OK, I’m afraid. Very afraid.
The unexpected election of Donald Trump as leader of the free world has discombobulated me and, I suspect, millions of other Americans. We may have some inkling that this incapacitating sense of dread will pass at some point, but for now that point is a mere pinprick of light so far in the distance it can barely be seen.
The growing consensus is that this was a historic campaign – primarily because it was uniquely weird. Had Hillary Clinton won, the result would have seemed less momentous, even though she would have been our first woman president.
Her administration would have been like a continuation of Barack Obama’s.
But the election of Trump places the election in an entirely new category, one with potentially enormous consequences. Trump is the first president with no experience either in the military or in government service of any kind, and we have no substantive idea of what his presidency might be like.
Historians will be dissecting why Trump triumphed for decades to come. The instant analysis is that Trump was able to discern the deep distress of working-class Americans, particularly white working-class Americans.
That might be true. Ironically, as a billionaire businessman privileged from birth, he has been particularly adept at portraying himself as a populist who speaks the same language as his base of supporters.
But governing is different from campaigning. And it is possible, likely even, that many of those who voted for Trump will be disappointed by his presidency.
Why? For one thing, Trump is the consummate pragmatist. If he can’t easily fulfill the promises he made during the campaign, he might simply abandon them.
For another thing, the solutions he fed his followers were both simplistic and, in most cases, impractical.
Uneasy about Mexican immigrants? We’ll build a wall and they’ll pay for it.
Fearful of too many Muslims entering the country? We’ll ban them.
Worried about the ascendency of China as an economic powerhouse? We’ll slap tariffs on China and other importers – but you will still be able to buy their cheap products in our stores.
Scared of ISIS? We’ll just bomb them back to the stone age.
Concerned about climate change? It’s just a Chinese plot.
Worried about the cost of Obamacare? We’ll repeal it and replace it with another plan – which we don’t have yet but it will be better than Obamacare because Obamacare is a disaster.
It’s all so simple.
What will Trump do with his days in the White House? How will he pass the time?
He doesn’t read and reportedly has the attention span of a 5-year-old on a sugar high. It is apparent that he doesn’t know much about government, the Constitution or American history. It’s hard to imagine him spending hours in the Oval Office toiling over policy points.
I suspect he’ll sneak out a lot to play golf.
All that aside, he is the president-elect for all of us. He was born here; he is not secretly working for a foreign power; and he won the election legitimately, fair and square.
Let’s resist the temptation to suggest that Russian hackers rigged the election for Trump.
While the filibuster is one of the few weapons remaining in the Democrats’ quiver, I hope they use it sparingly. I hope they choose to work with reasonable Republicans to address important issues such as fixing health care for veterans, refurbishing infrastructure, shoring up Social Security and Medicare, addressing income inequality, reining in the big financial institutions and reducing global carbon emissions (good luck on that one!).
I hope they don’t waste time, like the do-nothing caucus of House Republicans, obstructing vital business and threatening to shut down the government unless they get their way. Accomplishing something might actually appeal to voters of all stripes.
And I hope the young people who now are protesting the result of the presidential election by swarming the streets, smashing windows and setting fires to trash bins will cease and desist. They aren’t helping the cause.
And if they didn’t bother to vote Tuesday, shame on them.
James Werrell is opinion page editor of The Herald.