Editorial: Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. Get used to it.
We had fervently hoped not to have to write an editorial opining on Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States. And yet, here we are.
Trump’s astounding victory over the candidate endorsed by The Times, Hillary Clinton, does not vaporize the many profound concerns that we and millions of other Americans have about his fitness for the job. It does, however, put him in a position of immense power and influence over the lives and livelihoods of the 320 million people who reside here — and, arguably, the other 7 billion people on the planet.
That’s why we wish Trump success as president just as we would have done for Clinton — because we want this country to flourish. Or as the president-elect would put it, we want it to be great.
Trump should seek — in concert with those who opposed him — to identify shared goals that can begin to bring the country together and move it forward.
To be clear, we remain deeply worried about Trump’s character — his tendency toward bullying and bigotry, his reckless, demagogic style. Untamed, these could prove dangerous in the years ahead. Nor do we support the vast portion of the agenda that he laid out in his polarizing and mean-spirited campaign. And it’s hard to interpret his slim victory margin as a mandate to enact any part of that agenda, whether it be building a border wall, making it even harder for refugees from war zones to enter the U.S. or busting the federal budget with multitrillion-dollar tax cuts. Not when nearly as many voters backed a candidate who forcefully rejected those ideas.
Rather than trying to ram through such a divisive program, Trump should seek — in concert with those who opposed him — to identify shared goals that can begin to bring the country together and move it forward. Real leaders rally people around common objectives; once people agree on the problem, a path to compromise can emerge.
That sort of leadership was not a hallmark of Trump’s campaign, which was instead a prolonged exercise in grievance, anger and accusation. We’ve watched with alarm as Trump displayed his eggshell ego, disregarded the truth and blithely suggested reckless changes in foreign policy and national defense (for example, not defending NATO allies unless they increased their defense budgets, or arming Japan and South Korea with nuclear weapons).
This country can’t afford that version of Donald Trump in the White House. He needs instead to be careful and disciplined, if he can. Surrounding himself with people with substantive experience in government and sober judgment will be essential, considering that Trump has none of the former and has displayed little of the latter.
In searching for common-ground issues, Trump might want to think about one message delivered by voters on both sides of the political spectrum this year — the demand for campaign finance reform. The voters who elevated Trump as the GOP’s standard-bearer and the ones who nearly did the same for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party see a political system corrupted by the money thrown at campaigns. In their minds, the system is rigged, not liberated, by the court rulings and regulatory failures that have allowed special interests to drown out opposing viewpoints and lobbyists seemingly to buy access to power.
There’s a clear place to start: by attacking the ability of anonymous donors to spend unlimited amounts of cash to influence voters. The main defenders of this “dark money” scourge have been Republicans, who evidently consider it a competitive advantage. But Trump isn’t part of the Republican establishment, and he shouldn’t defend such a key part of the “rigged” system he campaigned against.
Ultimately, any change to campaign finance rules will require a prodigious act of legislative compromise. But so would fixing the country’s failing immigration laws, overhauling the tax code, investing in infrastructure, creating more manufacturing jobs, stimulating economic growth, reining in the cost of prescription drugs and health insurance — the United States is so polarized that seemingly every task in Congress is a heavy lift.
Becoming president isn’t like taking over a company — Trump can’t fire the lawmakers or voters who don’t fall in line behind him. He has to move past the divisive slogans that put him in office and strive instead to identify the goals that Americans share. He should start with campaign finance and go from there.
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