President Trump is an unusual president. In his August 21 primetime address on Afghanistan, he reminded us he likes following his instincts. And his gut often trumps expert advice.
Trump views his unpredictability as an asset. And it certainly has worked for him in business and in his surprising ascendancy to the presidency.
Americans are divided, but as a nation we crave leaders who bring us together. And at times, it’s unclear whether Trump wants to fracture or unite us. On the one hand, his beautifully crafted State of the Union speech calling for a “renewal of the American spirit” and his speech on Afghanistan asking Americans for loyalty, love and patriotism, were artfully designed to unite us. On the other, his dark inaugural speech and personal attacks on corporate leaders, top members of Congress, and the mainstream media are divisive and unprecedented.
During Trump’s first 200 days in office, I visited several countries and learned firsthand how our president is viewed internationally. I quickly learned that the harsh, American, anti-Trump faction is not universally felt around the world. Most people I met seemed to understand our president’s election was a unique reaction to frustration with the status quo. Moreover, many realize that Trump’s occasional belligerence and non-traditional style are not reflective of the values of most Americans.
More Americans today identify as Independents than as Democrats or Republicans. And many on both sides do not embrace the corners our media and politicians push us into.
So how can Americans ensure our nation flourishes during this presidency? How can Americans concerned about the partisan divide contribute to a more cohesive nation? Here are five ways we can not only survive, but become a stronger nation and people under a Trump presidency:
1. Rise above it. Don’t get sucked into the personal attacks on Trump or his family. Ignore the histrionic cable commentators vying for ratings by emphasizing conflict. At times Trump can come across as insensitive and demeaning, but personal attacks are childish and not helpful in making anything better.
2. Recognize that Trump appointees are not Trump. The current effort to shame Trump appointees into quitting, if successful, may do terrible harm to our nation. Most of the appointees are bright, competent, passionate, and patriotic Americans who bring a wealth of valuable and diverse experience. They have performed well and take risks every day as they kill bad ideas and fulfill the jobs necessary to run our government. We need them doing their jobs rather than exiting government service.
3. Resist the resisters and the zealots. Some leftist progressives want every action by an appointee of President Trump opposed. Some in the Freedom Caucus will oppose all legislative proposals unless they are purely conservative. Our nation has a 200-year history of consensus and compromise. Support groups like No Labels that promote bipartisan congressional action on key areas such as health care reform and balancing the budget.
4. Listen to those who disagree with you. Shake up your news sources. Seek out people passionate on either side of the political aisle and ask questions — and don’t immediately disagree. Most Trump supporters are not racists — they are just frustrated with the status quo in Washington. And most progressives are not socialists — they just want to help those at our nation’s margins. Real, interactive discussions can bring us together.
5. Remember what unites us. Our nation is an experiment in democracy. Our nation’s relative youth and extraordinary diversity mean we struggle to resolve social and cultural issues that older, more homogeneous nations easily address. But it also makes us unique, creative, innovative and successful. We prosper from our culture of curiosity, our great universities, our melting pot of ideas, our unique Constitution and the belief that innovation and entrepreneurship are worthy national ideals. Americans are united by more than geography — we possess a shared sense of history and a desire to give the next generation a better life.
Yes, President Trump’s approach is unique. But our nation will always be better than any single leader. We can and will be better if we take individual responsibility to ensure our unique place in American history and promote ideas that advance innovation.