My wife and I welcomed Mike and Debbie for dinner at our California home Tuesday night. Our longtime friends are not alarmists, and they are not liberal Democrats. They are in fact the sort of genuine "moderate middle" voter that most consultants would die to have in a focus group: smart, caring, connected in their community, successful parents and employers.
I'm more conservative than they are. I voted for Donald Trump, and they did not. Our conversation was probably similar to one going on around a million tables in America.
Mike and Debbie are genuinely worried. Anxious. Even distressed by the inauguration of President Trump. I did my best to allay their fears, to point to people such as retired Gens. James Mattis and John Kelly, headed to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, respectively, to Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and former senatorDaniel Coats, R-Ind., on the national security team, and to my friends Scott Pruitt and Andy Puzder, nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and Labor Department, respectively.
Discount the rhetoric, I argued. Pruitt's not a "climate denier." Puzder is an evangelist of opportunity, a true believer in small business and successful employer-employee relationships. The vice president-elect, Mike Pence, is a wonderful man, I explained, a conscientious person of compassion and action. I stressed how incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus possesses a perfect skill set for the job that James Baker defined in President Ronald Reagan's first term, and that he could grow into it. Trump has assembled a superb team and is daily adding more talent to it.
I even made the case for why they could rely on Jeff Sessions - as an experienced Justice Department veteran and senator and, more important, a man of superb character - to take care as attorney general that the laws are faithfully executed. The new justice of the Supreme Court - whether the extremely able William Pryor or another rock-solid originalist - will not change the court's direction. Even if Trump secures a second or even third Supreme Court appointment, the Obergefell decision decreeing same-sex marriage the law of the land will not be overturned.
My arguments led to some feigned, hopeful smiles. Still, I know I did not persuade. People of moderate dispositions are unsettled by Trump's approach, and the single word they use is "temperament." This is a cultural clash as much as an ideological one. The president-elect is Jacksonian in his thunders, not Lincoln-like in his appeals regarding "malice toward none, with charity for all." Trump is loud and proud and big and bold and full of scorn for his opponents. That very nature carried him to his win. It isn't going to change.
Trump is the temperamental opposite of President Barack Obama. Imagine changing the temperaments of your next-door neighbors as radically as we are about to change those of our president. Even if you grew to like the new folks, it would take some getting used to.
Those alarmed by Trump should recognize that those personality characteristics do not define the entire man or his agenda for the next four years - and that, in fact, there are good reasons to welcome the brashness. The vast, suffocating bureaucratic state has grown so powerful and utterly muffling of genuine ideological diversity that we need to break the ice forming over the national conversation. Trump is Thor's hammer in that regard. It could get loud, but we could also end up hashing some hard things out.
Finally, there is this: The Constitution is very, very strong. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., not to mention the independent judiciary, represent significant checks on Trump, who, as Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn likes to point out, has never raised a word against the Constitution's design or institutions. Governors such as Arizona's Doug Ducey didn't like being pushed about by Obama, and they won't like it any more if Trump is doing the pushing. The media - asleep and smiling through much of the past eight years - woke up with a hangover and a backache, and are in a collective mood to go full Sam Donaldson. Terrific. Checks and balances.
So, if you are among the Mikes and Debbies - good people and great Americans - please relax and give it a chance. Trump intends to do good things for a great country and to do them via constitutional means. He is open for business on America's behalf.
When Trump declared his candidacy, I immediately purchased the rights to a new website: TrumpTheMusical.com. I expect it will get used. And I suspect it will have a happy ending. Really.