New US President Faces Politically Divided Country
Donald Trump faces a deeply divided country as he takes office Friday as the 45th president of the United States.
That divide can be seen in results from public opinion studies. In a national poll, Marist College found that 53 percent of those asked said they believe Trump will do more to divide the country than to unite it. Forty-three percent said he is more likely to unite the nation, while 4 percent were unsure.
Marist polling director Lee Miringoff said “Trump’s transition to the presidency is lacking a political honeymoon. The president-elect has been reaching out to his base but has not broadened his support,” he said.
Larry Sabato is a political scientist at the University of Virginia. In his words, Trump “has not reached out to reunify a badly divided country in any sustained way." Mr. Sabato said "as a result, he has the lowest ratings of any modern president-elect during the transition period.”
In mid-December, another polling company, Gallup, found that 48 percent of Americans approve of how Trump is handling his presidential transition. This compares to 75 percent for Barack Obama in 2009, 65 percent for George W. Bush in 2001 and 67 percent for Bill Clinton in 1993.
Republican Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas and other Trump supporters have urged his opponents to give the new president a chance. Brady told VOA that he thought President Barack Obama was divisive. He said he is hopeful that when Trump takes office, he, in his words, “will continue to reach out with Congress and with different groups across the country, listen and see if we can’t pull together as a country. That is my hope.”
Democrats in Congress say they might willing to work with Trump on such areas as a major infrastructure bill to pay for the repair of roads and bridges.
But Democrats say they will oppose Trump on other issues. The new Senate Democratic leader -- Charles Schumer of New York -- said Democrats will, in his words, “fight him tooth and nail when he appeals to the baser instincts that diminish America and its greatness.”
Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, an Independent from the state of Vermont, told Democrats at a gathering at the U.S. Capitol after the election that “When we stand together, Donald Trump and nobody, nobody is going to stop us," he said."Let's go forward together."
John Hudak is with the Brookings Institution, a research group in Washington, DC. He said how Trump chooses to deal with the divide is important.
“It is incumbent upon him to start building bridges to the nearly 70 million Americans who voted for someone else,” Hudak says. “That is a real challenge, and it’s not a challenge every president faces, and it will be an important challenge."
David Eagles is the Director for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service. He believes Americans will welcome any attempt by Trump to unify the country.
“I’m very hopeful,” he says. “When you look at history in these periods of time, the American public has generally given a halo effect, if you will, on an incoming president to get their job done.”
I’m Caty Weaver.