On Friday, we will have a new president.
As was the case four years ago and four years before that and four years before that, roughly half of voters will approve and half will not.
We know millions of Americans will enter the next four years with great hopes, and millions with great fears.
We suspect neither the one side’s greatest hopes nor the other’s greatest fears will come to pass.
But both sides need to do better when it comes to either celebration or protest of our new president.
Despite calls for unity since the election, both sides continue to spew the same attacks on the other and come up with new ones, and both sides continue to hear, see, and speak no evil of their own side.
A note to Clinton supporters: if you continue to mock Trump and his supporters at every turn and say only negative things about them, if you fail to acknowledge the shortcomings of your candidate, Trump supporters are going to continue to tune you out.
A note to Trump supporters: if you continue to mock Obama and Clinton and their supporters at every turn and say only negative things about them and positive things about Trump, Clinton supporters are going to continue to tune you out.
What if we could all agree on some basic principles for how we talk about the president?
Here’s what we would propose:
Democrats, give Trump credit where credit is due.
Trump says he wants everyone to have health insurance. If he can succeed where others have failed and accomplish this goal in an efficient way, give him credit.
Trump’s plans for his first 100 days in office include a major infrastructure bill. If he can fix our roads and bridges, give him credit.
If Trump can convince automakers to build more cars in the U.S. – and keep those cars affordable – give him credit.
If anyone who opposes Trump wants anyone who supports Trump to ever listen to them again, they must acknowledge his successes as well as his shortcomings.
The same goes for Republicans, of course.
If Trump engages in actions or speech demeaning to minorities or women, publicly condemn it.
If he allows his business interests to affect his decision-making as president, hold him accountable.
If he turns a blind eye to bad actors in the international community – for any reason – make it clear where you stand.
We can still disagree about things – about Supreme Court justices and tax plans and trade policy. We don’t have to like the president, or the president before him.
But if we can never acknowledge any merit in the other side’s argument, if we cannot acknowledge an objective success because it is the success of someone we do not like, we lose credibility with each other.
It is no different than if, in our personal lives, we always trumpeted our successes, refused to acknowledge or do anything about our faults, and blamed our spouses, children, or co-workers for anything that went wrong.
How long would a marriage last under those circumstances? What kind of relationships would we have with our co-workers?
If we behave the same way when it comes to political discourse, we can no longer engage in civil discourse or debate. How long can a society last under those circumstances?
One of the most human moments of this incredibly divisive presidential campaign was during the second debate, when a man in the audience asked each candidate to name one positive thing they respect about the other.
If Clinton and Trump can be gracious enough to say something nice about each other, we can be gracious enough to say something positive about them and their supporters. Try it this week.