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The weeks after

Donald Trump’s win is not a revolution but a signal to get to work

The weeks after

(Illustration by Krieg Barrie)

Do you remember 1994? After two years of Bill Clinton’s overreach, Republicans won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Newt Gingrich was now speaker of the House: an idea man who had brilliantly nationalized the congressional races around 10 key propositions called the Contract with America. Conservatism was on the march, and boy, did those Democrats look sheepish. Six years later, Clinton left office more popular than when he went in, and it was Gingrich’s turn to look sheepish.

Five general elections and four midterm elections later, I’ve gained some perspective. It’s not Armageddon. It’s not Morning in America. It’s time to go back to work.

On Nov. 8, I talked politics over breakfast, listened to last-minute appeals on the radio, trolled some websites, and delayed voting until two hours before the polls closed. It came down to this: If Clinton wins, she’ll need a check on her power. If Trump wins, he’ll need a check on his power. So I voted Republican on the down ballot and left the rest up to my fellow Americans. I’m not disappointed, but I’m not falling for the usual postelection pontification either, such as:

The Party’s over. Just two weeks ago, pundits were wondering who was going to sweep up the ruins of the Republican Party. Now the Democrats are looking for a broom. But let’s be realistic: The party that survived losing the Civil War (they were “on the wrong side of history,” as President Obama likes to say) isn’t going away. There will always be an opposition, and in America we’ll always have two (not three, four, or five) viable choices for federal office. For the foreseeable future, their labels will be Republican and Democrat.

There will always be an opposition, and in America we’ll always have two (not three, four, or five) viable choices for federal office.

We’re going to drain the swamp. Newcomers to Washington miscalculate how deep the ooze, and how powerful the suck. The most a new boss and cooperative Congress can do is set some reasonable boundaries.

It’s a revolution! A new president has two years—more realistically six months—to nail down a few pieces of signature legislation before the opposition roars back. After that, it’s typically a defensive game for the rest of the term.

We’re moving to Canada. I’ve known one person who actually did, and it took over two years and much determination. Canadians are pickier about immigration than we are.

On Nov. 9, I perused The New York Times and Huffington Post websites. Among the hand-wringing and doom-casting, I found words of cautious conciliation. The editors at “HuffPo,” who used to end political pieces with an “Editor’s Note” describing Trump as a racist, sexist xenophobe (and worse) announced that they’re dropping the postscript and hoping for the best: “If Trump can reverse the economic inequality he decried during his campaign, bring back manufacturing jobs, find a way to give people better healthcare for less money, invest in infrastructure to stimulate the economy and otherwise make the country great, we’ll cheer him on. We’ll find out.”

Fair enough. Reluctant Trumpers and Never Trumpers might add this: If he can shore up the constitutional foundations of the Supreme Court, set standards for religious liberty, and speak up for persecuted Christians around the world, we’ll cheer him on. And pray for him regardless.

Every four years, the electoral circus comes to town, gaudy, brassy, and loud. This year the show was uncommonly raucous. Both candidates dragged unsavory baggage into the ring, but only the victor gets to own it. Trump’s baggage is his mercurial personality—which may blow up in our faces. But Republicans have been handed an amazing opportunity: By moving quickly, coordinating wisely, and maneuvering tactfully, they may be able to halt, or at least slow, our dangerous national drift.

Often during this election season I’ve wondered what God was doing. His ways are as mysterious as ever, but I know what I should be doing: Feed the hungry, lift up the fallen, think with the mind of Christ. In Washington, new days will soon be old days. In God’s kingdom, it’s always morning.

Email jcheaney@wng.org