“We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead,” Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech the day after the election. President Obama echoed Clinton the following day after a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump: “I believe it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together, to deal with the many challenges we face.” John Kasich, a staunch opponent of Donald Trump through election day, said that he prayed for Trump and that he thinks “as Americans, we all need to come together.”
After all, the people have spoken. Hundreds of think-pieces have been written explaining “real America” (read: “rural, white America”) to liberals and pleading with them to take these folks seriously. A lot of liberals have been re-sharing Emmett Rensin’s April 2016 piece, “The smug style in American liberalism.” Democrats and liberals have become the target of charges that they are out of touch with some “real America,” and many on the left have joined in this quadrennial ritual of self-flagellation. Paul Ryan proclaimed that the Republicans have a mandate for their agenda. Never mind that Democrats won the “popular vote” in the race for the White House and the Senate this cycle. Oh, and it looks like 42% of eligible voters didn’t even vote in this election. To be sure, many liberals live in a bubble, but so do many conservatives.
“Give Trump a chance,” Democrats, liberals, and #NeverTrump-ers have been told. President Obama and Hillary Clinton have an interest in the peaceful transition of power. This is as it should be. But it is not so easy for everyone else to forgive and forget.
Donald Trump wasted no time calling on the nation to unite behind him, using his concession speech to call for unity.
Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.
With no hint of irony, Donald Trump called for the binding of the wounds of division, as if he has not been the source of many of these wounds of division, as if he did not call for imposing a Muslim ban, as if he did not call for a national registry of Muslims, as if he did not call for the implementation of a deportation force, as if he did not say that a woman who has an abortion must be punished, as if he did not begin his campaign calling most Mexicans rapists and criminals, as if he did not suggest that a federal judge could not rule fairly in his case because of his heritage, as if he did not call for the killing of families of terrorists and for our military to commit war crimes, as if he did not brag about committing sexual assault, as if he has not threatened to weaken the freedom of the press enshrined in our First Amendment, as if he did not traffic in white nationalism and anti-Semitism during his campaign, and as if he did not just appoint an ethno-nationalist to be his administration’s chief strategist.
No matter how badly we may yearn for unity in our country, it is not the responsibility of those who voted against autocracy, racism, sexism, and xenophobia to unify. It is the responsibility of Donald Trump and his followers to unequivocally prove that they will work against autocracy, racism, sexism, and xenophobia at every turn. Donald Trump could prove just how important it is to him that he be president for all Americans by repenting of his role in creating and furthering these wounds of division. Yet in the less than a week after his election, he has already proved unwilling to even offer lip service to decrying violence carried out in his name. [UPDATE: In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night, Trump did offer a half-hearted denouncing of violence done in his name: “I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it – if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.”]
Within three days of the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center had already compiled a list of over 200 alleged incidents of harassment, intimidation, and violence. Instead, Trump’s campaign manager is calling on President Obama and Hillary Clinton to denounce anti-Trump protestors, which Trump decried in an initial tweet as “very unfair!”
But we will give Trump a chance insofar as we will not stand in opposition to everything he proposes, as Republicans did to President Obama. But we will not let our guard down. Despite calls to unify and move forward, Donald Trump does not have a blank slate. The past cannot be undone. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle. We will not allow him to further normalize hate and fuel xenophobia. We will not allow ourselves to be gaslighted or taken in by small signs of normality. We will stand with our fellow citizens who are justifiably afraid. We will resist any form of authoritarianism and state violence against our fellow citizens.
Perhaps our fears are overblown. Perhaps Donald Trump will not combine the racialized nationalism of Hitler with the erratic strongman facade of Gaddafi and the opportunism of Mussolini to become a uniquely American autocrat. So we’ll give Donald Trump a chance to prove us wrong.
Image via Gage Skidmore