and that he would roll back Obama rules that gradually turn the nation away from carbon to clean energy and pull the country out of the global climate treaty. But in November 2009, on the eve of a global climate conference that Obama and Hillary Clinton would be attending, Trump and three of his children signed a full-page ad in The New York Times calling on the president and Congress to pass laws restricting greenhouse-gas emissions to curtail climate change. Here is what they said:
"We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today. If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet."
With the fate of the planet and not just the votes of conspiracists in his grasp, will he abandon views he so passionately held?
Next, if it not obviously grasping at straws, hope for world affairs and the nuclear codes.