I watched with dismay as the numbers turned sour for my preferred candidate last night, and was surprised and disappointed by the final result. However, many have called for a more conciliatory tone post-election, as usually occurs, with President Obama reminding us that we’re all ultimately on the same team, Hillary Clinton offering to help President-Elect Trump, and Trump switching to a more unifying tone. We certainly need that after this campaign season, and we need to be able to see our fellow citizens as people and not adversaries in order to move forward.
This is pretty standard fare after an election, especially a contentious one, and perhaps we should take heart to an extent in the normalcy of this progression. However, I think some wariness is warranted. Let us not make the same mistake of false equivalence when comparing this election to previous elections as we did when comparing the two candidates’ negatives during the campaign. This campaign was far more vitriolic and divisive than previous campaigns, and the majority of that rhetoric came from the President-Elect. No matter how conciliatory the tone, there are significant issues with certain campaign promises that this President-Elect made.
From the outset, his campaign was founded on a factually incorrect vision of the current state of the country and the world and on the notion that “the other” is responsible for all of the country’s ills. Mexican immigrants were his first target, when in his very first speech he characterized (presumably undocumented) Mexican immigrants as drug-runners, rapists, and criminals, allowing that “some, I assume, are good people.” He quickly moved on to Muslims, conflating refugees with terrorists and declaring that he would institute a moratorium on Muslim immigration, then asserting that we should spy on Muslim places of worship here in the US.
He advocated the use of stop-and-frisk despite the fact that the technique has been demonstrated to have no impact on crime and to be targeted toward people of color. He advocated war crimes such as the use of illegal torture techniques and murder of the civilian families of known or suspected terrorists. He consistently made demeaning comments about women and brushed aside recordings of his casual descriptions of sexual assault, couched as a privilege of being famous, as “locker room talk.”
During his rallies he routinely advocated violence against protesters, such as expressing desire to punch a protester or offering to pay legal fees for assault. He insinuated that gun-owners might be able to take care of Hillary Clinton if elected, and suggested that without her security she would not make it long. He spent his entire campaign demonizing the press (despite all the free publicity!) and his opponent, as well as senior members of his own party. He called for a foreign hack of his opponent (which happened!), and continuously asserted that the elections would not be free and fair. His rhetoric and actions earned him the endorsement of the KKK and other white supremacists groups, and spurred some right-wing “militias” to begin preparations for violence post-election.
This is just a sampling – this has been the most vitriolic campaign in the last several decades (at least), and his business history does not indicate that his approach to business was any less strong-armed, confrontational, or deceitful. Conciliatory language now can’t erase the last year and a half of overt bigotry and successfully demonized decency as being “politically correct.” Many minority groups rightfully feel concern – or even abject terror – at the thought of this man now having the ability to follow through on some of his campaign promises. The separation of powers will likely render Mr. Trump unable to move forward with his more blatantly unconstitutional suggestions, and might make some of the more impractical suggestions (like the wall) out of reach as well. However, by electing him, we have sanctioned his speech as acceptable. Some may perceive that we have declared that his tactics and calls for discrimination and violence are appropriate, and see that decision as giving them license to carry out actions that they would have not been comfortable with before.
As for more mundane concerns:
– Experts still believe his stated economic and trade plans will plunge the country into a recession.
– His energy plan is likely to wipe out any meaningful effort to develop renewables.
– His anti-science positions will have negative repercussions on a number of policy fronts.
– His call to “repeal and replace” the PPACA – with no clear and coherent replacement plan articulated – is actually doable with Republican control of the legislature, and will force millions out of coverage that they only recently became eligible to receive. (And, the idea that rates would magically drop for everyone else post-repeal is pure fantasy.)
– His positions related to long-standing treaties and alliances could alienate allies, leave them unprotected, and limit the US’ strategic power projection capability.
– He would support defunding Planned Parenthood, limiting women’s access to health care such as breast cancer screenings and birth control (which helps prevent unwanted pregnancies, reducing the potential demand for abortion).
– He would advocate for conservative judges on the Supreme Court, with the long-term potential to overturn key decisions that protect civil liberties.
There’s certainly far more; this is all I have the energy for at the moment.
Regardless, he was elected (by the Electoral College, but not the people – more to follow in another post) in a free and fair election, and the peaceful transfer of power is the hallmark of a civilized society. Like it or not, this man will be our president for the next four years. In writing this I do not mean to advocate that we should not at least hear him out, or that we should not support good ideas (like infrastructure investment – thought I have no idea how he plans to fund it). Wherever possible we should look for opportunities to compromise and work with our legislative representatives to support reasonable proposals. But we must remain wary. We must continue to work closely with our representative and, when warranted, legal action groups to prevent deliberate disenfranchisement of segments of the population, alienation of allies, constructional violations, and advocacy or war crime or other violations of international law. We must also be sure to be ready to highlight criminal activity against minority groups by the unsavory fringe who might feel emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric. Regardless of what he might have implied or even stated outright, it is still against the law to deny services, deny access to employment, or inflict violence upon minority demographics.
Let’s make a genuine effort to work toward common ends, and let’s also stay alert for shenanigans.