How Donald Trump Can Heal A Divided America Now
A divided America has spoken, and now it’s time for us to unite. In her concession speech on Wednesday after losing the U.S. presidency to Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked Americans to support the peaceful transition of power by encouraging all citizens to approach President-elect Trump with an open mind.
Of course, Trump himself can unite Americans. His election night speech and his conversations with President Barack Obama and Clinton were an excellent and gracious start. But national unity won’t be an easy task.
The election was America’s most bitter and personally vitriolic presidential election in recent memory. Trump’s challenge will be to engage those who did not support him and pull Republicans and willing Democrats together to heal our domestic fissures, all while pursuing policies that create jobs and maintain America’s position as a global leader.
To be sure, Trump faces a daunting task. For nearly two years during a brutal campaign, in which Americans focused on the worst in each other, the fringes of both parties pushed their candidates to endorse policies that run counter to America’s best interests.
Trump rode a wave of populist anger over immigration to the nomination, while Clinton had to fight off rival Sen. Bernie Sanders and his quasi-socialist platform. The American people have entrusted the next four years to Trump to move them forward, cut deals and develop laws on bipartisan issues. This means embracing compromise.
Trump shows signs of being a compromiser. He wrote the book, The Art of the Deal – a book that discusses his willingness to achieve goals through deals. He engaged early with No Labels, a bipartisan group focused on solving the nation’s biggest problems that has attracted some 100 Republican and Democratic members of Congress.
Trump and the incoming Congress have huge opportunities to cut deals. The U.S. needs more and better infrastructure, or the economy will deteriorate into second-class status – and the president-elect has said he wants to spend $1 trillion on these improvements through funds generated from repatriating trillions of dollars parked abroad. A deal can be made to bring that money back home at a lower tax rate, with some of the proceeds directly or indirectly going into infrastructure funding.
Trump has promised to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to renegotiate NAFTA. If he fully abandons TPP, he gives up our biggest strategic tool to compete with China. Perhaps he should first try to modify it to address concerns of affected workers and the business community. If he tries to jettison NAFTA, he may risk Congress overruling him as Canada and Mexico are close strategic allies. Additionally, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are a border that uniquely protects our safety militarily. Suddenly abandoning NAFTA would also disrupt the robust trade among all three nations.
Trump can grow the economy. In the new digital economy, the jobs of today may not be the jobs of tomorrow. The path forward for the American worker is to move on to more advanced, highly technical manufacturing jobs that workers in emerging economies cannot perform.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields will grow to more than nine million between 2012 and 2022. America must fully recognize tech’s role in fueling our economic engine and embrace its role as the leader of the 21st century economy – and that requires an honest assessment of American manufacturing.
This raises another vital issue our newly elected 45th president must confront: America’s broken immigration system – one that requires more than a wall, as Trump has repeatedly suggested. Even though many voters think he is unfriendly toward immigrants, the issue is more complicated than that. Trump has declared that the U.S. must encourage highly skilled individuals to move and stay in the U.S. To attract and retain the best and brightest workers, the U.S. must increase the number of H-1B visas for highly skilled immigrants. These immigrants are not taking jobs from Americans.
I often hear from our more than 2,200 consumer technology member companies that there is a dearth of American workers to fill needed technical jobs. Creating an immigration framework that helps U.S. companies hire the workers they need is vital to keeping America at the forefront of innovation.
Trump can help by knowing when to step back, cut burdensome rules and let businesses innovate and thrive – and his tax plan includes significant reductions in corporate taxes. The U.S. economy faces an innovation slowdown caused in part by overbearing rules pushed by entrenched industry interest groups. For example, the Department of Labor’s pending overtime rule is well meaning but misguided, as it threatens to choke U.S. startups and small businesses.
Trump can reinvigorate the economy by encouraging experimentation and competition. Entrepreneurs should be inspired to take risks, try, fail and try again. Only then will economic prosperity and innovation abound. Finally, overspending and a failure to balance the budget fuel Americans’ frustration with the status quo. I sympathize with those concerns, especially because the current administration and Congress have done little to fix them.
Trump will come to office in January with a responsibility to pursue policies that will ensure a prosperous future for our children. The anger over the national debt is real, and it would go a long way toward mending a fractured nation to address it early in the Trump administration.
Today, more than 1,100 business leaders signed a letter urging Trump to work with them to “look for areas upon which we agree and can work productively with your new administration.”
Now that this divisive election season is over, it’s time to get to the task of healing through compromise. The world has watched as America has nearly torn itself apart in a heated, unprecedented campaign. Let’s show the world that we are still the nation that gets things done and values equal opportunity and innovation.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies.