Politics & Policy

Take a Deep Breath, Leftists, Your Panic Is Making Things Worse

Protesters outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, November 9, 2016. (Reuters photo: Shannon Stapleton)
Demonizing half the country for voting for Trump helps no one.

It’s deep-breath time. It’s understandable that partisans would be upset after losing a hard-fought campaign, and it’s prudent and humane to give people a few days of space before reading too much into their words, but it’s clear that in some quarters anti-Trump fervor may be yielding a persistent hysteria that’s far, far out of proportion to the facts and probabilities of a Donald Trump administration.

The worst case against Trump goes as follows: He’s a Klan-endorsed champion of an alt-right that is racist and willing to use threats, intimidation, and violence to get its way. He hates Latinos and Muslims and wants to introduce national stop-and-frisk targeted at black men. He will rip families apart, go house to house in search of illegal aliens, and leads a vast army of white-supremacist voters who are intent on re-establishing their cultural and economic dominance. One writer, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie — in a piece called “There’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter” — even compared Trump supporters to the people who watched lynchings.

But wait, wasn’t there also a worst case against Hillary Clinton? As much as the Democrats try to normalize her, isn’t she a Communist-party endorsed champion of a Black Lives Matter movement that is not only committed to “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” it has inspired riots and deadly violence from coast to coast? Didn’t she mishandle the nation’s national-security secrets and support attacks on Americans’ religious freedoms? When she lost, didn’t some of her supporters align themselves with anarchists and other radicals (including “Black Bloc” thugs) to stoke violence in American streets?

Sadly, both of these worst-case scenarios have more than a few kernels of truth. There is an alt-right, it is evil, and a key member of Trump’s team — Steve Bannon — bragged about turning one of the Right’s most-trafficked sites into a “platform” for that vile movement. Trump’s own record of insensitive and outrageous comments and policy ideas is too well-known to repeat. As for Hillary, she did of course carry with her the Star Wars–cantina of radicals and revolutionaries that tags along with virtually every modern Democratic nominee. Some of these radicals did riot. She did mishandle our nation’s secrets, and she was an extremist advocate of abortion rights.

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So what’s the case for the deep breath? Simply put, the vast majority of Americans didn’t and don’t support the fringes (if they were even aware they exist), the American system is built from the ground-up to block radicalism, and the real-world proposals that are so far on the table for the Trump administration are in the main sensible, conventional, and hardly revolutionary (even when I disagree.).

First, it is no more illegitimate for 58 percent of white people to vote for one candidate than it is for 88 percent of black people to vote for the other. Those votes don’t automatically render one candidate a white nationalist any more than opposing votes render the other candidate a champion of black separatism. Moreover, in key communities, many of these white voters happily voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012 and like him still today. Millions more voted for Trump in spite of Trump, arguing in well-documented battles with Never Trumpers like me that Trump represented the lesser of two evils, that a vote for him was nothing more than a vote in self-defense against leftist radicalism.

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Second, when it comes to an actual agenda, there is nothing racist about repealing and replacing Obamacare, easing job-crippling regulatory burdens, repealing arbitrary and lawless Obama administration executive actions, or nominating judges who interpret laws as written. These are mainstream positions that can and do often garner support even from self-described liberals. As for border security, National Review was in favor of more-restrictive immigration policies back when Trump thought Mitt Romney was too mean. Indeed, some of Trump’s policies would warm a Sanders supporter’s heart. Is Trump taking aim at free trade because the Klan wants him to or because he’s reflecting the views of millions of voters, left and right?

Trump would not have the power to destroy America even if he were the monster his worst critics imagine.

Third, the idea that Trump can implement a dystopian nightmare all by himself is the stuff of teen fiction. Civics 101 teaches us that statutes are voted on by Congress, regulations are subject to judicial challenge, and even where Trump’s authority is at its greatest — in his conduct as commander in chief — an honorable military is bound by laws that trump Trump. There is cause for calm and — as a bonus — renewed appreciation for the American system and the wisdom of the Founders.

At the same time, while no one can count on President-elect Trump to lower the national temperature, conservative leaders can and should reassure fellow citizens that they will do all they can to ensure that a Trump administration respects the civil liberties of all Americans. We cannot and must not participate in the “sore winner” taunting that mocks our neighbors’ pain.

The conservatives I know would go to political war to preserve the First Amendment and the other fundamental guarantees of the Bill of Rights. The conservatives I know would go to political war to stop stupid or malicious policies that destroy relationships with key Muslim allies or convey dangerous weakness to Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea. And, finally, the conservatives I know are already at political war with the alt-right, often at considerable personal cost.

#related#Ultimately, much of the case for post-Trump hysteria depends on assertions that simply aren’t true. The vast, vast majority of white Americans aren’t remotely white supremacist and shun racism. Trump would not have the power to destroy America even if he were the monster his worst critics imagine (he’s not). Election advocacy is based on predictions — what do we believe he’ll do — while presidential performance is judged on actions. Every American should be willing to give President Trump the courtesy of waiting to judge those actions before leaping to the conclusion that doom is upon us.

The Left should realize in the meantime that its panic is part of the problem. It slanders (and justifiably angers) good people and helps further polarize a nation that desperately needs a respite from nonstop demonization and fear-mongering. So take that deep breath. Show some faith in your neighbors. It will be good for everyone.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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