It’s been almost 60 days since the world was stunned by the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Yet, just two weeks before Inauguration Day, Trump and his allies still are in campaign mode, continuing to attack Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and their supporters, via tweets and television. Enough already! It’s time to be a gracious winner. Campaigning is fun; it’s governance that’s hard.
In any election, one candidate wins; other candidates do not. There’s no doubt that losing is painful (I’ve been fortunate to win seven elections myself, but I lost two jobs on Capitol Hill when the senators I worked for were defeated), but you suck it up, thank your supporters, congratulate your opponent, and gracefully withdraw. In the words of Michelle Obama, “go high.” Winning an election should elicit a similar approach – thank your supporters, congratulate your opponent for a spirited race, and then, gracefully move forward to assume the new office. The campaign is over, and governance begins.
Campaigns, by their very nature, are shallow. Keep it simple, get your vote out, and win! Governance, on the other hand, must be deep. Just learning the job can be enormous, and overwhelming, at any level of government. The complexities, and complications, of policy are daunting, and require an understanding of the downsides as well as the upsides, for the entire community, not simply a chosen few. It’s a difficult balancing act when it’s done right; an unmitigated disaster when done wrong. Politics can be distilled to a sound bite; policy cannot.
We elected a president, not an emperor or czar. The Constitution of the United States clearly outlines the duties, and limitations, of the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial branches that make up the governance structure for the federal government. Those limitations may prove to be a challenge for the incoming Administration which, based on public tweets and comments, seems to view governance as unilateral. It’s not, and never has been. Says so, right there in the Constitution.
In his remarks following the election results, Mr. Trump sounded a brief call for uniting the country after a divisive and exhausting campaign season (for voters as well as candidates). Sadly, that’s exactly what is was – brief. Hillary Clinton urged that he be given a chance, editors and columnists were willing to give him a chance, but Mr. Trump quickly trashed the olive branch that was extended.
Donald Trump’s fortune is based on real estate holdings, but the United States of America is not another piece of real estate to be owned by the Trump Corporation. We are a diverse nation of more than 300 million people, from many races, religions, and backgrounds, with many hopes and aspirations for themselves, their families, and their native, or adopted, country. My late boss, Senator Wayne Morse (D-OR), who opposed the Vietnam War, often quoted former Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz, who said “Our country, right or wrong; when right, to be kept right, when wrong, to be put right.” As the new Administration takes the reins of governance, Secretary Schurz’ admonition may take on renewed importance.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.