Trump seeks to unite country after divisive WH campaign

Trump seeks to unite country after divisive WH campaign
© Greg Nash

Donald Trump faces enormous challenges uniting a bitterly divided country in the wake of the nastiest presidential election many can remember.

Trump must deal both with Democrats who view the president-elect on almost apocalyptic terms and those in his own party who are suspicious of his motives or conservative bona fides. 

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On Wednesday, as people began to get used to the idea of a President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE, there were some signs that the Republican could enjoy at least a brief honeymoon. 

Never Trump Republicans such as Mitt Romney and members of the Bush family wished him luck. 

Democratic candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote MORE in a concession speech said Americans owe Trump an “open mind.” 

President Obama promised a smooth transition, reminding voters that Republicans and Democrats in the end are on the same team. 

Even liberal firebrand Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) issued a statement saying she was praying for Trump’s success.

Trump and many of his top aides and supporters struck a conciliatory tone in the early morning hours Wednesday, with the GOP standard-bearer saying he would seek to “bind the wounds of division.” 

“A good leader is magnanimous in victory and extends an olive branch and puts bygones behind and works with adversaries on things you have in common,” said Ben Carson, a close Trump confidant, in an interview with The Hill on Wednesday. 

“I’m confident Trump will do those things,” he added. “A lot of times when people find themselves in a situation of enormous responsibility, they quickly adapt to that role. I believe we’ll see it with him.”

Yet the depth of the challenge awaiting Trump, a first-time politician whose election represents a disruption to the establishment, was not far below the surface. 

Trump will be looking to remold a party that has stood for decades on Reaganite policies of free trade and immigration reform. 

He has promised his supporters that he’ll “drain the swamp” in Washington and usher in a nationalist populist vision for America. 

That vision stands in direct ideological conflict with the political philosophies of GOP leaders, including Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Trump takes two punches from GOP MORE (Ky.).

While Trump and Ryan talked twice in the election’s aftermath, some in Trump’s circles remain critics of the GOP legislative leader. 

Trump’s campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, the chairman of the conservative news outlet Breitbart, has told colleagues he views Ryan as “the enemy” and has urged them to destroy the Speaker through their reporting.

“Ryan will not get amnesty for his actions against the conservative movement and the American people,” a source familiar with Breitbart’s internal deliberations told The Hill on Wednesday.

Some of Trump’s supporters say a critical first step in repairing divisions within the party is to give the Speaker a vote of confidence.

“Put the little offenses aside,” said Carson.

Trump’s supporters say it’s incumbent on Ryan to buy wholesale into the president-elect’s vision and prove that he can be a trusted ally, even when it is difficult for him politically.

“Paul Ryan now has to acknowledge that the ‘better way,’ in his words, will be led by Donald Trump,” said Frank Cannon, president of the conservative think tank American Principles Project.

Ryan said Wednesday that Trump would be leading a “unified” GOP that controls both the White House and Congress. 

The 2016 champion also appears to be going out of his way to reach out to Democrats. In a gracious victory speech, he said Americans owe Clinton “a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.”

It was a far cry from the business mogul’s promise to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton’s email controversies with the aim of imprisoning the former secretary of State.

Republicans hope that with Trump occupying the White House, the party can unite behind its majorities in Congress to push an aggressive conservative agenda.

Trump’s transition team is exploring how to maximize impact from some early executive orders it believes the president-elect can implement to beat back liberal gains made during the Obama years.

“There’s a new sheriff in town and we expect a conservative agenda to be implemented because that’s what the people voted for,” said movement conservative leader Richard Viguerie.

Keith Appell, a well-connected figure within the conservative grass roots, said Trump’s priorities should include approving the Keystone oil pipeline, filling the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacancy on the Supreme Court, and repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

“Stick to principles and don’t yield,” Appell said, “but seek common ground on the big issues confronting the country.”

Finding common ground with wounded Democrats may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. 

Trump’s anti-trade message is almost identical to Bernie SandersBernie SandersAngst grips America's most liberal city Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure MORE’s during the Democratic primary. 

Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, hopes her party can work with Trump on an infrastructure package. And Trump has vowed to rebuild the nation’s inner cities, a pledge that Democrats would be eager to see him fulfill.

“I think Trump won’t govern as he campaigned, so there should be some common ground,” said Jacob Limon, who served as Texas director for Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign.

The stunning upset of the Washington chessboard has unnerved many. But it has also sparked optimism in some of Trump’s critics, like Fred Malek, the finance chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

“Most people see Trump as highly combative, but as shown in his speech last night, he is prepared to be gracious and unifying,” Malek told The Hill.