Work With the Orange Man
“Give him a chance to lead” may be the most polarizing, protest-motivating, anger-inducing phrase of our recent politics.
“Give him a chance to lead”?!? That’s exactly what people are afraid of doing. This isn’t a reassuring statement to most people. It’s so uncomfortable an idea that there hasn’t been a day without protests in the news.
On the other hand, “We won’t give him a chance to lead” is also terrifying. The US is a huge country — so huge that there are few historical parallels to it in terms of administrative scope. The country succeeds on legal traditions and respect for institutions, and this was one of many reasons that electing someone as divisive as Donald Trump was an error of deep consequences.
It was perhaps an error that is inherent to our political system. We have an adversarial election process. It looks for who gets more votes than who else, and you can only vote for one person. This makes it so that candidates have to be as divisive as possible in order to succeed, because you need to get people into your camp and you need them to believe that there is no reason to even consider your opponent.
Still, it’s what we have and it’s where we are. As a result of this, we are being asked to give a chance to lead to a person who 53% of us were really opposed to. Even a lot of people who voted for Trump don’t like him — his unfavorable rating is bigger than the number of people voted for someone else!
The thing that we are not asking ourselves is this: what is a chance to lead?
We find ourselves with many chances to lead in life. Leadership is acting in a way that makes people want to follow you. It is knowing how to react when people do not want to follow you. It is being worthy of trust and thus having people place trust in you. Leadership is not holding big rallies where you talk about what you plan to do. It is doing things, real things, that make people want to be at those rallies.
The things that Donald Trump said he wanted to do on the campaign trail are all aspirations. Many of them are unconstitutional. Many are war crimes. Many are just plain bad ideas, or impractical. And in every other case, he refused to state explicit plans, instead preferring just to say what he would not support.
So we are left with no idea what he would do with a chance to lead, and are still being asked to give him one.
I suggest that we do so, but not for the reasons you think.
Donald Trump wants to deport 2–3 million people on his first day in office? OK, Donald. Go right ahead and try. It took the Obama Administration 8 years to deport that many people, but you plan to do it in a day. Let’s give him a chance to lead, because if he tries that, he’s going to fail. It’s like saying he’s going to get a PhD in agricultural sciences in his first week on a farm.
Donald Trump wants to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it? I suggest that our Republican Congress is our best ally in this — and they should pass a law requiring that the wall be built. They should pass a law requiring that the wall be built and that not a dime of state or federal funds should be spent on it. They should send it to the Oval Office and they should force Donald Trump to either stake his presidency on that promise or veto it and admit he lied. They should legislate him a chance to lead, because if they do, he’s going to fail.
Donald Trump wants to register all the Muslims in this country and close the borders to Muslims? We should relish the opportunity to fight him in court on that. We should be ready and prepared to fight his ideas on this when he attempts to pass them. Congress should stand up and say that they believe in the Constitution. The Tea Partiers, who were founded on the idea of personal freedom, should stand up against him just as they stood up against what they saw as authoritarian Obama administration policy. Let’s give him the chance to try and lead Congress, and let’s watch as he fails to get these items on the agenda, or even passed.
As a leftist, I am beginning to expect I now have an uneasy ally in Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, and many other people who value the Constitution above a great many human dignities. Their dogmatic stance was a problem when Obama was president. Now it means that from January forward, they are powerful voices for keeping our country free.
The same is true of our governors and our state legislatures. If Donald Trump wants to re-institute Stop & Frisk, he will need to contend with the fact that he does not command our police forces. He does not command the state National Guard units. He can — by act of Congress — but these forces answer to our states, and we must petition our states to defend us. This is the strength of our American system; we can use our local autonomy to show that you need the people behind you — really behind you — in order to lead.
Using that autonomy, using the power that is reserved for the people, the Congress, the individual states, is the truest measure of our democracy in the face of the things that a man like Donald Trump would like to do. We are not some parliamentary democracy that will fall to the Putins and Hitlers of this world, because authority is not placed in any one person but rather in a variety of key stakeholders.We forget just how represented we really are.
The President is not one man. The President is an office, and the weight of that office will crush a person who tries to do something with it that offends its people. When Donald Trump said “I alone can fix it,” he may have forgotten that he can’t fix it alone.
The plan I am describing here only works if we keep calling our representatives and telling them that we support them in opposing Donald Trump’s illegal plans, but that we would support legal plans from him as president. It only works if we set the boundaries and we enforce those boundaries through political action.
The President is a person who volunteers to be held hostage by our government for four years, under the watchful eye of political activists, our military, our Congress, our states, and our law enforcement. But that hostage situation only works to our benefit if we communicate our ransom demands. If we do that right, Donald Trump will do precisely what we wish just so that we will let him leave office quietly. He has never before had to contend with this level of responsibility, and the chance we should give him to lead is this: like all leaders, we must hold him responsible. More than most leaders, we MUST hold him responsible.
Donald Trump deserves a chance to lead, because if we offer him that chance, he is either going to do what we want or he is going to fail.