Now the fun begins: Americans decide how they will deal with Trump and with each other

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

His first two weeks as President of the United States were defined by a flurry of executive orders, all of which were consistent with his campaign promises.

A few of them met with significant push back. How Donald Trump and his team deal with those “you can’t do that” responses will determine the type of president he will be.

At the same time, how we as Americans deal with Trump also will determine the type of president he will be. Will we remain stuck in our left, middle and right camps, continuing to see the other sides as out of touch, uninformed, stupid and the like?

If we do, then it won’t matter what Trump does, because our national divisions will stay firmly in place.

The idea that we already are witnessing a challenge to Trump is correct, but a gigantic asterisk is needed. Many in the middle and everyone on the left are angry, and they’re letting people know it. However, their protests have not moved the right. Talk to people who voted for Trump and you’ll quickly see they have no reason to waffle in their support for him.

There’s the challenge: Will those already opposed to Trump be able to persuade the remainder of the middle and the right to see the potential dangers of a Trump presidency?

Call me skeptical.

If these camps come together, and that’s a big if, then it’s likely to be temporary and solely in an agreed sense that Trump has gone too far. In other words, if the Trump opposition thinks there’s a chance to remake America, then frustration is sure to follow. Why is that?

Writing in the New York Times, Notre Dame professor Gary Gutting believes there has never been a consensus on what it means to be a real American. He writes:

Patriotism is not sharing with our fellow citizens some anemic idealization of what freedom means. It is a matter of engaging them — with everything short of physical violence, from compelling argument to deft political maneuvers — in the rough-and-tumble of political conflict over how we should understand freedom. This conflict remains our only way of working toward the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” our revolution sought. True patriotism now requires not reaching across the aisle; it demands mounting the political barricades.

Mounting the political barricades? From my perch — and I’m a moderate who believes the two major political parties are beholden to special-interest groups more than to the American people, and therefore they’ve lost the moral authority to lead — I see my fellow citizens calling Trump either “the man!” who will fix what’s ailing the country or “fascist!” who wants only what is good for a select group.

Trump, the fascist? Not so fast, says at least one political observer.

Trump, the populist? Now you’re talking. That’s what a correspondent for The Federalist stated in his op-ed in the Guardian. John Daniel Davidson summarizes his argument by stating:

From Akron to Alaska, millions of Americans had simply lost confidence in their leaders and the institutions that were supposed to serve them. In their desperation, they turned to a man who had no regard for the elites – and no use for them.

Desperation is evident among the anti-Trump groups. (And it’s a legitimate feeling, if you ask me.) That desperation provides another reason to be skeptical about strong opposition across the board. Americans are ever more susceptible to propaganda and fake news masquerading as legitimate information. The Guardian picks up that thread and notes

Liberal anxieties about Trump have created an appetite for false news, and social psychology dictates that fearful people may be more gullible, said Claire Wardle, research director with First Draft News.

“It’s unsurprising to me that we’re seeing a growth of disinformation on the left … People want information that makes them feel better,” she said. “We’re living in a time where there is so much fear and concern mapped onto social technology.”

Of course, the president doesn’t help anyone by wildly and regularly asserting that the mainstream media wantonly distribute fake news and are therefore a threat to what he wants to do. Fascist dictators (yes, I know, Mr. Davidson from The Federalist is not happy with me right now) use that kind of rhetoric.

A unified America is likely to be evident only when an overwhelming majority believe the nation is at risk. The immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is the most obvious recent event. No sane person wants a repeat of that day; and the evidence continues to tell us that we’re more likely to be killed by a fellow American with a gun than a terrorist with a more potent weapon.

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