TAR HEEL VIEW: Can Trump unite a deeply divided nation?


Just like another famous New Yorker, Donald Trump did it his way — and it made him the next president of the United States.

Trump, who has proved his critics — and the pollsters — wrong from Day 1, turned the U.S, election system on its head. That’s a good thing. Trump and his millions of voters showed that, at the end of the day, the people still have the power, not political machines from either party.

Millions of Americans virulently opposed candidate Trump, and many will oppose President Trump. Candidate Trump said some awful things. President-elect Trump was much more humble and conciliatory in his victory speech. We hope that is how he governs.

We will judge him on his actions and his results. And he has promised much.

We, too, want a sensible immigration policy and secure borders, but we want them without splitting up families and demonizing an entire ethnic group.

We, too, want better-paying jobs for the working class, but we don’t want to kill trade that benefits America.

We, too, know there are problems with Obamacare, but we don’t want to dismiss its good parts out of hand.

Some observers saw common themes among supporters of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — the little guy is getting shafted and the game is rigged for the wealthy.

If that common ground exists, Trump has a unique opportunity to make positive changes. But can he be a uniter? Even when we liked what we were hearing on certain issues, Trump’s bombastic and divisive speech turned us off.

Billionaire Trump supporter Peter Thiel recently told the National Press Club that the media and Trump’s critics were making a mistake by taking Trump literally, but not seriously. His supporters, on the other hand, were not necessarily taking Trump’s pronouncements literally, but were taking his message seriously.

Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan finds Thiel’s argument convincing:

“Journalists wanted to know exactly how he would deport that many undocumented immigrants, or exactly how Trump would rid the world of the Islamic State.”

Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, realized that Trump doesn’t really plan to build a wall. “What they hear,” Thiel said, “is, ‘We’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy.’ ”

There was much from Trump in the campaign that we heard, took literally and did not like. We hope that what we heard in his victory speech is the Trump we can take literally.

Even though Trump won, this was a close election. America continues to be extremely divided. He says he can unite us. That is a bold prediction. But so far, he has been right on bold predictions.

We hope he is right about this one. If he is, it may be a greater feat than winning the election.

The Wilmington Star-News

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