There is not much to celebrate in the elevation of Donald Trump, but there is much to celebrate in the defeat of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Some time back, I described the Clintons as the penicillin-resistant syphilis of American politics; it turns out that there is a treatment after all, though it may remind us of some of the more exotic and unpleasant treatments that were relied upon in the time before antibiotics. Mrs. Clinton is an unusually unlikeable figure, having as she does the same sliminess and slipperiness as her husband but none of his facile charm and nearly flawless political instincts. She is also wrong about some fundamental things: what the Constitution means and how the Supreme Court should interpret it, abortion, gun rights, crime, education, taxes, the economy. . . .
It is a myth that the Chinese word for “crisis” is a combination of the words for “danger” and “opportunity.” But this moment does present us with both dangers and opportunities. We may very well end up with a reliably constitutionalist Supreme Court for the first time in my lifetime, a reformed corporate-tax code, a sensible immigration system, and a more cautious foreign policy. Or we may end up with a series of stupid and destructive trade wars and a president sidelined by personal and business scandals that have not yet come entirely to light. (The president-elect is, among other things, being sued for fraud in the matter of Trump University, an enterprise for which the adjective “sketchy” would be generous.) We almost certainly will end up with an even more distorted and aggrandized presidency.
As has been the case for years, the most thankless task will fall to congressional Republicans, and to the Republican governors and state legislators who do important real-world work that is rarely noticed in the national conversation.
One of those thankless tasks will be learning to manage a Republican president who may be tempted to stray off course a bit in the pursuit of overly grand ideas. But that’s something that congressional Republicans would have done well to learn 16 years ago.