After a false start, Donald Trump went presidential Friday. Hours after lashing out at “professional protesters” on Twitter on Thursday night, he changed course. The nation was headed for unity, he said: “We will all come together and be proud!”
To which I present: A wet blanket.
It's just not at all likely to happen — and especially not with Trump.
Some of this unity talk is perfunctory, of course. The losers of presidential races are supposed to be gracious, as are the winners. So far, both have been, generally speaking — at least, when speaking publicly to or about each other. Both sides express a desire to do what the American people say they want, which is for lawmakers to get along, work together and accomplish things.
The issue, of course, is: That's not what the American people want. Not really.
If the last decade-plus has shown us anything, it's that we live in an increasingly polarized country in which there is little incentive — and generally much more disincentive — to work across the aisle.
This has been driven home especially during the Obama presidency. Now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in 2010 that the GOP's No. 1 goal was to make Obama a one-term president. The party appeared to make a calculated decision that it would stand resolutely in the way of most everything Obama did.
And in retrospect, it looks like sound political strategy. No, the GOP didn't unseat Obama in 2012, but it did make big gains in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, registering unprecedented power over American politics at every level beneath president.
And then the GOP won the presidency and a record number of governorships in 2016. Mission accomplished. Or, at the very least, that's the message they'll take away from all of it.
Enter Donald Trump. For all that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats express the desire to give him a chance, it's just not in the cards. Trump has proposed some of the most far-right policies put forward by a Republican candidate in history, and now he has a chance to implement them with a fully Republican-controlled Congress.
There will certainly be some discussions about exactly what Republicans want to pursue in a Trump presidency — and perhaps some disagreements among Republicans themselves — but Democrats are now in the position of being a full-on opposition party. Their only saving grace is the filibuster in the Senate, which effectively requires 60 votes to pass something, even as Republicans stand at 52 seats.
But this is a campaign in which Democrats have regularly accused Trump of appealing to bigotry, racism, sexism and Islamophobia — and even being each of those adjectives himself. How can they now support him in basically anything?
The moment he proposes a hard-line plan to deal with illegal immigration, Democrats will be incensed. The moment he proposes admitting no refugees from Syria, they'll be incensed. The moment he moves to repeal Obamacare, they'll accuse him of opposing popular proposals like covering pre-existing conditions and of wanting to take away people's health-care coverage. It'll be very hard to create unity after all of that — especially given Trump has little incentive to moderate now.
And indeed, there are already Democrats who aren't even putting up the veneer of giving him a chance. Here's the blistering statement outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) just put out:
If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try. If Trump wants to roll back tide of hate he unleashed, he has a tremendous amount of work to do and he must begin immediately.
And here's Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the potential next chairman of the Democratic National Committee who is both black and a Muslim:
1st, take Trump at his hate-filled word; 2nd, if his campaign hate was just hype, then that alone is despicable. I wouldn't bet on #2.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) November 10, 2016
Should Trump pursue anything like the plan he has outlined on the campaign trail, there is no way that any Democratic voters will countenance their members of Congress supporting him on much of anything. We'll again have a situation in which the opposition party holds up the president as the bogeyman whose ouster must be Priority No. 1.
And the opposition party's supporters will eat it up. As with Republicans for the last eight years, any members who run afoul of party orthodoxy could find themselves targeted in primaries. The few in competitive districts in the general election might want to make it work, but they are few.
As for Trump's actual plans and whether Republicans in Congress will go along with them: The 2016 election also has the effect of undermining the GOP establishment's claims that moderation is the best course — particularly on issues such as immigration. If you're a GOP congressman looking at these results in your moderately safe conservative district, what is there to tell you that you should support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants or that you should really do anything to make nice with the other side of the aisle?
And for Democrats, they've got an opposing president who won an election but lost the popular vote and who well more than half the country already dislikes. There will be little political pressure on them to join hands with him.
Things might be accomplished in Washington over the next four years. They'll likely be things only one side of the aisle likes and with very little support from the other side.