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Week In Politics: Presidential Election Aftermath


We're now in one of the most important periods for American democracy - the transfer of power from one president to the next. After an election result that took many by surprise, President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump met at the White House yesterday. The year of personal attacks behind them, each man spoke about working with the other to create a smooth transition.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together to deal with the many challenges that we face.

DONALD TRUMP: Mr. President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future.

OBAMA: Thank you, Sir.

SHAPIRO: Meanwhile, in cities around the U.S., people marched in protest.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Not my president, not my president, not my president.

SHAPIRO: In Portland, Ore., last night, demonstrations turned violent. Protesters smashed windows and damaged cars. Police called it a riot.

To talk about how this transition will actually go and what to expect from a Trump presidency, we're joined now by E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution and Eliana Johnson of The National Review. Welcome to both of you.

E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: So there have now been three nights of protests, and Donald Trump had two reactions. Last night, he tweeted (reading) just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters incited by the media are protesting - very unfair. Then this morning, he tweeted (reading) love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud.

So one of these sounds like the Trump from the campaign and the other like the Trump from election night. Which one do you think we're going to get as president, Eliana?

ELIANA JOHNSON: Oh, well, I think this is - those two tweets comprised the Trump that was present in the primaries in the general election and who will inhabit the Oval Office. His feelings are erratic. They turn on a dime. And he expresses them on a whim.

His campaign succeeded in taking his Twitter away from him at the end of the campaign, but the president-elect has it back. And if there's one thing that was constant throughout a tumultuous campaign season is that - it is that Donald Trump is not changing.

SHAPIRO: But, E.J., it does seem like, since Tuesday night he has been trying to keep the more erratic side in check, no?

DIONNE: Well, we haven't heard all that much from him, is one of the reasons for that. I mean to me, the first is Trump, and the second sounds like an adviser to Trump. A careful analysis of the words would indicate that the tones are so different. I mean look; my hope is that Trump misled everybody about who he is and that he's actually a reasonable, moderate pragmatist underneath it all. I don't personally believe that.

And I think - here's what's troubling, what worries a lot of people - is that first tweet reflects his impatience with dissent. When you lead a democracy, you need to be patient with dissent. You need to know that is part of what a democracy does. And it just raises all the worries that Trump's opponents have - and I'll be out there; I'm one of them - about how he might use the powers of government against his opposition. I think, you know, if he is good on that, it'll be much better than I fear it could be.

SHAPIRO: Those protests reflect a deep division in the country. Of course Hillary Clinton won the popular vote even though she lost the Electoral College. And so, Eliana, how do you think a President Trump can unify a country as divided as this one is right now?

JOHNSON: I do really think this election showed how deeply, deeply divided the country is along very visible lines - geographic, educational and racial and ethnic. And it brought that out in very painful ways. And I think it will be very difficult for Trump to bring a semblance of unity given that there's not even a divided government on Capitol Hill but a Republican control of Congress and of the presidency.

I do think if he can work constructively with Congress and get some things done, that will bring relief to some people who have been extremely frustrated by sensing gridlock and - in Congress and that simply nothing is getting done.

SHAPIRO: E.J., what do you think a president needs to do to bridge this division?

DIONNE: I think it's going to be very hard. I think he could start by - there have been reports of incidents against minorities around the country. I saw a report up from Pennsylvania today about minority kids in a public school. I think he could speak out against things like that very forcibly right from the start. That would be useful.

The problem with the governing Trump is that he may run into - he may get things done by violating most of the promises to most of the people who voted for him. We're hearing that two of the biggest things he wants to do are tax cuts and - which would be tilted toward the wealthy - and Wall Street deregulation. I doubt that voters in western Michigan or Reading, Pa., or Wilkes-Barre were voting for that program. So I think it's going to be very interesting where he ends up.

And what is he going to do about trade? We have no idea concretely what he's going to do. So I think he may not only face a divided country because Democrats have no real stake in the government right now. Their stake is in opposition. But also a lot of what he may do could disappoint some of the people who voted for him.

JOHNSON: Well, I would point out that Trump supporters are also being attacked. And I think a statement from the president-elect that addresses both of those things would actually be unifying. And I do think there are a couple of things - addressing the problem of Obamacare I think is something that is - that could relieve a lot of gridlock right now as well as the Keystone pipeline that Mitch McConnell brought up today. So I don't think all is lost necessarily.

DIONNE: But repealing Obamacare obviously would not be divisive. If he were serious about fixing Obamacare, you could have a bipartisan solution. I just don't think that's where he seems to be heading.

SHAPIRO: You know, speaking of campaign promises, he promised to drain the swamp. So how do you staff up a federal bureaucracy with people who are not Washington insiders? I mean (laughter) can he...

DIONNE: You bring in a bunch of lobbyists.


DIONNE: I mean one of the striking stories this morning is how many lobbyists are involved in this effort to drain the swamp. I'm curious where this is going to go.

SHAPIRO: Eliana, what do you think?

JOHNSON: I mean it's the same story that happened in the Obama administration - Obama pledging not to let lobbyists work in his administration, and of course it was chock-full of lobbyists within a few months. And I think that tends to be what happens in government.

But also I think a far more serious question is that, you know, 80 to 90 percent of the experienced conservative national security establishment had signed a letter pledging not to work in a Trump administration. And I think for the country's sake, it's vital that he get some experienced national security hands in the State Department and the Department of Defense. And whether Trump reaches out to those people and they accept his entreaties I think is critical going forward.

SHAPIRO: That's Eliana Johnson of The National Review and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution. Thanks to both of you.

DIONNE: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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