A few hours after Donald Trump became president-elect of these United States, Amjad Taufique was tooling up I-85, on the way to a job site in Suwanee.
He is a working man, a Muslim who lives in Cobb County. My friend and his wife voted early, for Hillary Clinton, and had posted the news on Facebook. But Taufique had gone to bed before the counting ended, and learned of Trump’s victory only after waking up on Wednesday.
I had reached him on his cell, to see how he’d taken the news. Taufique sounded downright Presbyterian.
“I reminded myself that, being a Muslim, it’s my firm belief that everything happens with God’s will,” he said. “And there is goodness in things that we may not know and see.
“This is not the end of the world. This isn’t something I prepared for, to have Donald Trump as president. But if that’s what God has desired for us, then I believe we should make the best of it,” he said.
Yet beneath that acceptance, Taufique is worried that Trump’s election has given more permission to those already harassing women in hijabs. “You kind of worry about the safety and security of your daughters and wife,” he said.
Our 45th president was elected on his promises to a white America uncomfortable with its shrinking role in our society. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” Trump said in Wednesday’s wee hours.
What does that mean? The short answer is that we don’t know. Trump’s was a campaign of wispy generalities — vows and threats that appeared, disappeared, then re-appeared, morphing as the situation demanded.
A ban on Muslims entering the United States became a ban on visitors from countries infected with terrorism, coupled with a promise to monitor American mosques. His promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants, including Dream Kids who were smuggled in as children, waxed and waned.
The only unchanging meme in his campaign was that disaster was already upon us. And only he could fix it.
As the shock of his election sank in on Wednesday, a line first penned by The Atlantic’s Salena Zito flowed through the Internet: “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”
On Tuesday, Donald Trump was a concept. Today, he is a political reality that requires everyone, even his supporters, to parse what was merely rhetoric and what will soon be policy. The literalists are nervous.
“My phone’s been ringing all day. They’re panicked. Literally, absolutely panicked,” said Charles Kuck, an attorney representing many Dreamers who have sheltered under an executive order from President Barack Obama. Which Trump has promised to end.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia chapter of Council on American-Islamic-Relations, called to let me know that he wasn’t “curled up in a fetal position under the bed.”
“We have a new president, but not a new Constitution. We’ll be watching to see if he continues his anti-Muslim rhetoric,” Mitchell said.
In her Wednesday concession speech, Clinton noted that our faith in the electoral process requires us to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead,” the Democrat told her supporters. But at the same time, the woman whom Trump has dubbed a “criminal” worthy of being “locked up” noted that we put limits on our leaders.
“The rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them,” Clinton said.
Post-election wariness wasn’t just evident among Trump’s opponents on Election Day-Plus-One. Trump has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare — as has virtually every Republican member of Congress. Millions of newly insured Americans are about to find out what that means.
“Conservative grassroots activists expect a Trump administration and congressional Republicans to follow through on their promises,” warned Adam Brandon, CEO of FreedomWorks, the Washington outfit that has funded much of the opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
Exit polls indicate that 80 percent of white evangelical voters supported Trump. “Hopefully, the president-elect will adhere to the precepts of his party’s platform,” wrote Gerald Harris, editor of the Christian Index, the official newspaper for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
The GOP platform would protect those who refuse to recognize gay marriage, bar women in the military from combat, and declare pornography “a public health crisis.”
But truthfully, Donald Trump wasn’t much interested in the charter that his party adopted in Cleveland this summer.
“Mr. Trump’s life does not seem to be marked by extraordinary virtue and his personality does not seem to be clothed in great humility, but we can pray that he will grow in wisdom and grace and hope that he surrounds himself with people who will give him wise and godly counsel,” Harris wrote.
Six years ago, during the debate over Obamacare, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it — away from the fog of the controversy.”
Likewise, we have elected Mr. Trump. Now it is time to find out exactly what we’ve bought.