"Donald Trump got elected and now I don't know what to think"
By Jonathan Imbody | March 02, 2017
by Jonathan Imbody
If that statement describes how you feel, you are a member of a large group of Americans who neither enthusiastically support nor disgustedly oppose the new administration. You land somewhere between "Not My President" and "Make America Great Again."
The brief suggestions below aim to help you process what's happened, what's happening and what you can do about it all.
Understanding how Trump got elected
First, we need to understand that President Trump got elected because his populist message and blunt communication style resonated with a broad swath of Americans who have grown sick and tired of politics as usual and who have felt alienated by the people and policies of Washington, D.C.
Mr. Trump's campaign also focused on an electoral college strategy that hinged on turning red a few key purple states (those that vacillate between voting Red Republican and Blue Democrat). To nearly everyone's surprise, that long-shot strategy worked.
The strategy worked in part because Hillary Clinton fatefully considered several swing states "in the bag" and devoted little time there, and in part because Donald Trump appealed to many of the American workers and traditional values citizens of those states.
Anyone who protests that Hillary Clinton's winning the popular vote means that Trump is an illegitimate president either does not appreciate the genius of our democratic republic, which designed the Electoral College to protect smaller states from political domination by larger states, or does not understand that every campaign focuses on the Electoral College—not on the popular vote. Otherwise, every campaign would be fought and won largely in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Appreciating limited government and checks and balances
The day after the election, Americans woke up either with a sense of exhilaration, intense panic or just plain wonder. Some Trump opponents thought, "Those crazy voters have thrown a living grenade into our government; it's the end of America as we know it!" I suspect that many of these people felt that way because they tend to view government—not the family, not the church, not the local community—as the primary vehicle for social change. So a political loss in the Government (with a big "G") effectively spells the end of their agenda.
People who look to Government to solve problems probably also tend to prefer a very powerful government, especially at the federal level, to effect sweeping, instantaneous changes. Examples of such change include the Roe v. Wade 1973 abortion Supreme Court decision, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the Obamacare contraceptives mandate and the Obergefell same-sex marriage Supreme Court decision.
Our founders and Constitution, however, designed government with a small "g." They designed a limited government that reserves maximum power to the people, a deliberately cumbersome system that makes sweeping change difficult.
That realization should help hyperventilating Trump opponents breathe a significant sigh of relief. Ironically, the small government system that Big Government advocates have been trying to dismantle is actually the very system that will protect them from any tyranny they now fear.
A few recent examples of how our small government, checks and balances system works to control executive power:
- President Trump's nominee for Secretary of Labor recently had to withdraw due to a lack of support in the U.S. Senate, which must approve such cabinet selections.
- Federal courts recently put the kibosh on the executive order on immigration.
- The future of Obamacare and healthcare will be determined by a compromise of interests and strategies in Congress and the Executive Office.
Any law will be crafted to pass constitutional muster with the courts. The people also will wield tremendous political power of persuasion through First Amendment advocacy, which forbids the government from abridging "freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Realizing that thousands of good people will run the new government
Besides the luminaries you many have seen on TV entering and exiting the golden elevator doors at Trump Tower for interviews for cabinet-level positions, the new administration likely will be filled with thousands of people who share the founder's vision for a limited government, who share the pro-life, pro-family views espoused by the major faiths and who share a dedication to pursue policies that provide for all Americans to prosper personally, economically and socially.
I personally know—perhaps you do, too—some esteemed friends and colleagues who already have taken top slots in the Trump administration. I am working with the administration and other organizations to get other good people into some of the over 4,000 presidentially determined jobs in this administration.
The Chief Executive determines broad policies, but these people scattered throughout federal agencies make the government run. They flesh out laws through detailed regulations. They write the aims and guidelines for grants that fund the work of non-profit charities and organizations across the country. And they develop the pragmatic policies and programs that help our children learn, ensure that patients receive good healthcare and assist in feeding the poor and housing the homeless.
Watching the Supreme Court
Currently the Supreme Court appears divided into distinct groups according to judicial philosophy: (a) Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, who tend to see the Constitution as a "living document" that can be shaped and changed according to the Court's modern interpretation and desired outcomes; (b) Justices Thomas, Alito and Roberts, "originalist" judges who see the Constitution as written law to be understood and applied through its original context and wording; and, (c) Justice Kennedy, the swing voter whom the other two groups constantly try to convince to join in their opinions.
Candidate Trump during the campaign wisely proffered a list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees. The Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, two groups favoring the "originalist" judicial philosophy, helped assemble the distinguished list. Possibly more than any other issue, this list of Supreme Court candidates may have convinced enough voters on the fence to cast their vote for and help elect Donald Trump president.
From this list, President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, an originalist in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Gorsuch would replace. This nomination provides significant reassurance that the Supreme Court will be guided more by the rule of law, which protects everyone equally, than by ideology, which favors only those who support the ideology.
Too early to call, but not too early to help
These three factors should provide great comfort and reassurance to people of faith, to social conservatives and to believers in the American experiment:
- The limited government checks and balances built into the American system.
- Thousands of pro-life, pro-family individuals who will fill the administration and direct the inner workings of government.
- Originalist appointments to the Supreme Court.
As of this writing, the Trump administration is just a month into governing and already has made some strides and some mistakes. The normal course of any administration is a rocky start followed by greater calm and competence. It's too early to call.
The extent to which the administration advances policies and achieves results that better our own lives and the lives of others around the world does not just depend on one man. It depends upon all of us, advocating for good policies, demanding accountability and supporting our elected leaders with respect for their offices and with prayer.
Like it or not, and notwithstanding the rhetoric of rebellion, we're all in this together. So take time to write to your legislators and executives, to talk with your neighbors and colleagues about policy issues and even to consider joining the government on the front lines.
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