Finley: Trump is everyone’s president

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

The morning after Barack Obama won his first presidential term, my then four-year-old granddaughter, the child of Obama supporters, offered me this admonition:

President-elect Donald Trump gives his acceptance speech during his election night rally in New York.

“Rock Bama is our president now, Papa. He’s everyone’s president. Even yours.”

For those who woke up this morning thinking America has truly hit rock bottom, this is the reality: Donald Trump is your president. He’s everyone’s president.

He’s president-elect because the Democratic Party offered a deeply flawed nominee who represented the worst of insider Washington politics in a year when voters wanted nothing of the kind.

And, most importantly, because he tapped into boiling discontent with the state of the nation, specifically the Washington’s refusal to solve pressing issues such as immigration, lagging economic opportunity and an ever expansive federal government.

That dynamic manifested itself in the primaries of both parties. Bernie Sanders embodied the restlessness as much as Donald Trump.

What’s demanded of us now as Americans, even those who vehemently opposed the Republican nominee, is to do what we’ve done after every election since the Civil War: accept the results and commit to a peaceful transition of power.

If we do that, the country will survive. Donald Trump is not big enough or bad enough to destroy us as a nation or to fundamentally change us as a people.

The brilliance of the United States Constitution is that it recognizes the failings of man, and establishes a system where no individual—including the president—can press his or her will on the American people without their consent.

And while Barack Obama, and George W. Bush before him, chipped away at that protection by expanding the authority of the executive, the separation of powers remains in place to check the ambitions of any president.

Congress comes out of the election apparently still in Republican control. Single-party rule of Washington is one answer to frustrating gridlock, but it can also produce ideological lawmaking that further divides the country. The last time one party held both Congress and the White House, the Democrats gave us Obamacare, which is now wrecking both the health insurance industry and household budgets.

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer during an election night rally in New York.

Republican congressional leaders, most notably House Speaker Paul Ryan, were wary of Trump, giving him only a tepid nod. There will be a temptation among the vociferous Trump backers in Congress to extract revenge and oust the only speaker who has a hope of holding the Republican caucus together.

That would be a mistake. Ryan is a principled, solutions oriented leader. He understands that more Americans voted against Trump than for him, and to slam through an agenda with narrow appeal will subject Republicans to the same electoral thrashing in 2018 that Democrats received in 2010.

Trump proposed some wild and unpractical ideas while on the campaign trail, mostly centered around immigration and trade. Congress must in some way play the role of an opposition party to keep the new president within the lines of responsible governing.

So, too, must those Republican leaders who embraced Trump and assured the electorate that despite his eccentricities, he would surround himself with capable lieutenants and make smart selections for the Supreme Court.

And though I’m skeptical that Trump can be managed, respected Republicans must give him all the help they can.

That goes for the rest of us as well. Knee jerk hatred of Trump and opposition to everything he proposes will not serve the nation well.

Here’s the thing about Donald Trump: I don’t believe he’s an ideologue. He’s not a social conservative — at the Republican National Convention, he spoke passionately in favor of gay and transgender rights. He’s not likely to push his way into America’s bedrooms.

I saw no indication on the campaign trail of a guiding set of principles for remaking the nation. He’s a populist. That should make him responsive to popular sentiment. Americans must make it clear what they want is a united country that knocks down the obstacles to progress and prosperity. Trump, as a businessman, may be able to deliver.

That’s the optimistic view. There are far more pessimistic versions out there.

We have to choose as a people whether to let optimism prevail and give this new president a chance.

Nolan Finley’s book “A Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN