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Is there anything more grating than listening to President-elect Donald Trump and his acolytes moan about the thousands of Americans who are protesting in the streets against his election?

We know that Mr. Trump would not have been so generous as to accept the outcome of the election, had he lost. We know he planned to challenge its legitimacy on the baseless grounds that it was rigged. We remember that many of his supporters had vowed to take to the streets in protest, should he lose, just as some Republican voters had done after the election of Barack Obama.

It is thus a deliberate provocation on Mr. Trump's part to whine about how "unfair" it is for people to oppose the outcome of an election he happened to win. Watching him play the wounded ingenue, after running so calculated and dangerously divisive a campaign, is galling to the point of exasperation.

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Explainer: Who makes up Trump's inner circle and why they stoke uncertainty

Read more: Racist incidents reported in wake of Trump victory

Combine this with the hundreds of acts of violence and intimidation carried out against black people, Latinos and Muslims since the election – a handful of them expressly committed in Mr. Trump's name – and one can feel as if America is headed to a dark place. Mr. Trump's noncommittal criticism of these acts of racist violence has added to the anxiety, especially when compared to his reflexive condemnation of people who dare to protest against him.

The hope has been that Mr. Trump's election will be a moderating influence on him. To a degree, that has happened. He now says he plans to keep some parts of the Affordable Health Care Act in place, rather than repeal it wholesale. And he has reaffirmed his support for gay marriage. He says he wants to unite Americans.

At the same time, he still intends to build an improbable wall along the Mexican border, and he continues to threaten mass deportations of illegal immigrants on some unannounced timetable. These and other troubling measures were key election promises that will be hard for him to back away from.

The question on everyone's mind is to what degree Mr. Trump will moderate his polices when he assumes power. It is far too early to say. What appears to be evident now, however, is that he won't moderate his temperament, and that he will be an antagonistic presence in the White House. It's going to be a long four years.

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