The people chose Hillary Clinton. But it’s the electoral vote that counts, not the popular vote, so Donald Trump will be president. And no, I’m not over it.
No one should be over it. No one should pretend that Trump will be a normal president.
No one should forget the bigotry and racism of his campaign, the naked appeals to white grievance, the stigmatizing of Mexicans and Muslims. No one should forget the jaw-dropping ignorance he showed about government policy both foreign and domestic. No one should forget the vile misogyny. No one should forget the mendacity, the vulgarity, the ugliness, the insanity. None of this must ever be normalized in our politics.
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The big protests that have followed Trump’s election should be no surprise. You can’t spend all those months trashing our nation’s values and then expect everyone to join you in a group hug. Trump made the bed in which he now must lie.
How did the unthinkable happen?
Is Trump, like Brexit, part of some world-sweeping populist wave? Are the Rust Belt hinterlands in open rebellion? Was Clinton just a spectacularly flawed candidate? Did FBI Director James Comey boost Trump over the top? Did too many anti-Trump voters stay home out of complacency?
There is evidence to support all of those theories. But the urgent question isn’t why, it’s what now.
If a normal Republican had been elected, I could say the polite and socially acceptable thing, something like, “I didn’t support So-and-So but he will be my president, too, and I wish him success.”
But I cannot wish Trump success in rounding up and deporting millions of people or banning Muslims from entering the country or reinstituting torture as an instrument of U.S. policy. In these and other divisive or cruel or unwise initiatives, I wish him failure.
I do hope he succeeds in avoiding some kind of amateurish foreign policy blunder that puts American lives or vital national interests at risk. And let me be clear that I am not questioning his legitimacy as president. When the results are certified and the Electoral College casts its votes, Trump will be the nation’s duly chosen leader, ridiculous though that may be.
But he has not earned our trust or hope. Rather, he has earned the demonstrations that erupted in cities across the country. He has earned relentless scrutiny by journalists, whom he shamelessly made into scapegoats during the campaign, and he has earned the constant vigilance of the public he now must serve.
There have been more than 200 reports since the election of harassment and hate crimes, mostly directed at minorities, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. During an interview broadcast Sunday on “60 Minutes,” Trump addressed his supporters: “I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.”
That would have been a better start had he not also sought to minimize the incidents, saying there had been a “very small amount” of them; and had he not also claimed the media were somehow applying a double standard in reporting on the protests.
The most troubling post-election development thus far was Trump’s appointment of campaign chief executive Stephen Bannon – a prominent figure in the racist, xenophobic “alt-right” movement – as chief strategist and senior adviser. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the move “signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House.”
On “60 Minutes,” Trump hinted that he might moonwalk away from some of his most radical promises on immigration, the issue that made him stand out from the crowd of Republican contenders. He still says he will build a wall on the Mexican border, but there “could be some fencing” instead of an actual wall in places. And he said that “we’re going to make a determination” about the fate of millions of undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes – sounding as if he knows his pledge to carry out mass deportation cannot be fulfilled.
He also backed away from the idea of having a special prosecutor reinvestigate Clinton over her emails. “They’re good people, I don’t want to hurt them,” he said of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
If Trump is beginning to confront reality on some fronts, that’s a first step – in a thousand-mile journey toward credibility and respect.
But appointing Bannon is a big step backward. We must watch Trump, and judge him, every single inch of the way.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.