Guest Opinion: Who is President Trump?
Let’s put Donald Trump’s stunning victory Tuesday in terms that fit his background: the business world. He’s been handed the promotion of a lifetime, but since he’s never held a CEO post like this, no one around the office knows whether he’ll grow into the job, flame out or destroy the entire operation. Not even Trump knows, though he wouldn’t admit it.
So, do all the employees who don’t like Trump ask to be transferred to, say, Canada? No, they owe him and the organization a chance to prove his leadership ability. He was selected for a reason, after all.
This is where we are as a nation: uncertain about the new boss. Some people are excited, others petrified. President-elect Donald Trump steps into the role without governing or military experience, coming off a brutal campaign that exposed character flaws that many thought showed him unfit for the position.
Trump’s outsider status makes many people jittery — even fellow Republicans who refused to support his candidacy and now realize they will have to work with him or be cut off from power. Confusion is heightened because Trump ran his campaign as an outsider, answerable to no one, fueling it with a combination of bombast and promises rather than detailed policy proposals. That makes it impossible to project what kind of leader Trump might become, or where his agenda might take him and the country.
But that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to run amok. Every new president entering office is untested, and cannot do the job alone. Trump will have the benefit of working with a Republican-controlled House and Senate but they won’t bend to his whims. He’ll still need to cooperate and negotiate, and be held accountable for each result. America is a country at war, and Trump will be charged with keeping the nation safe. He will be answerable every day to the American people — each of us, not just the ones who voted for him. He will feel that awesome responsibility.
We saw a glint of recognition in Wednesday’s early morning victory speech, when Trump — for perhaps the first time in the campaign, or maybe ever — passed up an opportunity to gloat or bash. Instead, he praised Hillary Clinton and pledged to be “president for all Americans.” To those who didn’t support him, Trump said, “I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”
If Trump is as good a boss as he thinks he is, he’ll put together the most talented and experienced team of advisers and Cabinet members he can find, and he’ll listen to them. The mark of a true leader is one who recognizes he’s not the smartest person in the room; he’s the one who hired the smartest people, and relied on their insights.
Trump will abide by that wisdom or he will fail. Yes, on the campaign trail he acted as if no one could touch his intellect or instincts. He made some empty boasts about understanding America’s enemies better than our generals do. But that was Trump the salesman. Trump the master real estate developer hired experts to design and construct Trump Tower.
We expect Trump to do the same as president, relying on experienced governing figures like Vice President-elect Mike Pence. As election bitterness fades and the Republican Party begins to heal, we look for other accomplished leaders to step forward, maybe including a former opponent or two, such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. If Trump asks, maybe a stray Democrat steps forward too.
For those worried about the offensive or unreasonable ideas Trump pushed on the campaign trail, a reminder that democracy’s checks and balances include voters. They’ll play a role as soon as the 2018 congressional elections. American presidents are not dictators.
Trump won the presidency by tapping deep wells of discontent in an arc of swing states from Florida to Wisconsin. Then he defined his opponent as the more unlikable option. Think of his winning campaign as a business strategy: Trump identified his target audience, hit them with the right message and then, on Election Day, he closed the deal. He’ll need that kind of skill to lead the country. Let’s see if he’s up to the task.