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How Donald Trump can ease fears

U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican president-elect Donald

U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican president-elect Donald Trump shake hands during a transition planning meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / JIM WATSON

President Barack Obama welcomed Donald Trump to the White House on Thursday to begin transferring the immense responsibilities of being commander in chief and running the federal government.

Obama called the meeting “excellent” and Trump said he looked forward to Obama’s “counsel,” a stunning and impressive display of a smooth and peaceful transition between bitter political enemies.

But for millions of Americans who not only voted against Trump but also saw his candidacy as a magnet for vile strains in American politics and culture, this gesture of civility may not relieve their deep alarm.

Some of that alarm may be an overreaction to the unexpected. And some concerns are unlikely to be warranted. There are legal processes and institutions in America that for centuries have protected the rights of citizens. And Trump’s tone and approach have already softened — though he continues to be cagey about campaign proposals like a ban on Muslims entering the country, a wildly unacceptable policy.

But the president-elect’s extraordinarily harsh campaign rhetoric gave succor to hate groups and bullies. The election hasn’t halted their behavior, which continues to be directed against marginalized groups and felt urgently by younger Americans. That includes anecdotal reports of students harassing their peers on buses and in classrooms in the wake of the election, and colleges and universities warning their communities to be respectful — as opposed to dressing in blackface or telling immigrants to go back to “their countries.”

This is a dark mood. Trump, who bears responsibility for unleashing it, now has the duty to ward off any possibility of violence. He should work to allay fears many Americans have that his supporters will engage in racist, misogynistic and discriminatory behavior.

The front of Trump Tower, the president-elect’s home, is now blocked by security barriers and police officers, which is understandable for a new president. But he must not barricade himself away from the Americans his campaign has made fearful. Trump has said he will be the president of all Americans. A series of meetings with the groups his campaign alienated would be a very positive step that he could take.

That may not dull the concerns many feel about America during a Trump presidency. There will be many policy battles ahead, and there’s little doubt the “Never Trump” opponents will vigorously engage.

But all Americans must feel safe and welcome, which no president should do anything but guarantee. — The editorial board