What Trump needs to do
Our view: The president-elect has a chance to heal our divisions and lead, but he needs to understand the depth of the challenge he faces
President-elect Donald Trump, who won not just by taking advantage of divisions within the nation but by fanning them, said in declaring victory that “it is time for us to come together as one united people.” For millions of Americans who not only did not vote for him but who are anxious and even frightened at what the future may hold, that exhortation may sound more ominous than hopeful. Mr. Trump succeeded by speaking to and for groups who felt forgotten and ignored, and that is to his credit. But in doing so, he painted a picture of an America in which many others worry that they have no place.
One of the great traditions of our democracy (albeit one Mr. Trump thumbed his nose at during the campaign) is that after an election, no matter how hard fought, we recognize the will of the people, applaud the victor’s accomplishment and give him or her the chance to start anew. Mr. Trump now gets that opportunity, and in a gracious speech Wednesday morning, he signaled a desire to take advantage of it, even reaching out to those who opposed him to ask for their help and guidance. We hope and expect that his desire is sincere. But if he is to succeed, he cannot merely assume those who supported Hillary Clinton will fall in line. If he wants the country to unify, he must be a unifier.
That starts with stating unequivocally that he will not, as he promised during the debates, appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Ms. Clinton. Chants of “lock her up” have been a ubiquitous feature at Mr. Trump’s rallies, including at his victory party Tuesday night. Prosecuting political opponents is the stuff of tinpot dictators, not the leader of the free world. Mr. Trump spoke warmly about Ms. Clinton during his victory speech early Wednesday morning, saying that we as a nation “owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.” That was good to hear, but he needs to make clear that he will accept the FBI’s conclusions about whether her use of a private email server amounted to a prosecutable offense and that he will not usurp the nation’s law enforcement apparatus as a tool for settling political scores.
Mr. Trump needs to renounce his talk of a “deportation force” to remove the 11 million immigrants who are in this country illegally. The idea of federal agents rounding up people who have, in many cases, been living, working and raising families in this nation for years and transporting them en masse to the borders is simply nightmarish. It would rip communities and families apart. He needs to acknowledge that building a literal, physical wall along the border with Mexico is logistically implausible, would likely be ineffective (given that many who are in the country illegally did not get her by crossing the border) and would send a message that America is retreating from engagement with the world. Can we and should we improve border security and mechanisms to make sure people don’t overstay their visas? Absolutely. But it must be done in a way that is humane and recognizes the need to provide some comprehensive fix to our immigration system.
Mr. Trump needs to assure the public that he will not institute a religious test or loyalty oath for those who enter the country. He needs to drop plans for blanket surveillance of mosques, and he needs to acknowledge, as former President George W. Bush did, that Islam is a religion of peace that has been perverted by a small subset of its purported adherents to murderous ends. If Mr. Trump does not have confidence in our current screening procedures for refugees from war-torn Syria, he needs to explain their shortcomings and provide a plan to address them rather than besmirching tens of thousands of innocent people displaced from their homes by calling them ISIS plants. He should discuss refugee policy with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose nation has welcomed far more Syrian refugees than the much more populous United States.
Mr. Trump needs to announce that he will not pursue litigation against women who have come forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual advances and contact. He needs to stop calling his recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women “locker room talk.” He needs to watch the speech first lady Michelle Obama gave in New Hampshire after the “Access Hollywood” tape was released in which she passionately urged the audience to reject Mr. Trump’s “hurtful, hateful language about women.” The message he needs to get is not just that what he said was “disgraceful” but that what he says and does as president matters. It sets an example for men, women, boys and girls about not only what is acceptable but what is honorable, praiseworthy and celebrated.
Mr. Trump needs to spend some time in the inner cities he describes as hellscapes. He needs to hear from the people who would be affected by the kind of massive urban renewal he has described in only the vaguest terms. He needs to recognize that his talk about the Second Amendment sounds very different in urban centers than it does in the rural counties that delivered his margin of victory. The president-elect needs to sit down with leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement to find out what they hear when he makes grim promises to restore “law and order.” He needs to recognize the legacy of state-sanctioned President-elect Donald Trump said in his victory speech that he wants to unify the nation after a hard-fought campaign. violence against minorities and the pervasive and continued violations of civil rights police have committed against African-Americans in particular. Mr. Trump must make clear that his Justice Department will follow through on efforts at reform in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo.
Mr. Trump needs to unequivocally apologize for his role in stoking the vile and racist “birther” lie against President Barack Obama.
Mr. Trump must announce his plans for divesting himself from his financial interests in the Trump Organization, and he needs to immediately release his full tax returns. The American public needs to have confidence that his actions as president will not be designed to enrich himself or his family, or to reward business associates.
Mr. Trump needs to recognize that his praise of dictators and strongmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin, his endorsement of torture, his casual acceptance of nuclear proliferation and his wavering about his commitment to America’s bedrock alliances leave many to worry that he will make a dangerous world even more frightening.
Mr. Trump must realize that two-thirds of Americans are worried about global warming, and the rate of alarm is increasing. Extreme weather, rising sea levels and record-setting heat in year after year are all there for people to see. For the president-elect to deride climate change as a hoax is to dismiss the legitimate fears millions hold for the world they will leave to their children and grandchildren.
Mr. Trump needs to acknowledge that he was not just opposed in this election by “the elites” or the media. As of this writing, he stands slightly behind Ms. Clinton in the popular vote. She received the support of nearly 60 million people, and they aren’t all ivory tower liberals cosseted away from the problems of real America. Her coalition included millions who are struggling just as much as those who turned out in droves to support him. It includes people who have been disenfranchised — not just in the distant past but this very year as members of Mr. Trump’s party sought to limit access to the ballot box in state after state.
Mr. Trump needs to demonstrate his understanding of the role of a free press in safeguarding our democracy. He must drop his threats to sue news organizations who have published material he dislikes, and he must renounce his plans to broaden libel laws to, in his words, allow “us to sue ... and win lots of money.” He needs to renounce his supporters who have engaged in campaigns of intimidation against journalists, some of it virulently anti-Semitic in nature.
In her concession speech, Ms. Clinton pulled no punches — as anyone who has watched her through two presidential campaigns might have expected. But even as she encouraged her supporters to continue the fight for the issues they believe in, she noted that the peaceful transition of power is not just something we respect, “we cherish it.” She said her supporters “owe him an open mind and the opportunity to lead.” Mr. Obama pledged his full cooperation and that of his staff to ensure a smooth transition, adding, “We are now all rooting for his success in leading and uniting this country.” Indeed, we are. But we also need Mr. Trump to understand the depth of the challenge he faces. The extraordinary nature of this campaign makes the task of forging unity more difficult and also more necessary. We all must hope and pray that he succeeds.