When the results started coming in from Michigan, the Yale community began to accept defeat: Donald Trump would be the next president. Hysterical diatribes piled into our social media streams. Emails from Yale administrators poured into our inboxes, reminding us how “loved” and “special” we are. Hundreds gathered on Cross Campus for a “primal scream” to channel the devastating agony they felt in the face of a Trump presidency.
I understand why. Donald Trump is a repugnant man who has grossly offended Americans of all stars and stripes. His words have left a damaging mark on our political process, and his victory evinces deep-seated tensions in the American populace. That being said, is Yale’s reaction justified? Is this really, as many have put it, “the end of our republic”?
We learned in elementary school civics classes that our political system prevents any one branch of government from wielding too much power. Our system of checks and balances necessitates compromise; Trump is no exception to this rule. Isolated from the core of the Republican Party, Trump will have a difficult time passing any of the legislation on his agenda. The wall, the Muslim ban, the bizarre economic plan and mass deportation, to list a few, all must get through Speaker Paul Ryan, who has openly admonished Trump on a near-daily basis for the past several months.
Moreover, with a two-seat majority in the Senate, it will only take a few moderate Republicans to block any unpalatable legislation. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have proven their ability to break with the party at key times. On arguably the most hotly debated issue of this campaign, immigration, four GOP senators have already supported a path to citizenship. Why should we expect these politicians to suddenly cow to Trump?
In addition to Republicans working with Democrats to block Trump’s agenda, Trump will have to build a coalition with liberals if he aims to achieve promised trade and entitlements reforms. This may be a time of more compromise than we have seen in decades, and compromise between radically different political groups. Given this fact, a Trump administration might produce more liberal results than mainstream Republicans would.
With regard to the Supreme Court, the late Antonin Scalia subscribed to the most conservative jurisprudence in modern history. His strictly originalist interpretations of the Constitution underpinned consistently conservative decisions throughout his tenure on the bench. Yet, despite Scalia’s protests, the Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and preserved the Affordable Care Act. It is hard to imagine a more conservative justice will replace Scalia, which makes liberal fears of a rogue court unfounded. Barring any force majeure (read: death), Supreme Court rulings will look largely the same under Trump as they have for our entire lives.
Then there’s foreign policy. Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 had the most foreign policy experience and expertise of any presidential candidate in decades. Trump, on the other hand, raises many concerns. From his transparent lack of knowledge on international affairs to his connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he has shown gross incompetence in matters of international diplomacy.
However, he has expressed surprisingly dovish views on foreign intervention. And our foreign policy apparatus gives great independence to the Department of Defense and our intelligence agencies; President Trump cannot unilaterally hijack our actions and alliances. Moreover, it is significant that he received overwhelming support from the military community with endorsements from 88 retired generals and admirals. It is hard to imagine that Trump will be able to upend the complex, labyrinthine decision-making process regarding our actions abroad — he has neither the power nor the intention to do so.
It is undeniable that a Trump presidency is symbolically deleterious to America’s self-image and our reputation abroad. However, responding with enraged wails and harboring rage against “the deplorables” solves none of our problems. If those dismayed by the results of the election maintain their insistence that half of America is racist, misogynistic and xenophobic, they are unlikely to see positive results in the near future. Responding to Trump’s brazen rhetoric with equally divisive posturing will achieve nothing.
In recent history, the U.S. has faced the threat of terrorism, defeated the menace of communism, largely overcome violent racial tensions and built the strongest economy in the history of the world. Our founders established ingenious political institutions that have weathered two-and-a-half centuries of perpetual challenges and made us the greatest nation on earth. Acting as if Donald Trump threatens centuries of progress gives him much more credit than he deserves.
Daniel Tenreiro-Braschi is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. His column usually runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .