Nov. 09--Now, can he govern?
Fresh off a wildly contentious campaign that had him fending off accusations of sexual assault while pulling off one of the unlikeliest upsets in American political history, Donald Trump will seek to lead a divided nation -- a task that could prove as perilous as dashing across a freeway at rush hour.
The immediate aftermath of Trump's win will be widespread shock that could result in big drops in the stock market Wednesday and international bewilderment at what U.S. voters just decided.
But the task of leading will soon begin, and few presidents have faced such a monumental challenge.
No president has ever assumed office with the country as angrily split as this one and with legions of Americans regarding their new leader as nothing more than a grandstanding liar.
That's reflected in polls. More than half the country last week -- fully 54 percent of voters -- said in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey that they would not be prepared to support Trump as the nation's 45th president.
Then there's Congress where Democrats are expected to oppose Trump at every turn, whether it be the initiatives he seeks to pass or the conservative Supreme Court justices he wants to confirm. But he will have Republican majorities in both the House and Senate to help him along.
Corralling 100 senators and 435 members of the House will take time and patience, and some wonder if Trump has it within him to accomplish that.
"He's a divisive figure," said University of Missouri political scientist Peverill Squire. "It would be hard for Democrats to support him. I suspect there will be a number of Republicans who will be uncomfortable with him as well.
"Presidents always have to assemble coalitions to support their proposals. That's tough to do in a polarized environment. I worry a little bit about whether he can focus his efforts around a coherent set of policies."
But Lloyd Smith, a former executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, said Trump will understand that building those coalitions is exactly what he needs to do to be successful.
"I think he'll unite the American people in a way that they begin to see that it's a new day and a new time with new leadership," he said.
One problem, critics have pointed out, is Trump's proposals are inconsistent. He wants more money for infrastructure and extending Social Security. But he also wants to cut taxes. Those proposals would add huge totals to the federal budget deficit, a position that the Republican Party has long opposed.
"Things just don't add up," Squire said.
Expect Trump to be a heavy-duty delegator while leaving much of the day-to-day running of the country to his running mate, Mike Pence, said Emporia State University political scientist Michael Smith.
"(President) Reagan was a big-time delegator," he said. "Trump would take that to the next level."
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, insisted that if Trump is to be successful in any way, he's going to have to learn how to work with Congress. That, she said, is a very different proposition than cutting real estate deals.
"The art of the deal is one thing in business," she said. "It's a completely different deal in government and international diplomacy."
McCaskill said Trump's penchant for bluff and bluster may be effective in negotiating deals, but it won't be effective in working with members of Congress who are driven by their own agendas.
Trump, she added, has got to find a way to curb his insatiable desire to be the center of attention.
"He's got to try to make it about something other than himself," McCaskill said. "He's got to meet people halfway. He's got to not be obsessive about being the winner in every situation."
The real estate mogul has one advantage, and that is a clearly articulated multi-pronged agenda for his first 100 days in office as well as his first day in office, Republicans noted.
Priority one? Repealing the Affordable Care Act. Trump has trumpeted that cause in the wake of recent reports that Obamacare insurance premiums will rise by double digits in 2017.
"Just think what we could accomplish in the first 100 days," Trump told supporters at a rally in Ohio.
On Day One, Trump has pledged to tackle more than a dozen measures. Among them: renegotiating NAFTA, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, nominating a replacement for Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court and removing illegal immigrants.
Trump has also proposed congressional term limits, a federal hiring freeze and a five-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists.
Altogether, Trump's game plan is easier to grasp than Hillary Clinton's, said John Hancock, the Missouri Republican Party chairman.
"We have a clearer idea of what a Trump presidency is going to look like certainly in the short term than what a Clinton presidency looks like," he said.
Hancock said one challenge for Trump will be making peace with many members of Congress whom he's feuded with over the months, especially those such as Missouri's U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, who un-endorsed him following his comments about sexually assaulting women.
"But I think he has the capacity to do that," Hancock said.
No matter what he does, any hope for a working relationship with congressional Democrats appears to be little more than a pipe dream. Trump and Democrats have waged highly personal battles in recent months that make trustful relations nearly impossible.
"I would've been disappointed if John McCain or Mitt Romney was elected president," said Roy Temple, chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party. "But I wouldn't have felt the country was in peril.
"But Donald Trump is a threat to every institution our democracy holds dear."
What Trump needs, Temple said, is "a sweeping gesture of goodwill that shows a belief in the institutions that run our republic."
Missouri's U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Harrisonville Republican, had a different view. She said she was optimistic about the months ahead.
Trump "will continue to set the tone with the change we need," she said. "It's up to us in Congress to set the policy."
Steve Kraske: 816-234-4312, @stevekraske
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