Every election is a new beginning, and every new beginning is an opportunity for hope. After this congressional midterm contest, our hope is that Democrats, Republicans and President Donald Trump will seize an opportunity to work together for the good of the nation.
That hope was anything but buoyed Wednesday when the president, instead of setting the table to nail down progress, exploded, reminding Americans that he is the primary catalyst of our political partisanship and nasty invective. In his one post-election news conference, the president:
- Threatened Democrats in the House of Representatives with retribution and a “warlike posture” if they investigate his administration.
- Implied that Senate Republicans would investigate Democratic politicians or leave them alone based not on whether Democrats commit wrongdoing, but instead on whether Democrats investigate Trump.
- Belittled Republicans who lost their seats, blaming their refusal to embrace him.
- Renewed his “enemy of the people” rant against the media.
The same day, Trump set in motion more controversy by firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and naming in his place an avowed enemy of special counsel Robert Mueller who will now oversee that investigation.
Later, the White House press office falsely accused CNN reporter Jim Acosta of assault and revoked his press pass, and to support the charges, the administration tweeted a doctored video from a notorious conspiracy website that showed a female intern trying to take a microphone away from the reporter. This is very troubling behavior.
Then there was the rest of the week.
Florida’s continued inability to count votes in its Senate and gubernatorial races opened the door to nasty and false charges by the GOP that liberals were trying to steal the election. The same partisan framing was alleged in Georgia by both parties. These battles over these ballots are more suited to Third World nations than the world’s great superpower. By Friday Trump made it worse, tweeting accusations of fraud entirely unsupported by evidence.
And antifa leftists attacked the Washington home of Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, terrifying his wife who was inside. That’s indefensible aggression, and not political protest.
Our leaders must see that a constructive tone and real accomplishments are what best serve their constituents, their parties and their political careers. And the voters must help them to see that by rejecting hatred and partisanship and rewarding civility and compromise.
Early in Wednesday’s news conference, Trump teased the nation with hints of better angels. He suggested that the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives could lead to a “beautiful bipartisan type of situation,” and he endorsed frequent foil Nancy Pelosi for speaker.
This is a tremendous opportunity for progress through compromise right now.
The United States needs to re-imagine and rebuild its crumbling roads, bridges, railways and tunnels. Trump promised a big infrastructure plan, and a smart initiative to bring it to fruition would likely pass both houses easily. The same is true of a bigger, bolder approach to preventing and treating drug addiction, and of driving down prices of prescription drugs, often invented and produced here, for which Americans pay more than any other people in the world.
It is true of passing comprehensive immigration laws that treat all newcomers humanely no matter how they arrive, assure that people who come here follow our rules and become the employees businesses need, and maintain the United States as a secure yet welcoming country.
And it is true of passing federal laws demanding universal background and mental health checks for gun purchases and banning types of weaponry, ammunition and accessories whose primary purpose is human slaughter. Wednesday’s mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, proved once again the need for such common-sense laws.
Trump pretty much declared his candidacy for the 2020 presidential race immediately after his inauguration less than two years ago. He’s smart enough to understand that while the midterms were not a disaster for him, they weren’t a success. He made the race a referendum on his presidency, and his party lost control of the House by a large margin.
If he wants the nation to grant him a second term, he needs to succeed in the rest of his first.
Much of the nation, regardless of political identity, is exhausted by the chaos. Many of us are irritable, angry or frightened. Every news cycle seems to bring another Trump controversy designed to keep the spotlight on the White House. Every week seems to bring another massacre of Americans at the hands of other Americans, another warning that our infrastructure is failing and our social programs are going broke, another update on our spiraling national debt, another story of a health care system failing and an addict dying.
It cannot be that way.