Living Under a President You Didn’t Want: Four Words of Encouragement for Liberals

By Tom Gilson Published on January 20, 2017

Liberal Americans, may I speak to you for a moment? I have some words of encouragement for you.

I know that today, Inauguration Day, is a rough day for you. Very rough. Actually from my perspective as a conservative it looks like you’re in a panic.

As I write this, you’re planning protests all around the country — “massive” ones, according to some reports. The ACLU is printing 10,000 leaflets on protestors’ rights, for use in Washington alone. At least one other legal group has laid plans to be ready to help you if you get arrested.

It’s going to be a long day for you. I’m sure you see it as the start of a long four years.

We, too, know what it’s like to have a president we didn’t want.

There are conservatives, too — #NeverTrumpers — who would prefer it if we were swearing in someone else as president today. But I haven’t seen any sign that they’re joining in with your protests. I’m sure that’s partly because they, like all conservatives, have practice in this already.

You see, we, too, know what it’s like to have a president we didn’t want.

When Barack Obama was inaugurated we expected things would be rough — just as you are expecting as Trump is inaugurated today. Undoubtedly you see his administration in a much better light than we do, but for us, this past eight years has been disastrous in matters including health care, energy policy, marriage, right to life, and a host of foreign policy matters.

But we made it through not just one but two inaugurations, plus eight years of Obama in charge, without the kind of panic many of you are displaying.

I know it’s risky to offer unsolicited advice, but I think our experience may be instructive to you. So let me offer you four words of encouragement if I may: four things you can do to make it through the Trump administration with patience, with grace, and especially without splitting apart the country more than it already has been.

Don’t Forget It’s a Democracy

President Obama reminded us eight years ago that “elections have consequences.” Conservatives would have to live with his leadership and his agenda, he said, because the country elected him president: “At the end of the day, I won.”

He won twice. Now someone else has won. Donald Trump will be our president, because elections have consequences.

Some of you love to proclaim, “Not my president!” Please understand how anti-democratic this appears from our point of view. Barack Obama was president for both liberals and conservatives. If we had denied that, we would have denied American democracy itself; for America’s historically revolutionary democratic processes are defined by our free elections and the country’s acceptance of their results.

So we accepted Barack Obama as our president.

Of course we knew we would get our chance again in four years, and again in another four. You, too, will get your chance in 2020.

In the meantime you should feel welcome to use every legitimate democratic means at your disposal to stand for your view of America. You can protest; that’s American democracy in action. It does no good, though, if it turns disruptive or violent, so please be on guard for that. In your panic you appear not more than frightened: you look angry and sometimes hateful, which in large crowds often turns dangerous. I know you don’t want that to happen, but you’re running quite a risk of it.

I think you might want to re-consider your use of protests anyway. You’ll get further in the long run by working with the rest of us than by shouting at us.

Take the Long View

We are swearing in our 45th president today. There will be a 46th, and it won’t be Donald Trump. Nothing lasts forever. Conservatives have kept that in mind over the last eight years. Our patience has yielded this day for us, the end of extreme progressive national leadership — for now. There will be a 46th president for us, too, and who knows who that will be?

Social movements take time, too. The Civil Rights movement began with the abolitionists before the Civil War. It’s advanced since then through a series of huge ups and downs. If this is a “down” moment — as I’m sure you think it is — it’s still part of the long advance.

That might be little comfort if you want change right now! But change can’t be hurried. Eight years under Obama didn’t bring you the change you wanted. It isn’t because he wasn’t on your side. It’s because no matter how fast you might want change to happen, some things can’t be rushed.

While you’re taking that longer view, I suggest you also take a broader one. You don’t know conservative America. Of course we don’t agree with all your policies and politics, but we aren’t as hateful as you think we are. You might want to get to know us as we are, rather than the way your fellow liberals and progressives describe us. To judge us simply by the label “conservative” without knowing us is to stereotype us, and I’m sure you don’t believe in stereotyping.

Trust God

Sure, we’ve cringed over many of Obama’s decisions, yet we’ve been able to stand firm with the confidence that God is in control.

Donald Trump may be president, but he’s not the one who’s ultimately in charge. God is. And God is good. The Bible assures us that God takes a longer view and for higher purposes than we could even begin to comprehend.

Not every conservative lives by that belief, but it’s fair to say there are enough of us to influence the overall mood on our side of the American public. Sure, we’ve cringed over many of Obama’s decisions, yet we’ve been able to stand firm with the confidence that God is in control.

And I think that confidence explains our relative calm. It’s the reason we haven’t resorted to panic measures like your protests. There’s something to be said for bearing under bad news with equanimity. It would be healthier for you, as it was healthier for us while Obama served as president.

Your trust in God could include prayer:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good. (1 Tim. 2:1-3a)

Calm Down

Finally, take a deep breath. If you can remember this is still a democracy, if you can take the long view, and especially if you can trust God, you might be able to calm your panic.

It will do you a lot of good. It will do us all good.

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