Before the election, I offered that I would write three posts on bridging the sharp divides that have us in warring camps–one on a unity agenda, the second on changes in the tone of our public discourse, and the third on increased civic engagement. Honesty is the best policy so I’ll start by saying that I did not think President-elect Trump would win. While I’m being honest, I’ll add that I’m a liberal democrat who found Trump’s victory deeply and personally devastating.
To make all of this honesty even worse, what I will propose as a Trump unity agenda is largely what most would consider a progressive one. So why in the world would the President-elect humor a Bernie Sanders supporter (me) by implementing any of these proposals? Here’s why.
First, I’m leaving out a huge range of issues on which agreement between Trump, Republicans and Democrats is not possible—taxes, financial regulation, gun restrictions, judicial appointments, climate change protection, much of national security policy, to name just a few. I’m not going to suggest that any of this should be part of a unity agenda because I don’t believe there’s a possibility of unity on these issues. Trump, the GOP (and I list them separately on purpose because I don’t think Trump is wholly aligned with his erstwhile party) and the Democrats are going to fight these out.
Second, my recommendations will help Trump solve his not-so-long-term political problem—how does he keep the base that elected him while adding new supporters who opposed him. And he’ll have to do this to keep Congress in 2018 and get re-elected in 2020. Why’s that? Because he won less than 47% of the vote, because a switch of 80,000 votes in three key states would have beat him, and because there will be more of his opponents than supporters in future elections than there were this time. This means he’ll have to get more votes from blacks, Latinos, women, and younger voters than he did this time. And in 2018 and 2020, Trump will be on the ballot not as an idea but as an incumbent. He won’t be a blank slate on which angry voters can write what they want and vote for as a protest. He’ll be a real live office holder with successes, failures, unfulfilled promises, and unanticipated crises to which he’ll respond either well or poorly. He will lose friends he has now and need friends he does not have now.
Third, and most important, these proposals are the right thing to do. They will all reduce human suffering and heal deep divisions in our country—divisions of gender, race, ethnicity, and economic opportunity. Here they are. Continue reading