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The Right and Wrong Way to Respond to President Trump

A call for reason and cooperation on the day that half the country is cheering--and the other half is fearing.

As Donald Trump is sworn into office as the 45th president of the United States, both his toughest critics and strongest supporters need to take a deep breath and consider where they want to go from here.

The critics are correct that Trump possesses troubling characteristics for a president. But the shortsighted response some have chosen -- boycotting the inauguration and declaring him an “illegitimate” president -- only weaken the foundation of democracy: the peaceful transition of power. That could have disastrous consequences down the road.

Regardless of Russian hacking, Trump won more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton in an election that was not corrupted by voter fraud. His victory was legitimate, and those who deny it -- including American heroes like Rep. John Lewis -- are the mirror image of the birthers who tried to delegitimize President Barack Obama.

Similarly, many Democrats who criticized Republicans for blocking President Obama at every turn are now vowing to adopt the same approach with Trump. While turnabout is fair play, Democrats will only hurt the country, and their own cause, by refusing to cooperate with Trump on issues where common ground is possible, including infrastructure, the earned income tax credit, child care and veterans’ health care. Protest and obstruction can be a useful part of a political strategy, but it should not be the primary one.

Trump’s supporters would do well to pause, too. For instance, many Republicans in Congress are rushing headlong into a half-baked agenda, starting with a quickie repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Some, like Senators Bob Corker and Rand Paul, have opposed repealing the law without having a replacement at the ready. More should join them.

Republicans have also expressed too little concern over Trump’s conflicts of interest, which have the potential to be a major distraction for the new president -- or worse. The debate over whether Trump is violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution will almost certainly lead to a legal challenge. Calls for impeachment won’t be far behind. To avoid this, leaders in both parties should join together in pressing Trump to separate himself from his private interests.

Trump was elected to drain the swamp. Voters should insist that he lead by example.

There’s a wider lesson, one applicable to all: Trump will probably continue to manufacture more political drama than is healthy for any republic. Rather than getting swept up in it, Americans -- and the world -- should view it with a discerning eye. The first step is to separate social media musings from actual policy, and to judge the administration more by its actions than its words.

The days ahead will doubtless test the patience of many Americans. But national unity must not be sacrificed by shortsighted political considerations. If inauguration day holds one truth, it’s this: The U.S. is more durable than any one president.

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