Love him or hate him - Donald Trump is as American as Apple Pie and the Founding Fathers.
Those who were listening with open ears heard in yesterday's State of the Union Speech a President addressing the state of the nation, and not merely pandering to partisan political issues. Still, as Mr. Trump acted as Chief Executive on behalf of all of the people, he was acting as a consummate politician; possibly rising to a level of adroitness that rivals that of the politicians who were in attendance at the Federal Convention.
In 1787, partisan passions ran high and the Federalist and Anti-Federalist antagonisms stood as a barrier to creating a more centralized government. The antagonisms were ultimately overcome by what Americans have been taught in their history primers were a series of compromises. Deals were made in which no one got everything they wanted, and everyone felt a certain feeling of disgust at the result. Yet, as a result of the deals a country was born.
The compromise over representation between the large and small states, and representation based upon the inclusion of slaves as constituents, and the issue of slavery itself were all addressed and solved - certainly not in perfect ways, but in ways that allowed a country to be formed and to go forward.
It was the issue of slavery that is most instructive of who Donald Trump is and what he did yesterday. In 1787, the slaveholders and the Abolitionists threatened to tear the Convention apart. The Abolitionists wanted the complete cessation of slavery and the slave holders wanted slavery and the importation of slaves to continue as it was. The deal struck allowed those slaves who were already in the United States to remain as slaves, but forbid additional importation after twenty years. No one was happy. Both sides griped; but, the goal was a strengthened union and the deal was struck.
Compromise did not end at the Federal Convention. It continued into the State Ratification Conventions where the Anti-Federalists, even the most vocal like Melacton Smith of the pivotal Colony of New York, agreed to vote for passage based upon an extracted promise that a Bill of Rights would be added to the document as soon as the First Congress met.
Yesterday, Donald Trump angered both sides of Congress and citizens all across the United States. He stated his goal of creating a merit based immigration system, one which harkens back to the underlying rational of the 1795 Naturalization Bill, protecting American republican culture and protecting Americans from harm and dissention brought in from abroad. As part of the deal Trump offered a larger number than ever before of those illegal aliens, euphemistically called "Dreamers", a path to citizenship - in essence amnesty.
Many believe allowing illegal aliens amnesty stinks. It runs against the respect for the rule of law. But, from the point of view of Americans steeped in a culture of compromise, Mr. Trump's solution is brilliant. He has laid a workable deal on the table, which if implemented may just give us a rational immigration policy. The ball is now truly in Congress's court.
Mr. Trump's solution is reflective of the sentiments expressed in a passage from A View from the Bridge, written by another New Yorker, Arthur Miller. Alfieri, the Italian immigrant attorney in Red Hook, Brooklyn, describes how things have changed since he first arrived in the country, a time when immigrant gangsters roamed the streets with impunity.
"And now we are quite civilized, quite American. Now we settle for half,
and I like it better. I no longer keep a pistol in my filing cabinet."
Mr. Trump has offered the Congress a path to the future security of the United States. It remains to be seen if compromise is still a cherished American value.