From health care to immigration reform to so much more, our nation faces daunting challenges. In a perfect world, the presidential election would have been about solutions. Instead it was about twitter and emails – the winner offering sound byte answers to complex problems. Everyone shouting; no one listening; it all seemed hopeless. But then I recalled what a Civil War general had said about a time when our nation was in even greater peril, divided not just by words, but by guns.
In 1863, Ulysses S. Grant had been ordered to capture the fortress at Vicksburg. Although his experience told him victory required a long siege, he first attempted two frontal assaults. Each ended in bloody failure. Grant regretted the failure but not the attempt. He explained: “The troops believed they could carry the works in their front, and would not have worked so patiently in the trenches if they had not been allowed to try.”
Discouraging as Trump’s victory may seem to half the country, it may turn out to be a necessary step forward. Obama had eight years. No, ending trade deals won’t bring back factory jobs. No, locking up more petty offenders and building a wall won’t make us safer. No, cutting taxes won’t cut the deficit.
But it may be that Trump’s supporters must be “allowed to try” a series of simplistic, unworkable, and even brutal (especially to the most vulnerable) ideas before we as a nation finally get to work “in the trenches,” actually trying to agree on real, if imperfect, solutions.
As Winston Churchill allegedly said: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”