Can Don­ald Trump gov­ern the coun­try ef­fec­tively?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - >> Cokie and Steve Roberts Steve and Cokie Roberts can be con­tacted by email at steve­cokie@ gmail.com.

Can Don­ald Trump gov­ern this coun­try? He starts with sev­eral large ad­van­tages: the fer­vent sup­port of white, work­ing­class vot­ers and the Repub­li­can con­trol of Congress. In his vic­tory speech, he struck gen­er­ous themes of unity, vow­ing “to ev­ery cit­i­zen of our land that I will be pres­i­dent for all of Amer­i­cans.”

But Trump is go­ing to learn very quickly that be­ing pres­i­dent is far tougher than run­ning for pres­i­dent. Even with his al­lies con­trol­ling Capi­tol Hill, he’s go­ing to face enor­mous ob­sta­cles that will make his job ex­tremely dif­fi­cult from Day 1.

Start with the way the cam­paign played out. Trump com­plained re­peat­edly that the sys­tem was “rigged” against him, but now it’s the Democrats who will make that ar­gu­ment. The to­tally un­prece­dented -- and un­jus­ti­fied -- de­ci­sion by FBI Direc­tor James Comey to in­ter­ject him­self into the cam­paign less than two weeks be­fore Elec­tion Day stopped Clin­ton’s mo­men­tum cold, and handed Trump a pow­er­ful ar­gu­ment to ex­ploit his op­po­nent’s big­gest vul­ner­a­bil­ity: her rep­u­ta­tion for dis­hon­esty. The im­pact is clear: Vot­ers who de­cided at the last minute fa­vored Trump by 5 points.

Add to Demo­cratic griev­ances the facts that Clin­ton ac­tu­ally won the pop­u­lar vote and lost key states by slim mar­gins. Dis­ap­point­ment and frus­tra­tion will be felt most keenly by women who hoped to see the first fe­male pres­i­dent, and now be­lieve that once again, a bet­ter-qual­i­fied woman has been passed over for a less-ex­pe­ri­enced man.

All these re­sent­ments feed into a sec­ond prob­lem for Trump: an Amer­i­can sys­tem that was de­lib­er­ately de­signed to check the power of even the most pop­u­lar pres­i­dent. The new chief ex­ec­u­tive will soon learn a tru­ism of Wash­ing­ton life: It’s much eas­ier to stop some­thing than pass some­thing.

Democrats are fully pre­pared to be hyp­o­crit­i­cal here. The same law­mak­ers who de­nounced the fil­i­buster when Repub­li­cans used it against Pres­i­dent Obama will now em­brace the tac­tic with the fer­vor of a con­vert.

Their first fo­cus will be the Supreme Court va­cancy. And they will surely in­voke Repub­li­cans who talked openly -- when they thought Clin­ton would win -about block­ing her ap­pointees for her en­tire first term.

“The most dif­fi­cult as­pect of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics these days is that gov­ern­ing mo­ments are few and far be­tween,” wrote Prince­ton pro­fes­sor Ju­lian Zelizer for CNN, be­fore the elec­tion. “The forces of grid­lock are ex­traor­di­nar­ily strong.”

Per­haps Trump’s lack of ex­pe­ri­ence will be an as­set; per­haps he’ll be able to com­bat these “forces of grid­lock” with a fresh eye. But gov­ern­ing is a pro­fes­sion, and an hon­or­able one. Trump would never turn his busi­ness over to am­a­teurs. They’d make too many mis­takes. An am­a­teur in the White House is a far riskier bet.

Trump’s prob­lems don’t end with Democrats. His own party is badly frac­tured, with a core of hard-line con­ser­va­tives de­ter­mined to push him to­ward a purist ide­ol­ogy and away from be­ing a pres­i­dent “for all Amer­i­cans.”

An­other prom­ise that Trump can never keep: de­port­ing the 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented workers who fill vi­tal roles in the econ­omy, and of­ten have chil­dren who are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens.

Trump can­not con­trol mar­kets, which plunged world­wide as his vic­tory loomed. And nei­ther China nor ISIS will be im­pressed with his blus­ter. How long will it take for dis­il­lu­sion­ment to set in?

Pres­i­dent Obama gra­ciously told Amer­i­cans that “our democ­racy has al­ways been rowdy and rau­cous. We’ve been through tough and di­vi­sive elec­tions be­fore and we’ve al­ways come out stronger for it.”

But his op­ti­mism will be se­verely tested by a Trump presidency.

Cokie and Steve Roberts Colum­nists

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