At this writing, Hillary Clinton’s path to 270 electoral votes seems gone, and the only question is whether Donald Trump gets to 270 or needs the House to vote him — maybe as the loser of the popular vote (which is yet to be fully tallied) — into the Oval Office. I think it is fair to say that everyone in the politics, punditry, and journalism business, even people who were rooting for or outwardly confident of a Trump victory, are shell-shocked tonight. I still don’t think Trump ever anticipated this working out like this. Yet, while Trump is reaching into Rust Belt states the GOP has failed to crack on the presidential level since the end of the Cold War, it’s also a big night for normal Republicans up and down the ballot across the country, many of them running ahead of Trump. The historical dynamic favoring the GOP this year clearly played a major role. History being cyclical, Republicans will pay for this eventually.
There’s a lot of mixed emotions among conservatives who bitterly opposed Trump (myself included) as unelectable, unfit for office and unconservative. And there’s a lot of shock and horror among Democrats and liberals who see the dark night of fascism descending and who made no attempt to prepare themselves emotionally for this. But on some level, that may be the rare moment that gives us some common cause. Conservatives and liberals have spent years beating each other up (I’ve spared no zeal in doing so), just as conservative Republicans and moderate Republicans did until Trump drove a bus between the Cruz and Kasich factions in the primaries. And now we may have a president who cares naught for any of us, and has no clue what he’s doing. And while the Right will enjoy some schadenfreude and bank whatever wins we can wrangle out of a Trump White House, the worst thing for conservatives and liberals may be to get so wrapped up in fighting each other we forget that the new administration owes a debt of service to all Americans that it’s ill-equipped to provide, and also that it will need to be constrained by those hoary old notions of separation of powers that have been so disdained in the Obama years. Principled conservatives who are ready to work with President Trump some of the time, and against him at other times, may turn out to be the friends liberals need right now, and vice versa.
Can a Trump America be one that is respectful of the Constitution and tolerant of dissent and minority groups of all kinds? The answer might surprise us all, if strange bedfellows are willing to work together. We might all need each other more than we ever imagined. Because Trump is going to need a lot of help to do this job, and a lot of spine will be needed to remind him of its limits.