Every time I write something about Donald Trump that could be viewed as critical, his supporters tell me that the election is over, and it’s time I get behind our next president.
They’re right. He won. He deserves the chance to lead the nation.
But what exactly is meant by getting behind him?
Surely not like how the Republicans got behind President Barack Obama? Definitely not like how the North Carolina GOP is getting behind Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, by passing a bunch of laws to curtail his power?
I’m no fan of blanket obstruction, and I’m fed up with dysfunction. So I hope Democrats negotiate and compromise with Trump when possible and don’t try to bank Pyrrhic victories that burn down the government.
But this “getting behind him” thing is important to understand, because this is the United States of America and we don’t do kings or emperors here. Getting behind someone doesn’t mean 100 percent agreement. I didn’t do that with Obama or Bill Clinton or the two Bushes or any elected official on any level. Nor should anyone.
Our nation was founded on dissent. It’s protected in our Constitution. Not only are we allowed to question, we should question. Our nation is stronger for that.
And in Trump’s case, I have lots of questions.
Should I be pleased that he has started to address inevitable conflicts of interest by saying he’ll do no deals for his businesses as president, and he’ll turn over his enterprise to his sons? Or baffled that both Don Jr. and Eric sat in on his meeting with Silicon Valley tech giants and are actively involved in the transition, including interviewing Cabinet candidates?
Should I feel good that Trump met with Al Gore, one of the foremost advocates of fighting climate change, and now says there is “some connectivity” between a warming planet and the activities of humans? Or be alarmed that he named climate change denier and ardent EPA foe Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency?
Should I applaud that Trump is naming Cabinet secretaries who are not the same old Washington bureaucrats? Or worry that some of them don’t seem to believe in the essential mission of the departments they’ll be running?
Should I be happy that Trump now says he’ll work out something for the Dreamers, the immigrant children brought here illegally by their parents? Or concerned that he has promised to repeal the Obama directive that let them stay in this country in the first place?
Should I be intrigued that Trump has appointed successful business people who know how to run things to his Cabinet? Or alarmed that fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder, his nominee for labor secretary, the person charged with protecting working people, opposes paid sick leave, a higher minimum wage and expanded overtime pay?
Should I be disturbed that Trump doesn’t see that the issue of Russian election-related hacking isn’t that it might have helped him win, but that the Russians are engaging in cyberwarfare on the country he will soon be leading? Or confident that he’ll change his mind on this after he’s inaugurated?
Should I be delighted that Trump says he’s focused on jobs, jobs, jobs? Or nervous that some of his solutions, like ripping up trade deals, might not help? Or perplexed that by stepping in to save jobs at Carrier, as good as that feels, he is picking individual winners and losers?
I wish Trump well. I hope he helps the nation where it needs help. And if he does, hats off to him.
But neither I nor anyone else is failing to get behind Trump by speaking up when we see things we think he could do better.
Trump should want that, too.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.