There have been protests in cities and towns across the nation every day since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. Last night I attended a meeting of the Hartford chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), where the 300 or so people in attendance were, among other things, informed about various protests and demonstrations happening around Connecticut—every day, multiple times a day for the foreseeable future. My impression is that the energy and anger driving the protests is not dwindling but is actually increasing. People are only just beginning to organize. Larger and more disruptive protests and demonstrations are coming.
I hear a variety of voices asking for the protests to stop. “Give the new president a chance.” “The people have spoken, now let’s try to work together.”
To the people who are asking for the protests to stop, I suspect you are among those who succumbed to a lie many of us succumbed to during the campaign. The lie is this: Donald Trump “got away” with saying and doing things that no politician, let alone a Presidential candidate, has ever gotten away with. Well, that’s actually a lie. He didn’t “get away” with any of it. We all heard it loudly and clearly. It’s all there in the video record and the Twittersphere.
Yes, 60,000,000 people voted for him. He won the election. But that doesn’t mean he “got away” with saying and doing horrendous things. And there are many, many of us who feel strongly that he needs to be held accountable for those things. That’s why I say “ACTUALLY, HE DIDN’T GET AWAY WITH ANY OF IT.”
Yes, some of his voters agree with him 100%, and maybe in their eyes, “he got away with it.” But keep in mind that many of his voters confessed they didn’t approve of a lot of the things he said and did. Many of his voters went to the polls ‘holding their nose.’ Many felt they had to vote for him because they couldn’t vote for Hilary Clinton. Many would have preferred to vote for Bernie Sanders. Many of his voters said along the way that they wished he would tone it down. He didn’t. And now he is being held accountable. That’s what the protests and demonstrations are all about.
Yes, he made the case that he was the best person to bring economic renewal and jobs. He made the case that he was the best person to shake up Washington, DC. But he didn’t get away with his racism, homophobia, sexism and Islamophobia. He didn’t get away with his veiled antisemitism or his cruelty to people with disabilities or his hurtful comments about Mexicans. He didn’t get away with his threats, his taunts, his appeals to violence, or his potty-mouth.
If Donald Trump wants the protests to stop, he’s going to need patience and he’s going to need humility. It will take a long time to unwind the things he didn’t get away with. So, for starters, here’s my advice to President-Elect, Donald Trump:
- Rescind the appointment of Stephen K. Bannon as Chief White House Strategist. Bannon is too close to the white supremacist movement in the United States. The reasons Bannon shouldn’t be on the White House staff should be obvious. Nobody who cares about people can trust any strategic initiatives that Stephen K. Bannon generates. Nobody who wants unity can trust a man whose entire career has been about creating disunity. His reputation is way too tarnished for a White House position. You can still be friends with him. Just get him out of the White House.
- Offer a heart-felt apology to the American Muslim community and promise there will be no religious ban, no enhanced scrutiny of Muslims and no profiling of Muslims. Believe it or not, the Muslim community is very interested in working with you to prevent radicalization and terrorism in the United States. Invite leaders of major Muslim civil rights organizations to the White House to hear their concerns. Make public agreements with them.
- Offer a heart-felt apology to the African American community for proposing a national “Stop and Frisk” policy as a means to achieve racial healing. Acknowledge that “Stop and Frisk,” if not unconstitutional in principle, has been used in unconstitutional ways and isn’t worth the constitutional risk. Acknowledge that “Stop and Frisk” essentially requires racial profiling to achieve its goals and is therefore un-American. You also might want to learn a little bit more about the depth and breadth of experience that comes with living in what you call an “inner city.” Learn about the cultural richness, the traditions of struggle and activism, the role of the church, the role of small businesses, etc. in the heart of America’s Black communities, urban, suburban and rural. Don’t paint the Black community with one broad brush of poverty and crime. It’s easier to help communities solve their most pressing problems if you understand their assets first. And, oh yes, of course all lives matter. That’s precisely why we say Black Lives Matter. If that doesn’t make sense to you, please find someone who understands it and ask them to explain it to you until you understand it. You don’t have to support the BLM movement—you’ve made it pretty clear that you don’t. But you do need to understand it. Your understanding will help with creating unity in the nation. Invite leaders of major African American civil rights organizations and Black liberation movement leaders to the White House to hear their concerns. Make public agreements with them.
- Publically acknowledge that sexual assault is categorically wrong and that you will do everything in your power to insure that there is no weakening of any statutes that protect people from sexual assault or hold perpetrators accountable for sexual assault. Invite leaders from major women’s rights organizations—including leaders in the struggle to end sexual violence—to the White House to hear their concerns. Make public agreements with them.
- Publically acknowledge the fear so many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people are feeling in the wake of the election. Don’t tell them not to be afraid. That only invalidates their feelings. (Believe it or not, most kindergartners learn this lesson in school these days. Feelings are real!) Instead, insure America’s GLBTQ people that not only will you fight to protect marriage equality, but you will also not allow discrimination to be enacted into federal statutes. Do anything you want to in order to protect religious liberty as it pertains to houses of worship—how they conduct their internal affairs and what they say in the public square. But do not use religious liberty to help businesses discriminate. That’s un-American. Invite leaders of the national GBLTQ civil rights organizations to meet with you at the White House so that you can hear their concerns. Make public agreements with them.
- Publically renounce your opinion about global warming being a hoax perpetuated by China until you are confident you know the facts. Refuse to appoint anyone to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn’t have a PhD in a real scientific field. (I know, elites think they know it all, but trust me, actual knowledge matters when it comes to science.) Trust that buisness interests and environmental interests actually do align if you take a long enough view. Invite leading climate change scientists to the White House to literally teach you about the data on global warming. Report back to the public what you learn. PS–You can invite real scientists who disagree with the notion that climate change is real and caused by human activity. (That’s a joke. There’s aren’t any.)
- While it is true that the white working class supported you in the election and is not protesting right now (OK, some are), you can nevertheless count on them joining the protest in a few years after your tax cuts for the wealthy fail to generate good jobs in the United States. Therefore, I think it would make sense now to invite the leaders of the nation’s major labor unions to the White House for a conversation about what a good job is. Hint: “Right to Work” does not mean “Right to a Good Job.” America’s corporate leaders know best how to make enormous profits, but they often do it without providing good jobs. So I wouldn’t rely on them alone to steer you in the right direction when it comes to jobs. America’s labor union leaders know best what it takes to turn any old job into a good job. If I were you, I’d be talking with them now.
Friends: That’s just a list off the top of my head of the things the President-elect could do in the next few months to start bringing people together. If anyone wants to add others, please offer them in the comments section below. I’m sure there’s a lot I missed.
He won the presidency, but he didn’t “get away” with any of it, and any of us who think he did believes a lie.