Everyone, on both sides of the aisle, is in a state of shock over the results of the presidential election. Young people who supported Clinton are especially affected, feeling that they lost both an ideal and an expectation. Living inside the Beltway, or on the Upper West Side, it is now totally clear, is living in a bubble; it distorts the vision of what the country is really thinking and feeling. Seeing that reflected at the ballot box is eye-opening; for some that is good and for some that is chilling.
Like most Jews, I voted for Hillary. Between 70-80% did. I thought she would be a good President. With Trump I had/have mostly fears and doubts. But he was elected, so now what? A lot has been written already about what happened, about which I know as much as you do, or what to think going forward. I share some thoughts now on the latter, brief of course.
Every Shabbat morning in synagogues around the world we recite a prayer for the welfare of our government. It is recited not because it’s the nice thing to do, or the patriotic thing to do … it is recited because it is the Jewish thing to do! Our tradition tells us to do it. I can give you the texts if you wish. When I was in Zimbabwe last fall, we recited the prayer, even with a brutal incompetent government. Here too we have to show respect and support for the leader of our country whether we like him or not, whether we like it or not! But we worry about what will be. Will President Donald Trump build a wall along the Mexican border and get Mexico to pay for it? Will he ban Muslim immigration? Will he tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement? Will he move the American embassy to Jerusalem? Will he deport illegal immigrants? Will he negate the ACA? Will he bomb ISIS? Tear up international trade deals? No one can know for sure.
A colleague reminded me of two figures in history who may provide some hopeful perspective on what may be. Remember what happened when Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister? He had been considered the ultimate Hawk … the father of the settlements. And then when he became Prime Minister, he was the one who uprooted 8000 settlers and disengaged Israel from all of Gaza. Critics on the right condemned him, but he explained, “The view from here is different than the view from there.” When you are the head of a country things look very different than when you are just a political candidate. What you say on the campaign trail may be very different from what you can do from a place like the Oval Office.
There is also the legend that when Alexander the Great was first serving in the Greek army, one of his superiors insulted him and Alexander promised revenge someday. Later on in life, when he became the ruler of the Greek empire, one of his aides remarked to him that he had never taken vengeance on his old time adversary. And Alexander replied, “I am not going to allow Alexander the Small to dictate policy to Alexander the Great.” Yes, for Alexander the Great – like Ariel Sharon – the view had changed from “there” to “here.”
So, as President, will he be “Donald the Great” or “Donald the Small?” We can hope that he will rise to the occasion. In the meantime, I like what Mark Cuban tweeted the day after, “We all need to give President-elect Trump a chance, support the good, lobby against what we disagree on.” Feel free to write back. Best, Bill Rudolph