Yesterday, anticipating a victory by Hillary Clinton, I reposted a piece denying that America would be “stronger together” under Hillary Clinton. Now that Donald Trump has defeated her, it’s worth asking whether we will be stronger together under his leadership.
I posited four criteria for a strong America:
First, America must have a strong military. Second, America must have a shared belief that it is great, and not just “because it is good.” Third, America must hold its citizens to high standards of personal conduct. Fourth, America must be a meritocracy and must judge merit without regard to extraneous factors such as race, ethnicity, and gender.
Trump says he’s committed to rebuilding our military. If he follows through, he will check that box.
Trump believes that America was great and can be great again. American greatness was a theme of his campaign. “Winning” was his main criterion for greatness, which makes sense to me.
We will have to start “winning again” for Trump to inspire a shared belief in our greatness. Where will Trump score conspicuous victories? Perhaps over ISIS (to be fair, President Obama has helped start us down that road).
The economy may prove a tough nut to crack in the short run. We are probably due for a downturn, having gone eight years or more since the last recession. In any event, it’s very difficult for presidential actions to affect the economy in the short term. Any Trump “wins” on the economy probably won’t become evident in his first few years.
But at least Trump won’t go around the world badmouthing America. Unfortunately, he lacks the power to reverse the insidious badmouthing that occurs in the classrooms of America. Maybe “we the people” can help out.
As a businessman, Trump is about accountability — in other words, high standards. To bring the country together, though, he will have to hold himself to high standards of personal conduct. His demeanor will have to improve. He will have to be less obnoxious.
Lenient sentencing and certain other aspects of criminal justice reform are a threat to standards, in my opinion. Where does Trump stand on this? I don’t know. I hope he will listen to Sen. Jeff Sessions.
I’m pretty sure Trump will do his best to get the Department of Justice off the backs of local law enforcement agencies and out of the business of monitoring school disciplinary practices. If he succeeds, that’s a win for standards and a win for America.
As for meritocracy, giving people the opportunity to prove themselves and demanding quality performance seem to be much of what he’s about — or at least it’s his self-image. However, I don’t expect Trump to end our vast system of racial preferences. Hopefully, he will do his best to keep it from expanding.
This analysis has focused on the “stronger” piece. What about “together”?
Our nation is probably too divided to come together in the strong sense. We didn’t manage it, in my view, under President Reagan, the most successful president of my lifetime — or arguably any president since Eisenhower — so it’s hard to see it happening under President Trump.
This is especially true because Trump has promised to break up the “rigged” system. If he follows through, it won’t go down well unless he proceeds surgically. It will be difficult to bring the country together if Trump wields a hammer. (I’m not taking a position here on whether he should or shouldn’t.)
On the other hand, Reagan was an ideological conservative; Trump is not. He is, it seems to me, the least ideological president in decades — maybe in more than a century.
I don’t consider this a plus. However, it does hold out the possibility of greater unity than we’re accustomed to.
In my piece about what I thought was an impending Clinton presidency, I recommended that conservatives “maintain a status apart.” Hard core leftists will certainly maintain a status apart under Trump.
I don’t expect them to leave America, as some prominent ones said they would. I do think they will separate themselves more than ever from ordinary Americans.
But ordinary Americans of a center-left persuasion may take a second look at Trump. If they see compassion, moderation, and self control, they may like what they see. In that case, it may be conservatives who aren’t “together” with Trump.
President George W. Bush tried compassionate conservatism. He ended up pleasing few, but the war in Iraq was the major culprit.
It would be ironic if Trump adopted aspects of the Bush approach to governance, and I don’t expect him to. Nor am I saying he should (or shouldn’t). But if he does, it’s conceivable that America will be both stronger and somewhat more “together.”