In the early morning hours on Wednesday Donald Trump moved from being one of the least popular presidential candidates in history to being one of the least popular presidents-elect in history. During his campaign he burned bridges and insulted people right and left. Now he has to lead.
Trump said in his victory speech that he wants to be the president of all the people. But given his campaign antics he needs to mend a lot of fences before large segments of the population will accept him as their leader. Here are suggestions for five things President Trump can do to try and bring people together, IF that is truly what he wants to do.
5. Refuse his presidential salary and perks.
This would be a drop in the bucket budget-wise, but it would be excellent symbolically if Trump would refuse to take his $400,000 presidential salary. Even if he is only worth a fraction of what he claims, he still doesn’t need that money. By refusing to take a salary Trump would join the likes of George Washington, another rich president who also declined his pay.
4. Create a bi-partisan cabinet.
This has become something of a tradition with recent presidents — inviting one or more members of the opposite party to serve in your cabinet. Bill Clinton appointed Maine Republican Senator William Cohen as Defense Secretary. Democrat Norman Mineta was Transportation Secretary under George W. Bush. And President Obama’s first cabinet included Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates as well as former Republican Congressman Ray LaHood as head of the Department of Transportation. One or two cabinet posts offered to Democrats could be a good first step in bridge building.
3. Offer his Obamacare replacement BEFORE Congress repeals the law.
Repealing Obamacare may be a heavier lift than Republicans expect, considering they do not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. It’s possible, but not likely, that the GOP could eliminate the filibuster rule and do whatever they damned well please with this and other issues. But Mitch McConnell has already said that it is important that a winning party not overreach after an election. He knows that someday soon, his party will once again be the minority in the Senate, and as they say, payback’s a bitch.
Everyone knows that the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect. But it is also not fatally flawed, as Republicans insist. During the campaign Trump said he would get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something “wonderful.” But he didn’t say what that would be. Before Congress goes to work to repeal the law, Trump should tell the millions of Americans who are afraid they will lose access to health care what he wants to do to create a better, cheaper system than Obamacare.
2. Meet with leaders of the African-American, Hispanic and Muslim communities.
Trump insulted nearly everybody during the campaign except for straight white people who don’t suffer from physical or mental handicaps. If he wants to be president of all Americans, he needs to schedule meetings with leaders of minority communities within his first week in office. It would be an important symbolic gesture, especially considering Trump did better among black and Hispanic voters than Romney did in 2012. That suggests Trump’s call to give him a chance resonated with some members of those communities, and he needs to follow through.
The word “racist” has been used to describe Trump. Bringing minority leaders together for a summit could help refute that charge, and help build the support from those communities that Republicans always say they want, but never seem to work toward.
Donald Trump owes this to the entire country. His campaign was the most vile, vicious political campaign by a major party candidate in generations. His statement last summer that he “regrets” some of the things he has said and done doesn’t go nearly far enough. The word Trump needs to learn is “contrition.” He needs to apologize to the nation, directly and unequivocally in an Oval Office address. He also needs to apologize individually to the victims of his ad hominem attacks, in particular the family of war hero Capt. Humayun Khan.
Personally, I do not see President Trump doing any of those things. One thing we know after watching the man for over 30 years is that he doesn’t seem to ever think he is wrong. He also doesn’t like to be challenged, so a Lincoln or Obama-esque “team of rivals” isn’t very likely. He could help the country start to recover from the damage he has done over the past 18 months or so by taking those or similar steps. But he won’t — his hubris won’t let him. That’s just one of the reasons why it is likely Donald Trump will be a one-term president.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr