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What sort of mandate did Americans give Trump?

REUTERS/Mike Segar
How will President Trump govern? From the center, with a managerial, problem-solving approach? Or will he adopt a more hard-line, ideological agenda favored by some of his supporters on the right?

Well, now what? Donald Trump won and will be our next president. Those facts are tough for many of us to swallow, but we need to move on and ask, what will he actually do? No one knows, maybe even the president-elect himself. A better question might be: What sort of mandate have the American people given him? To do what, exactly?

Some argue that by giving Republicans control of all three branches of government, voters have signed on for anything and everything candidate Trump and his party espouse. Really? Americans want us to get out of NATO? Push Japan and South Korea into acquiring nuclear weapons? Engage in torture? Deport 12 million residents? I don’t think so.

And the evidence is otherwise. For starters, at least 1 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. That doesn’t change the result – the Electoral College is our baby and we’re sticking with it – but it does show that Americans are deeply divided about our country’s direction.

Frustrated with status quo

If there a unifying theme among Trump voters, it’s dissatisfaction with the current state of the nation. Call this an anti-Washington trend, but it’s really more a broader frustration with our inability to get anything done, to deal with the major problems facing our nation.

Democratic voters share that frustration, a reason nearly half of them chose Bernie Sanders rather than the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, in this year’s primaries.

Then there are the tens of millions of eligible voters who chose not to vote. Sitting it out is another way of showing lack of hope in our politics. The dismal ratings for Congress – less than 10 percent approval of the institution – is further strong evidence of a widespread disillusionment. People are fed up with seeing politicians – in or out of office – get rich, while their own concerns are ignored (except during election season).

The American people – those who voted and those who stayed home – said clearly they’re tired of business as usual. They want change for the better. We can answer that message and restore faith in our democracy only by moving beyond partisan gridlock to address real problems and concerns. That would be change we could all believe in.

Border issues will require compromise

There’s genuine fear and anger about failure to police our borders and devise a rational, balanced and humane immigration policy. It’s time to forge an agreement on the way forward. It will take leadership and a willingness to compromise by both parties.

Entitlement reform is another vital, unaddressed issue. Lots of viable fixes for Social Security are available, but yet nothing gets done; many citizens, young and old, doubt the system will be there for them. Providing for the general welfare is one of government’s responsibilities under our Constitution. We can’t just keep kicking this can down the road.

The same is true for health care. No one much likes the employer-based system we currently have. It’s an unfathomable maze; or, as Churchill said of Russia, “it’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Obamacare brought some real improvement, including health insurance for 20 million citizens previously left out, but it has also resulted in higher costs or less coverage for others. Barring our switching to a single payer system, we need to fix what we have – not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Everyone seems to agree our roads, bridges and highways are badly in need of repair or replacement. A substantial investment in improving our infrastructure would create good jobs, stimulate our economy now and better prepare us for the future. So let’s start moving on it instead of getting hung up on ideological differences over which pot of money should be used.

Mixed signals on Trump’s intentions

How will President Trump govern? From the center, with a managerial, problem-solving approach? Or will he adopt a more hard-line, ideological agenda favored by some of his supporters on the right?

The early signals are mixed. Most of the president-elect’s post election comments have been conciliatory and even handed; he’s called for unity and said he wants to be a president for all Americans. Many of his rumored appointments, however, go the other way. John Bolton is said to be under consideration for secretary of state, even though the Senate refused to confirm him as ambassador to the United Nations because of his extreme partisan views. Some of the president-elect’s closest advisers, Newt Gingrich for example, are of the take-no-prisoners school of politics. Gen. Mike Flynn appears to be cut from the same cloth.

For now, the jockeying in Trump Tower is over positions and power. Soon enough we will see how that struggle translates into policy – and whether the American people’s longing for an end to partisan gridlock will be realized.

Dick Virden is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer. He lives in Plymouth.


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Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/18/2016 - 06:39 pm.

    Distrubingly (Perhaps Even INSANELY)

    based on his announced cabinet appointments,…

    Mr Trump seems determined to live DOWN to the worst fears,…

    of all of those of us who voted for Hillary.

    I also fear that our Democratic Senators and Congresspeople are just not able to rise to battle.

    They simply don’t have it in them to fight.

    Like President Obama, they can ONLY play “nice” (i.e. bringing rubber chickens to a knife fight where the other side is armed with stilettos).

    By the time the Trumpites and the Republican Congress get done, there will no safety net,…

    and the entire Medicare system will be converted to vouchers,…

    with those dependent on that system required to use something like that A.C.A.’s insurance exchanges (such as MNSure),…

    or left to find coverage on their own.

    But those vouchers will NEVER be enough to provide the same coverage that Seniors have had under under Medicare.

    Goodbye angioplasties, joint replacements, pacemakers, cancer care, etc. Those with serious health problems will not be able to afford treatment.

    But I suppose we should all celebrate!

    We did this to ourselves!

  2. Submitted by John Edwards on 11/19/2016 - 11:53 am.

    Clinton’s popular vote plurality

    This article brings out what many liberals are overlooking in their touting of Clinton’s small edge in the popular vote. She got only 48 percent. Fifty two percent voted against her. It could be persuasively argued that the libertarian, limited government Johnson took more votes away from Trump than the far-left Stein took from Clinton. The outcome was a clear rejection of the Obama era, which Clinton most certainly represented and the president confirmed by campaigning for her while viciously attacking Trump. The people spoke quite loudly in this election. Socially and fiscally the majority wants a new direction.

    • Submitted by Jeffrey McIntyre on 11/20/2016 - 05:54 am.

      The Vote

      Trump, as of yesterday had 46% of the votes…so, using your logic, 54% of the country voted against him? In the real world, HRC got a bit over 25% of the eligible voters to vote for her, Trump got a few points less, and 48% of the voters just stayed home…which tells me they didn’t much care for either one. Hardly a mandate for either side.

  3. Submitted by John Clouse on 11/19/2016 - 01:57 pm.


    There will be negatives galore for all of us to absorb after a year or so of a Trump Presidency but the worst will be global nuclear war.
    Not having ACA or a Medicare program will seem quaint when that happens.
    But this is what the American public wanted: all out change, for good.

  4. Submitted by Jeffrey McIntyre on 11/19/2016 - 05:40 pm.

    The Donald

    His “mandate” came from 25% or so, of the eligible voters. Over 200,000 voters in Mn who voted for Obama in 2012 evidently stayed home on Nov. 8 (Trump only got 2,000 or more votes than Romney in 2012). Probably true across the country. Hang on, he drained the swamp and what he found will make up the preponderance of his advisors and cabinet. I’m White/Native American….I feel sorry for anyone who is brown or black. When they start to register Muslims I’m going to sign up….I suggest every else does as well, Stick it to the man!

  5. Submitted by Howard Miller on 11/19/2016 - 10:00 pm.

    Americans will project the mandate each of us has

    We’ll each impose on Trump (at least those who voted for him) the mandate we have in our head, created in part by his words, but informed by a context ripe to hear his burn-it-down message. And that will not be a uniform, universal view. The people most disappointed in the Trump presidency may be his supporters, when reality shatters rhetoric.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/21/2016 - 06:01 pm.

      Excellent Point

      Since I was an “anti-Hillary” Trump vote, I am looking forward to Trump ending up being rather moderate and taking his lead from folks like Paul Ryan. Whereas I agree that I think true Trump Supporters are going to be very disappointed.

      That is if our friends at Saturday Night Live don’t make fun of his back pedaling so much that he finally charges forward. It is interesting that many folks on the Left are making fun of Trump for moving towards the center, instead of just thanking God for small favors.

      I just like to remember that it could be worse… Hillary could have been preparing to pursue Bernie’s Social Democracy platform… Talking about dodging a bullet. 🙂

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 11/21/2016 - 10:15 pm.


        The shark has finally been jumped. Tell me, in what universe would someone whose entire life’s work has been to completely, and utterly, dismantle any vestige of public social policy, who idolizes Ayn Rand like a smitten school boy, ever, EVER be labeled as “moderate”? For Pete’s sake, what more does Ryan have to do for you to label him conservative, literally pray to a statue of Barry Goldwater?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/22/2016 - 08:29 am.

          Please Note

          Yes he is a moderate Conservative who is even closer to the middle than Hillary was on the other side of center.

          Please remember that I use govtrack to get some kind of a data based scale. Otherwise many of us tend to think that we are “moderate” / normal. I mean I have friends who think Paul Ryan is a Liberal.

        • Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/23/2016 - 07:59 am.

          The shark was jumped long ago.

          When the neo-Nazis have a corner office in your party headquarters, Paul Ryan is pretty darn moderate.

  6. Submitted by Lee Rebuffoni on 11/21/2016 - 09:40 am.

    Well done Trump voters

    All we have to do to see what total conservative control of government looks like is to see what conservatives have done in Kansas. Its hard for people who don’t believe in government to run the government competently.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/21/2016 - 06:09 pm.

      Point of Comparison

      Is MN a good example then?

      Propping up our economy by passing large bonding bills that will need to be paid back by our children?

      Taking out almost a half billion dollars in debt to help build a new football stadium?

      Taking on debt to help fund Light rail that serves one small group of commuters?

      It seems it is easy to run a government if all one needs to do is raise taxes, borrow more and spend often… I wonder what the long run ramifications are of living large like that are?

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/23/2016 - 10:48 am.

        Not sure where this is going?

        Trump is proposing $500B in infrastructure? Seems it is also easy to destroy a govt by allowing the well to do to pay nothing: example Trump, billionaires that pay $0, laws that allow them to pay significantly less than the average American, and accordingly a vote for him was a vote to increase that disparity! Have you considered that the reason our kids and us pay all the tax is because the well to do don’t pay a fair share?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/23/2016 - 11:35 am.

          Fair Share

          I always love that term… How do you define fair?

          1. Cover charge – everyone pays same amount because we all live here

          2. House gets fixed percent of winnings = Everyone pays same %

          3 Progressive: More successful pays higher rate

          How do you wrestle that low income people tend to get far more back in insurance, credits, cash, government assistance, etc than they pay in? Is that fair?

          And by taking more from the wealthy than they receive… We are able to pay those costs and so much more?

          My point is that even if Trump paid no income taxes… (ie not proven yet as far as I know) He still pays HUGE taxes in actual dollars relative to people like you and me. (ie property taxes, etc)

  7. Submitted by John Appelen on 11/21/2016 - 06:16 pm.

    Less Gridlock

    Now as you know, I am a fan of slow and steady change, so I am nervous whenever one party is dominant.

    For years now I have been reading comments here about how the GOP was the obstructionist party who was in the way of government functioning “correctly”.

    And now I am curious, is the Democratic party now going to be labeled the obstructionist party who is in the way of government functioning “correctly”?

    Or will they be labeled something else as they seek to slow the passage of laws and budgets they disagree with?

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/24/2016 - 09:19 am.

      As CH noted above:

      Hopefully the “D’s” will/can slow down the rise of the Fascist neo Nazi Trump regime? Some of us aren’t into that.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/25/2016 - 07:43 am.


        I keep asking and no one answers. What exactly do you fear is going to happen?

        I understand the slow down or stopping of refugees from higher risk pools, and the deportation of illegal aliens… But what do you see happening with regard to actual US Citizens?

        • Submitted by Cindy Oberg-Hauser on 11/25/2016 - 01:15 pm.

          What do I expect?

          Full disclosure: I consider myself a progressive liberal.

          What I expect to see is a Republican Congress attempting to disable the ACA so that the 20 million newly insured people will find themselves unable to continue their insurance because of costs or lack of choices. Then there’s the rest of us who will likely see higher premiums and fewer choices due to the Republicans trying to incentivize insurance companies to make more money.

          What I expect to see is our natural resources decimated by the renewed and increased push to drill for oil and coal rather than investing in greener and more renewable energy sources.

          I expect to see our education system become more and more privatized (which typically means more expensive and exclusive), leaving behind millions of children whose parents are unable to get into the privatized schools either due to lack of money or the proper credentials: race, religion, location, etc.

          I expect to see people become less civilized in their interactions with those who are different from them because of color, religion, wealth, occupation, education, gun ownership, or any other rationalized disdain. And I expect more people will live in fear of that increased vitriol even as many try to defuse the anger and bigotry.

          I expect to see more and more people struggle harder and harder to make it each month because their wages haven’t seen an effective raise in several years. All while executives and others already wealthy people see thier taxes decrease so that they keep more of their “earned” money.

          I hope I’m wrong, but this is what I expect to see in the next 4 years. And, yes, I do expect it to be worse than if Hillary had won the election and/or the Democrats had gained the majority in Congress.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/25/2016 - 11:43 pm.


            Now that is better. It sounds like you expect them to behave like typical Republicans… Not Facists or crazy people. As for your concerns:

            Please remember that most of those 20 million actual got insurance via the medicaid expansion. And please remember that we tax payers and insurance premium payers are funding that expansion, the pre-existing conditions coverage, coverage to age 26, etc by paying more. ACA had some good parts like the insurance mandate, otherwise it is for the most part a welfare expansion / wealth transfer program.

            I am not sure how drilling “decimates natural resources”… Since the oil is under the ground. You should go visit ND. There are wells and pipelines, but mostly there are miles and miles and mile of wheat fields.

            I see up and downsides to vouchers. However given the number of kids Left Behind in the Mpls, St Paul, and similar districts… Especially minority and poor children. I think we owe it to them to help them escape those schools and the monopoly that controls them.

            After watching the post election protests, I agree with you that there are many on the Left who are very biased and angry. 🙂 Hopefully they will become more tolerant and peaceful.

            Please note that the Democrats had full control for 2 years, and had the Presidency for 6 years. I agree that they did a poor job of growing our economy and helping the working class. Hopefully Trump and crew can do better.

            I am a big believer in protecting the goose that lays the golden eggs. I think Hillary was ready to slaughter the goose in order to take all the eggs… I am not excited with Trump etal, but I think it could have been worse. Time will tell. Thanks for the clarification.

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