Editor’s Note: Timothy Stanley is a historian and columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between L.A. and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Timothy Stanley says this isn't the end of American democracy; what's happening now is an affirmation of it, and the Constitution will make sure things go ok
When President Barack Obama suggested that Americans might soon be on Mars, who knew that he’d be flooded with volunteers? The victory of Donald Trump last night has many liberals saying that they don’t want to live on this planet anymore. Social media is in meltdown. The website for Canadian immigration crashed.
Everyone should calm down. The last few hours have actually shown that the transition from Obama to Trump will be smoother than folks fear. Trump’s victory speech was his best yet: gracious and even touching.
Hillary Clinton took awhile to concede, but when she did she urged the country to get behind its president-elect. And Obama committed himself to a fine transition. All of this is evidence that the office of the president is bigger than the occupant, and governing functions at a higher level than campaigning. Trump is on his way to the White House. Now the Constitution kicks in.
He will be shown respect. He will also be scrutinized. The media will be on his back 24/7, and he’ll give them plenty to report. The Republicans will try to bend him to their will. Although Paul Ryan expressed his thanks to Trump for the GOP control of Congress, the reality is that they have subtly different agendas and will likely fight over much.
The courts will frustrate any overreach. The 2018 midterms will cast judgment. Those who compare this situation to Germany in 1933 are not only grossly exaggerating, to an offensive degree, but they misunderstand the nature of Germany at that time. It had barely tasted democracy, its institutions were weak. America’s are strong.
That and Trump simply isn’t Hitler. He is moderate on many areas of policy, such as gay rights, and flexible on others, such as the economy. And several of the issues he ran and won on are serious issues that he was right to address.
Views on Election 2016
Finally, America has a presidency committed to tackling illegal immigration, to cutting taxes, repealing and replacing Obamacare and pushing back federal regulation. As a pro-life person, I am very happy about the prospect of Trump selecting a new Supreme Court justice. Pro-choice people will feel the opposite – but that’s the give and take of democracy. As Obama likes to say, if you disagree with something don’t moan, vote. This time, however, not enough Democrats voted to make a difference.
Winning is what validates politicians. Trump has proven that he understands a forgotten, alienated America – that he will seek to give them a voice. This is a good thing, too. If he had lost as narrowly as he won, Clinton and the liberals would have been unpleasantly triumphant. The Trumpites would’ve seethed and retreated into conspiracy theories. Now they have a chance to govern. That means that they are the rulers now, and they will have to match rhetoric with action.
Perhaps the most positive aspect of this election is what it has discredited. Old-fashioned retail politics is out. Massive ad buys won’t win you an election. Pitching everything you say at specific constituencies – as though we were all parts of groups rather than individuals – doesn’t work. And paying lip service to tired, politically correct clichés now seems irrelevant.
The unlikeliness of Trump’s victory is oddly energizing. It shows anything is possible. If Trump can be president, so could a liberal radical like Bernie Sanders. Next time the Democrats should go with their gut and nominate a real fighter.