Backers of President Trump are routinely challenged by his critics to defend their support on a line-item basis. It’s like being audited by an IRS agent determined to nail you for cheating, the difference being that IRS audits eventually end.
Many Trump voters need nothing more to justify their continued support of the president than the roaring economy, his pick to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and his efforts, successful or not, to keep his campaign promises. For others, the daily joy derived from witnessing the hysteria of the Trump resistance and the apoplectic rage from many on the left over the mere fact that Donald Trump exists is its own reward.
But in the spirit of the season, and in an effort to mollify the sincerely mystified among the general population, allow this Trump supporter to offer the small gift of a few words of sincere criticism of the 45th president of the United States.
During President Barack Obama’s two terms, there were always some on the right who proclaimed that Obama was “not my president.” In fact, he was. I never voted for Obama, and I opposed most of his initiatives. But he was the duly elected president, and he was my president, too — even if many of the values and beliefs I hold dear were routinely marginalized and disrespected by his administration, just as many on the left now complain is the case for them.
Today, to an even greater extent, countless Americans proclaim that Trump is not their president. And yet, he is just that. But more important than anti-Trump Americans acknowledging that Trump is their president is Trump acknowledging this fact himself.
Trump is president not just of the nearly 63 million Americans who voted for him. He is president of the nearly 66 million who voted for Hillary Clinton and the nearly 8 million who picked another candidate. He is president of all 325 million Americans, whether they voted or not.
I recently had the privilege of meeting with graduate students at the Columbia Journalism School in New York, courtesy of an invitation from professor Samuel Freedman. It is safe to say that most of the students did not have a favorable opinion of the president, and they had many questions about those who voted for him. But an important part of our conversation was the need for all sides to show more respect to those who are diametrically opposed to them politically, even when they stridently disagree.
That example can be fostered by no one as much as the president. Unlike some, I don’t want Trump to “pivot” or become “more presidential.” Many of the personality traits that drive others crazy are the very reason he is so refreshing to his supporters. But the Trump resistance would be significantly diminished if the president were less inclined to elevate them to his level — the level of the presidency — by engaging with them in petty, back-and-forth insults.
The desire to banish Trump from the Oval Office — or the planet, if possible — is deep and wide among his political opponents and many in the media. But as harmful and irresponsible as many members of the “resistance” can be, Trump is their president, too.
I want Trump to continue to “drain the swamp,” enforce immigration laws, undo Obamacare, cut costly regulation, put America first and even criticize journalists when their zeal to be the first to break unfavorable news about him results in inaccurate or poorly vetted stories.
But in so doing, he should remember that he is the president of everyone who vehemently opposes him on all those actions. He is president of every American of all races, creeds and sexual orientations. And most important — this basic fact does not depend on anyone’s acknowledgment.
The groundbreaking baseball player Jackie Robinson once said, “I’m not concerned with you liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
My New Year’s wish for the president is to lead by example when it comes to respecting those who oppose him. Whether that respect is returned is not particularly important. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is the Golden Rule — and it’s not contingent upon anyone else doing the same in return.