In these perilous days, the most popular quote going around is the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s biting observation: “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Someone from the about-to-be Trump administration replied to that quotation by saying, “There are no facts anymore.” The retort made for good press, but it was galactically misguided. The very fundament of life is that there are facts, and all attempts at covering facts, a favorite sport of dictators, ultimately fail.
In these same perilous days before the Trump takeover, the press is spending a great deal of energy either predicting the disasters to come or celebrating the audacious new direction in which Trump is aiming the country. There are, of course, generous grounds for predicting dire times ahead. An anti-labor executive heads the department of labor. The country’s loudest opponent of the Environmental Protection Agency is made head of that department. A white nationalist is made special advisor. An ardent opponent of public schools will be put in charge of them. An executive of a company with business in virtually every country in the world is touted to be the face of America as Secretary of State.
These are not moves calculated to communicate great optimism either to American citizens or to the world at large. Head them all up with a president woefully lacking in either the temperament or the experience or the ability to govern a nation, and the prospects for disaster loom large.
One thing only lacks, however: facts. The only facts we have at the moment are that Trump has, in fact, made these choices. It remains for the legislature to approve the choices, and, should it do so, it remains then for these selections to dictate and carry out whatever policies they choose. It is possible, however unlikely it may now appear, that Trump will, through these people, improve the lives of those sixty million people who voted for him. He may well, somehow, raise their wages, improve their health care, repair their infrastructure, raise the level of their children’s education. He may even somehow continue the work of cleaning the environment, improving our relations with China and Russia to our benefit, alleviating discrimination against women and minorities. I have very dear friends who tell me all of this is possible.
Here is one other fact. Sixty million people voted for Trump because they wanted all of this. They wanted more and better jobs. They wanted better and cheaper health care. They wanted better roads and bridges. They wanted better and cheaper education. And, do not doubt this, they also wanted a clean environment and improved international relations and a continued fight against all forms of discrimination. Those sixty million people are fellow Americans and neighbors and relatives. They are my people, and they are good and loving and concerned people.
You may also think that they are deceived people, and that Trump has lied to them all along. That may be, but there is left to us now only one way to find out. We must await the facts. Let us see what the Department of Labor does for the laborer, what the Department of the Environment does for the environment, what the CEO of Exxon does for our relation with the world. Every step they take is an announcement by Trump of the truth or falsity of his promises to the sixty million. If he fulfills those promises, we who railed against him owe him an apology. If he betrays those sixty million, then we owe it to them to fight every injustice these people impose and denounce every broken promise Trump made. However we judge Trump, it must now be on the facts alone.
By their deeds you shall know them.