Helping Trump Look Presidential

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

J.T. Young Former Treasury Department and OMB Official
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For anyone who doubted, the election’s aftermath only confirms its outcome.  Opposition hypocrisy and media partiality, combined with reality contradicting the dire warnings of his victory, have produced an unintended effect in favor Trump. Those seeking to undermine the election’s outcome have instead raised Trump’s stature, while reducing theirs to caricature.
The tales of Trump’s disgruntled opponents fall into two groups: the pathetic and the apoplectic.

On college campuses, the nursery school of the left, the scenes more resemble low comedy than higher education.

At Cornell University, a “cry-in” was held for distraught Clinton supporters – complete with tissues and hot chocolate. Tufts offered arts and crafts.  The University of Kansas made comfort dogs available for the bereaved, though only every other Wednesday – presumably the consoling canines can stomach only so much preciousness.  The University of California at Berkeley has healing spaces for its afflicted.

At other colleges the therapy has run from coloring books to counseling.  Markers and chalk have been distributed so the anguish can be transposed.  In a thorough retreat to childhood, Play-Doh – presumably only in blue – has been distributed.

Of course, tests have been cancelled or made optional.  One professor urged students to join her in a strike and dress warmly.  And there have been student petitions for no school, because who could possibly learn under such conditions?

Opposite the comical lies the criminal at the opposition spectrum’s other end. Rioting, with assaults on police, attacks on businesses, and destruction of vehicles, has not been uncommon.

Naturally, the mainstream media has seriously and sonorously reported these episodes, apparently unaware they are bringing unintended parodies to the nation.  They have dutifully tried to turn sore losers into victims, and sour grapes into a fine whine.  Yet they have carefully overlooked labeling participants as instigators, thus trying to avoid making them responsible for their actions.

Lost on Trump opponents and the mainstream media promoting their victimization is their “Trump-er tantrum’s” hypocrisy.  Their collective reaction – ranging from passive-aggressive to aggressive-aggressive – amounts to disputing the election’s outcome.  This refusal to accept the election’s outcome is exactly the contrived controversy with which they sought to tar Trump following the third presidential debate.

As omnipresent as it is transparent, there is nothing new in the left’s actions or hypocrisy.  What is unusual is that both are making Trump’s case for him.  In comparison to them, Trump will increasingly look like an acceptable alternative – not just to his supporters, but to many who did not vote for him.

While Trump handily won the vote that – he is only a plurality president in the popular vote.  There he gained 47.2% of the popular vote to Clinton’s 47.8%.  Some Democrats see Trump’s popular vote defeat as further indictment of his legitimacy.  What it really represents is further opportunity – a chance Trump’s vociferous opponents are greatly aiding.

The 5% of voters who voted for someone else are part of the prime audience of the Trump opposition’s post-election pout.  Potentially, they can swing into support or opposition to Trump’s administration.  And they are not alone.

Additionally, there are past voters who skipped this election – about five million fewer voted than in 2012.  There are also Democrats and Republicans who voted against him, but are predisposed to give a new president a chance.  In office, Trump could potentially appeal to more Democrats, beyond the 9% who voted for him, and some of the 7% of Republicans he lost.

Although Trump won with a plurality, he could still govern with a majority if these potential groups can be won over.  After just over a week, his opposition is making this look increasingly possible.

His opponents, by playing to the form that cost their preferred candidate the election, are opening the possibility of strengthening Trump – even before he is sworn in.  By making themselves look trivial, they are making him look presidential.

His opponents do not see either themselves or him in this way.  But that is the point.  They already proved themselves visually impaired when it comes to looking at themselves and the broader American electorate.  In the post-election, as in the election, it is not their view that counts.  It is the rest of the nation’s – those already Trump’s supporters or potentially so – that matter.

Trump has proven adept at converting the skeptical while holding his faithful.  In the campaign, he did so despite his opponents.  Now with the campaign barely over and his administration yet to begin, he finds his opponents helping him to do what he already does well.  By simply being themselves they are comparatively changing him for the better in the eyes of many.

The author served in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a Congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.