Sooner or later, it will happen. Donald J. Trump will no longer be President.
It might be in 2021 if he loses his re-election bid. It might be 2025, at the end of a second term. Or, the Special Counsel’s probe could lead to an earlier exit. Whatever the case, despite the President’s wistful sentiments about Xi Jinping becoming China’s President for Life, this will not be his fate, and at some point we will have another President.
Think of how much vacant space this will create on the airwaves. Think about how much oxygen will be returned to all the rooms we inhabit. Think about the myriad of interpersonal stories we’ll have to catch up on now that everyone’s favorite topic has lost its potency and the ratings on this long running comic opera have faded.
This raises serious questions for all Americans. On the day after Trump, how does Congress restore its balance? How do our representatives and other elected officials find their voice in the absence of threats and intimidation that have so characterized the Trump administration? How are the many executive orders that have stripped personal safeguards in favor of corporate gains re-cast without alienating those who now benefit from changes enacted since 2017?
How do we re-balance the regulatory “reforms” that have stripped American workers—and the environment itself–of protections that will guard us, as my Lenape friends say, not just for our lifetimes or our children’s, but for seven generations? How will we restore confidence among our friends and allies that the US can again claim its moral leadership among democratic nations in the marketplace of ideas? How do we reimagine a social fabric that represents the core elements of justice and human dignity, embodied in the Declaration of Independence that we celebrated again this week?
Most importantly, how do we relate to one another? We have become so polarized that our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our congregations, even our families are stretched to the breaking point. How do we come together again? How do we invest in ideas that encourage a better, safer, more respectful, more stable life for all? How do we rekindle the muscles of our imaginations in order to reclaim the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great? How do we apply this spirit to complex and intractable issues of our day: pollution, urban development, climate change, sensible gun control, mass incarceration and health care costs that spiral out of control?
These are big questions, with no easy answers. But, I believe three things can jumpstart us toward a positive, post-Trump era.
First, recognize the obvious: Donald Trump will not be in office forever. And when he is gone, it will be up to us to fill the space that his constant presence will leave empty, and to fill that space with creativity, energy, imagination and love. Our country will right itself, so let’s encourage those organizations with whom we’re engaged to start focusing on that time, not by ignoring the present (with all its current tragic implications), but by expanding the dialogue to include principles in a post-Trump era.
Second, let’s begin now by talking with those with whom we disagree so that we can begin rebuilding relationships while the hegemony of the current administration is still in place. We must repair those relationships have grown strained. Start with small things that are easy to agree upon—the welfare of our children, training for tomorrow’s economy, care for our elders—and not seek to overcome all disagreements in a single moment. And then, let’s continue the conversation over time.
Finally, recognize that we cannot re-thread our social fabric alone. It will take a determined people, open and collegial—looking beyond those things that seem to divide us—in order to create a functional tapestry that is also vibrant and colorful, replete with many textures. We cannot weave this cloth alone. It will be important that we move out of our silos and into cooperative ventures across lines of difference. It will not be easy; but let’s start now—understanding that Donald Trump will not be in office forever.