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The future is still bright

November 10th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

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In my US history classes today I gave the students an opportunity to express their thoughts about the election. Some were jubilant that Trump had won, many were despondent, and some were defeated. One of them blurted out, “The country’s going to hell!” When I asked why she felt that way she responded that if Trump did everything he said he would do in the campaign it would mean the end of America. A number of the students were concerned that Trump would be able to singlehandedly accomplish terrible things as if there were no limit to his power.

What I told them was this.

  1. We have to wonder if our dire predictions about the future are based on reality or rather reflect our ideological echo chamber. We know what Trump said, we also know that his own surrogates have publicly stated that he wouldn’t really do those things. We know that even though the presidency is a powerful position, that it is not all powerful, and that Trump cannot circumvent the rule of law unless we let him.
  2. We really don’t know how he will govern, and it’s possible that some of our fears have been overblown by our tendency to only listen to like-minded people. Yet all of us know people who passionately support Trump and while we are at a loss as to why we know they are good people. They must have heard something we didn’t. Maybe we should listen to it.
  3. Whatever rhetoric we heard from the campaign, and however we feel about the outcome, the system is working as designed. The faction in power has clearly stated the intention of surrendering power as specified in the constitution. Look around the world and notice where else you can witness that. In places with less respect for democratic institutions the losing faction would be alleging fraud and arming themselves to “take back the country,”
  4. While we respect the institutions and traditions of democracy that respect doesn’t preclude vigorous opposition. In fact it demands it. Those Trump supporters who think the opposition should be silenced forget the opposition President Obama faced beginning on his first day after the election and continuing to this day. I think they also forget that this election was a squeaker. There is no sweeping mandate here.
  5. The populist appeal Trump rode into office has historically elected presidents who could be disrespectful of constitutional norms. In particular, two populist presidents: Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, played fast and loose with the constitution. The republic survived.
  6. My most significant reason for optimism was them. They are engaged, interested, and concerned. They’re not a bunch of apathetic spoiled dumb asses as my generation likes to portray them They believe in the principles of American democracy. They are the future, and I think the future is in good hands.
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