Less Bully, More Pulpit

Photo by Dave Milbrandt

Well, it has happened. Despite rumors the Electoral College might go rogue, Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States.

Although the election of a new president typically has been a cause for celebration for many in past years, 2016 has been unlike any other election cycle in this manner as well. News stories abound about how people are downcast and demoralized, living in fear that a Trump presidency will ruin the lives of everyday Americans and serve as a destabilizing force across the globe.

Most recently, people have asked whether his cabinet, which may not reflect the cultural diversity of which many Americans are proud, help lead this country in a positive direction? One might wonder to what degree major media outlets are reflecting public opinion or are leading the conversation. Looking solely at the political coverage on CNN, which is much more neutral that other outlets, one would think Trump can do no good.

One example of possible bias would be how CNN has criticized Trump for acting un-presidential for speaking out against America’s UN Security Council abstention on the vote to condemn Israel on the building of settlements in the region alternately referred to as the “Occupied Territories” or “Palestine”, depending on who’s doing the talking. Oddly enough, CNN seems to be suffering from selective amnesia as it has forgotten the comments a month earlier when President Barack Obama said he would be willing to criticize his successor when it is “helpful or necessary” which, like the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard for impeachment, is a bit ill-defined to say the least.

In addition, while there is much talk of the wide disparity between the Electoral College results and the popular vote, and the move to disband the Electoral College altogether, there seems to be little analysis as to why Hillary Clinton, a veteran campaigner backed by a massive political machine, failed to win the former as well as the latter.

Even Trump’s Christmas celebrations and who’s coming (or not coming) to his Inauguration has enraptured our attention in the waning days of 2016.

But the question is what will Trump’s presidency actually be like? What reforms will be enacted under his leadership? Will he have a positive or negative effect on the nation?

I have absolutely no idea.

While the answer may seem flippant, I assure you it is not.

Will Trump be the fiery leader reflected in his Republican National Convention acceptance speech or a more calm and measured change agent as suggested by his Election Night address? What role will Ivanka Trump have as a moderating influence on the next president? I am reminded what Abraham Lincoln said when was faced with delivering an inaugural address to a deeply divided nation.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Whether he will reach to the example Lincoln set is anyone’s guess. There may be many people who make a living predicting what he will do, we need to remember these were the same people who said Trump could never, ever, win, so their prognostication might be a tad unreliable. Admittedly, part of my caution comes from the fact I was saying the same thing up until the results came in Election Night. Something about fooling me twice comes to mind.

Yet, one claim I’m willing to stake is that although some on team Trump have tried to compare him to conservative icon Ronald Reagan, the 40th President’s folksy demeanor invalidates that match-up. I would suggest his temperament is more akin to Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt.

One image Roosevelt cast regarding the Presidency was of it being a “bully pulpit.” While TR meant the first word to mean “great” or “powerful,” I think it might be more helpful to use the modern definition of the word. I would contend Trump should work to be seen as less of a bully and use the office as more of a pulpit to advance an agenda that would promote prosperity of all kinds for as many Americans as possible.

How can we as average Americans help with that process? Well, you can protest, as many are planning to do (with some time, manner and place restrictions, for the Inauguration at least), but that is only one solution and its efficacy is limited at best.

Another option is much more controversial. If you don’t like the direction the proverbial Ship of State is headed in, volunteer to come aboard and help navigate it through choppy seas. The incoming administration is looking to hire scores of people. If you have expertise, but some reservations, sign up to find a solution not just extend the political conflict. Let’s fix the problems from the inside, not pound on the gates and pout when those in power fail to listen.

Go ahead. I triple-dog dare you.

 

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