More than half of America didn’t like either candidate for president.
The one liked least got 2.86 million fewer votes. Yet he won and is now our president.
That is the kind of outcome that was destined to leave a lot of people unhappy, so be gracious to those Americans who are still stung.
Even some on the winning side were stung Friday when new President Donald J. Trump immediately attacked the Washington establishment in both parties for an “American carnage” of crime, poverty and unemployment.
“That speech was a full-throated challenge to the establishment in Washington, Democrats and Republicans,” said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson, author of a recent book on the history of the “American dream,” The American Dream in History, Politics and Fiction.
Trump’s carnage line was “an amazing thing,” he said: “Many voters are quite comfortable themselves, but they are still convinced by what they read or see that things are bad.”
Trump’s speech positioned himself squarely as an independent reformer, elected as a Republican but out to change both parties.
But as Minnesotans found out in 1998 when they elected wrestler Jesse Ventura governor, independent reformers are punchless without establishment lawmakers’ support.
“If his programs bog down, will people still be Trump supporters?” Jillson asked.
He was excoriating all who came before, in the presence of — well, all who came before.
UT Arlington political scientist Rebecca Deen
“And will Republican voters believe things are so bad that they’ll support him, even if his agenda runs counter to tariffs, free trade, globalism or immigration?”
University of Texas at Arlington political scientist Rebecca Deen noted Trump’s demand for “solidarity” behind him.
She also called the carnage line bold: “He was excoriating all who came before, in the presence of — well, all who came before,” including Capitol Hill and four former presidents.
In an email, Tarleton State University history professor Christopher Hickman wrote that campaigning as a populist and calling for the people to become — Trump’s words — “the rulers” is historically risky, because those expectations can never be satisfied.
Campaigning as a populist is … much easier than governing as one.
Tarleton State University history professor Christopher Hickman
“The bracing, tough-minded appeals likely sound good,” Hickman wrote.
“At some point, I think some of his supporters are likely going to expect reversals, quick solutions, and [for] a Trump White House to come through,” he wrote.
“Then we might get some good insight on whether campaigning as a populist is, as I suspect, much easier than governing as one.”
In other words, shouting claims about some imaginary “American carnage” and blaming everyone else is extremely easy.
The job takes diplomacy.