#YesMyPresident

In the immediate aftermath of the election, my Facebook friends began sharing different memes and posts decrying the new administration. At the bottom, many were tagged with the familiar refrain #NotMyPresident.[1]

 

I empathize with the impulse to reject a Trump presidency. Donald Trump stands for just about everything I stand against: He has espoused racist, xenophobic, sexist remarks while simultaneously feeding the American people false promises. I find the idea of him as President abhorrent, and at least once a day I pause and fill with dread at the prospect this man will be our Commander in Chief.

But our Commander in Chief he will be. And, for the sake of this country, I accept his presidency.

Because #NotMyPresidency only stokes the very fires that led to Trump’s election in the first place.

For over two decades, partisan rancor and tribalism has been growing, as we continue to deny the basic humanity of those who vote for candidates that we oppose. In our fervor to win, we bombard one another with heated rhetoric, and while such tactics are not novel, we have begun to believe our own hyperbolic assertions about our opposition.

So, #NotMyPresident turns from a refrain of political resistance, a sign of political discontentment, to a deepening of the divide. Instead of serving as a reminder that not all Americans are content with the political situation, it reinforces the false notion that two Americas exist.

And only self-destruction can emanate from such a position.

Embracing #NotMyPresident does not help our cause. If anything, it gives an excuse to disengage, to go “Don’t blame me; I voted the right way!” It provides a convenient excuse for liberals to linger in nonaction, as they demonize and disparage the opposition without working to truly change the political environment that allowed Trump to become president in the first place.

Such behavior is, in a sense, defeatism. A vain resignation to the idea Americans are stupid, backward people.

I am not a defeatist. I do not believe a huge shift in ideology is necessary for Democrats to retake the White House in four years, and instead ascribe the electoral outcome to a bizarre confluence of events reinforced by the fact Democrats—myself included—nominated a candidate that was—fairly or not—widely disliked.

But I still embrace the notion that we must do more to widen our outlook.

I believe in a liberal ideology because I believe government can be a force for good, because I believe civil rights are essential to a stable democracy, and because I believe love does not discriminate. I believe in a society that works together to fix our common problems, that builds a vast network of communities that see one another and recognize each other’s basic humanity and embraces a vision where all Americans are protected by a collaborative effort that we call “government.”

Such a vision cannot be fulfilled by disdaining our fellow Americans.

We cannot continue to share posts implying education can “fix” Trump voters, as though voting for Trump or Republicans is somehow a mental deficiency. We cannot deride Trump voters who are now rallying against ACA repeal, as though we understand what peoples’ “interests” are better than they do.

If we are to reach people, to convince people, we must empathize and try to understand what would make them embrace a man who we find so abhorrent.

This does not mean we should or can stop fighting vigorously against sexism, against racism, against xenophobia and homophobia. We must continue to acknowledge the women, people of color, religious minorities and LGBTQ people all suffer, and they suffer even more if they are any mix of those identities. And we must strive for a better society.

But it does mean that we need to listen to why people voted for Trump patiently, hear their concerns, and respectfully explain why we are so frightened of a Trump presidency.

We need to explain that our black neighbor with a college degree cannot get a job, even though our white friend who from across town who just got hired for the same type of position.

We need to share stories of women harassed on the streets and of politicians groping women as though it’s acceptable because, after all, the president said so.

We need to explain the impact immigration policies have on people who are, functionally speaking, American, whether they are Ivy League-bound 19-year-olds or 47-year-old strawberry pickers.

And we need to share the horrifying stories of mothers stabbing LGBTQ sons and daughters, because of a culture that reinforces homophobia, transphobia and narrow gender norms.

If we ask people to listen to us though, we must be willing to hear them. We must be willing to hear the factory worker and coal miner who lost his job; we must be willing to understand suburban moms who, rightly or wrongly, is worried about crime.

When we listen to one another, we can find each other’s mistakes, explore our underlying fears, and understand the most basic, fundamental concept that lies at the heart of every democracy: We are all people, and we all face struggles.

But we cannot continue to widen the divide by painting those who disagree with us as stupid or evil.

And that is what #NotMyPresident does.

And it is why I cannot embrace it as a term.

Instead, I will search for the humanity that binds me with Trump voters. Perhaps that will help me change their mind in future elections, perhaps not.

So agitate. Protest. Push for and against legislation. Push for legitimate investigations and against sham trials.

But accept the Trump presidency.

Because only by accepting it, can I hope to struggle effectively against it.


[1] Such refrains are not new. Just ask George W Bush and Barack Obama.

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