I want to give Donald Trump the benefit of a doubt. I want to believe that most of the wild and reckless things he said were intended to capture the alienated, blue collar vote, which he did. I want to believe that now that he has the prize he will try to be a good president and represent all the people, not just his angry base. He will back away from most of the outlandish things he said—building the wall, massive deportations, huge tax breaks for the rich, climate change denials, trade restrictions with Mexico and China (probably leading to trade wars), curtailing freedom of the press, bringing torture back, outlawing the right to choose, abandoning NATO, encouraging nuclear proliferation, and many others. Surely he will have to do some of these things to please his supporters, but he will move more moderately and try to reach out to Democrats to find some areas of common ground. The remarks he made following his victory were a sign of hope. After all, his election is hardly a mandate since most of the battleground states were very close, and he did not win the popular vote.
The alternative to a moderate, balanced approach is in my view disaster for the country and for our small, blue planet.
We will know what we are in for very soon. It will depend on whom he appoints and whom he chooses as his closetest advisors. So far we have mixed signals. Appointing Priebus as chief of staff sends a signal of a more moderate approach along the lines of what you would expect from a traditional Republican—not to my liking but not doomsday. Stephen K Brannon is doomsday. He is the champion of the Alt-Right. His message is one of hate, dividing the country and promoting right wing extremists. I do not see how these two can work together for very long. Whom will Trump listen to? Who will win out?
The other early warning sign is immigration. Yesterday on “Sixty Minutes” Trump boasted that he would move forward with a wall/fence and deport between two and three million illegal immigrants “immediately.” How this delicate issue is handled could be the whole ballgame. If he sticks to his pledge to focus on the “bad hombres” –mainly immigrants with violent, antisocial police records, this is probably something the country can handle. This is really no different from what Obama has been doing. Very few experts, however, believe that there are anywhere near three million, violent felons who are undocumented living in the U.S.
If he expands the target population to deport the American Dreamers, who have been granted work permits by Obama, we are talking pain and suffering to the extreme. There are over 750,000 of these people, who came here as children and have made lives for themselves. Many are now married and have families. Perhaps as many as two million people would be affected when taking into account spouses and children. I know some of these folks. They love America. They are making a contribution. They are hard working. They are wonderful people. Our businesses depend on them. To start to round them up and deport them would put us on a path not that dissimilar to the path Hitler took Germany in the 1930s. Sure, some will say this is a gross exaggeration and certainly there are some big differences. But think about the damage that this would do to people who are, yes, innocent. Most came here as children with their parents. And similar damage would be done to others who overstayed visas or took extraordinary risks to get to a country which offered them a better chance. They did break the law to get here, but most have now been here for years and have become a fabric of our country. Deportation is not the answer. Instead we need a comprehensive immigration law similar to what the Senate passed on a bipartisan basis. Will that happen?
We do not know the answer to any of these questions, but we are going to find out pretty soon. Those who did not vote for Trump and now fear his presidency—and that is a majority of Americans—will not and cannot roll over and play dead, watching from the sidelines as our nation changes in ways unthinkable. It is not a pretty picture.