Last week when Donald Trump began his so-called Thank You Tour in Cincinnati, he had yet another opportunity to be magnanimous and conciliatory, to step beyond the division and acrimony of his campaign and into the unity and healing necessary to be president of a strained nation.
As is his wont, he declined, instead gloating and boasting, playing to the minority of U.S. voters who chose him, relishing his own impenitence.
He is choosing to push the United States further apart rather than bring it closer together.
And be clear: It is not the job of the defiant to conform to a future president who makes them completely uncomfortable. The burden of unity lies with Trump, not his detractors.
“Just wait and see.” “Give him a chance.” But what if what you’ve already seen is so beyond the pale that it’s irrevocable? What if Trump has already squandered more chances than most of us will ever have?
What if Trump has shown himself beyond doubt and with absolute certainty to be a demagogue and bigot and xenophobe and given space and voice to concordant voices in the country and in his emerging Legion of Doom Cabinet? In that reality, resistance isn’t about mindless obstruction by people blinded by the pain of ideological defeat or people gorging on sour grapes. To the contrary, resistance is an act of radical, even revolutionary, patriotism. Resistance isn’t about damaging the country, but protecting it.
There is no Electoral College clause that blunts ferocious opposition to the demeaning of women and racial, ethnic and religious minorities in this country; there is no Election Day reset on the coddling of white supremacy.
Furthermore, the emergence of Trump as a political figure has threatened to kill many of the ideals that we hold dear: decency and decorum, inclusion and empathy, truth and facts.
Trump and his agents of idiocracy are now engaged in an all-out crusade to exaggerate the scope of his victory, rewrite racial history, justify their vendettas and hostilities and erase the very distinction between true and false.
At a fiery exchange during a panel at Harvard, Hillary Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, rightly accused the Trump campaign of emboldening “white supremacists and white nationalists.”
The Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, barked back: “Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform? You’re going to look me in the face and tell me that?”
“It did. Kellyanne, it did,” said Palmieri. Yes Kellyanne, that is exactly what you did and no amount of personal outrage about being called out on it is going to rewrite that history. Furthermore, everyone who sees you should say that to your face at every opportunity.
Resistance is not about some sort of clairvoyant condemnation of acts yet uncommitted, but rather about the resilience of memory, the rigidity of morality and the depth of wounds.
The truest measure of a leader is as much about how he or she attains power as how he or she wields it; while the latter is yet to be determined, the former has been revealed in devastating clarity.
A Pew Research Poll released last month found that “voters’ ‘grades’ for the way Trump conducted himself during the campaign are the lowest for any victorious candidate in 28 years.” The report continued: “For the first time in Pew Research Center postelection surveys, voters give the losing candidate higher grades than the winner.”
Furthermore, Nate Silver responded to one of Conway’s tweets: “Trump will soon become the first president who failed to win a majority of the vote either in the general election or in his primary,” meaning the Republican primaries. He added, “That is to say, since 1972. Primaries weren’t widespread before that. 45/46% of the vote can go a long way under the right circumstances.”
And there are disturbing signs about how a Trump administration will conduct itself, from the early diplomatic blunders that signal a worrisome break in the continuity of protocol, to his team nursing vendettas and continuing to dangle the threat of jail in front of his opponents. Last week Conway appeared to waffle on whether Trump or a federal agency during his term might still pursue prosecution of Clinton; Trump lackey Corey Lewandowski forthrightly said of the executive editor of The New York Times: “He should be in jail.”
And to add insult to injury, Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes uttered this jaw-dropping line last week on The Diane Rehm Show:
“One thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts; they’re not really facts. Everybody has a way, it’s kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true.” She continued: “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts.” Folks, Dimwit-ism is a disease easily spread and denigrators of the absolutism of truth are its vectors.
This is why resistance isn’t only principled, but essential and even existential.
We are not in an ordinary postelection period of national unity and rapprochement. We are facing the potential abrogation of fundamental U.S. ideals. We stand at the precipice, staring into an abyss that grows darker by the day.