Donald John Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America.
I won’t waste words here. The election of this man was a surprise to me, if only for the fact that I never thought anyone who had participated in a WWE Smackdown would hold government office, besides Jesse Ventura.
His campaign seemed like a maelstrom of biblical proportions to me- a whirling mass of chaos held together only by energy and slogans that fit well on trucker hats.
But, turns out, in the end, what I thought wasn’t worth a damn, now was it?
And now the world waits to see what will become of a Trump presidency.
Many have foregone biting their nails and twiddling their thumbs, taking to the streets in the biggest protests I have ever seen. The sheer size of these millions of men and women- it has overtones that hearken back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Even expatriates in cities across the globe got in on the act. The sound and the fury of the movement was heard around the world.
And yet the world still waits. What type of America is this country going to be?
Because, as patriotic as we tend to be around Fourth of July celebrations and election cycles, American history has shown time and time again that, for those who don’t look like they stepped out of an L.L. Bean catalog or starred in a mayonnaise commercial, life has been pretty damned awful, to say the very least. Minorities, women, and the disabled have experienced unfathomable oppression in this country. For years, the laws, the courts, and public opinion all came to the conclusion that people who looked, talked, or acted differently weren’t valid.
And the thing is, America is really good at oppression. Americans do love being the best in the world at everything. It’s no surprise, then, that for centuries, when it came to prejudice, America was #1.
But there were always dissenters and objectors. The progenitors of movements for equality and freedom, and- most critically- change. So we learned. We broke our own rules. We broke with tradition. We made a conscious decision that the exploitation and persecution of others were not in the best interest of America.
And now, Donald John Trump is President of the United States of America.
I’ll try my best to stay even-handed, but at the same time, this guy scares the hell out of me.
There have been an obscene amount of articles published in the past year and a half, covering Donald Trump’s every utterance of verbiage, at turns celebrating and condemning his words and actions. I won’t spend time trying to find the words to describe what he’s said when far too many people have done so already.
The thing is, I can understand parts of his appeal. He ran on a populist campaign (of sorts), much like President Obama was the figurehead of a populist movement in 2008, led by three slogans, a total of five words: “Hope,” “Change,” and “Yes We Can.”
But if President Obama’s campaign was driven by hope, President Trump’s was driven by fear.
It’s not even a knock on the man. Running a campaign based on fear can be incredibly successful. I’m quite certain that Ted Cruz is only in power because he convinced Texas voters that the Russians still had missiles in Cuba.
And there were fears aplenty. As many Republicans as there were that voted for Obama and Biden in the 2008 election, millions of Democrats voted for Trump and Pence in 2016.
Perhaps it was the wrong candidate. Hillary Rodham Clinton, though touted as “the most qualified candidate to ever run for President,” wasn’t exactly a paragon of responsibility. But her campaign was well-funded, and, for the most part, it seemed as if they played it smart and safe.
And yet she lost.
Even California and New York- these coastal cathedrals of liberalism, these bastions of progressivism- couldn’t clinch victory for her. And now, Donald John Trump is President of the United States of America.Despite what many sources may tell you, his voting base was varied. Generalizing Trump voters as a “basket of deplorables” (Great job, Madam Secretary. Way to show that we’re “Stronger Together” by shitting on half the country) is just plain wrong.
Make no mistake. There is a section of Trump’s base that does revel in hate and ignorance. They do bask in the too-harsh light of xenophobia, sexism, and racism. To say that there is no poisonous underbelly to Trump’s base that thrives only in the blackest of darkness would be a lie, and no amount of “alternative fact” could change this.
However, to say that an extremist group speaks for the whole is just plain wrong.
Because there are a large majority of Trump voters who are compassionate and intelligent and hardworking. They voted for Trump because they had valid concerns about a woman who, while qualified, dealt with the ramifications of a checkered history.
Now, I’m not saying Trump’s record is spotless. Not by a longshot. It’s filled with troubling, even disturbing events.
But Trump voters aren’t stupid. Many of them realized that he had problems. Many of them feel regret for voting for him. But they voted for him because, to them, he was the lesser of two evils.
And so, here we are.
You know, bipartisanship is a pretty hard-to-find concept to begin with. But it’s damn near impossible when you waste your time talking about how the other side has sold their souls to Lucifer.But America is really good at demonizing the other side.Liberals are often perceived as unpatriotic, godless whiners. Conservatives, meanwhile, are seen as dispassionate, Bible-thumping bigots.
Of course these are both untrue. But some pundits and private citizens on both sides perpetuate these lies, and so we keep on believing them about each other.
The fact remains that, no matter where you fall politically, stereotyping and generalizing the other side does nothing except dissuade others from talking to one another.
America doesn’t progress unless we talk to one another in a way that’s intelligent and decent. America should not be a nation led only by fear.
And President Trump, while exceedingly good at campaigning on fear, will find that the American people are a lot more prone to cynicism and pushback when leaders attempt to govern by fear.
And here, above all, lies my overarching problem with President Trump. I do not feel that the man knows the concepts of decency, honesty, and bipartisanship.
Now, granted, many in Washington treat “bipartisanship” like it’s a dirty word. But President Trump seems barely interested in working with members of his own party, let alone Democrats. Even with the Republican majority, he seems heavily invested in appealing only to his crazed band of fanatical extremists.
Then, there’s honesty. If Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer are any indication, the Trump administration seems ready and willing to play fast and loose with the truth. If an unflattering or negative (but factual) story is run by a news source, then Trump’s cavalcade of bootlicking fools will swear from here to eternity that it’s fake news. When “critical” is supposedly equivalent to “fake,” there’s a serious problem.
Delegitimizing the media is a dangerous road to travel. Yes, there are sites like Buzzfeed (and, for the record, if Buzzfeed is considered real journalism, then I’m the king of England) that are solely dedicated to garnering attention rather than reporting truth.
However, like I said earlier, the fringe group does not speak for the whole. Trump taking on CNN and branding them and any other news that criticize him as “fake” would degrade the relationship between the press, the president, and the American people to a degree past the point of no return.
Which brings me to my last point: Decency.
To me, President Trump doesn’t respect the office like his predecessors have. President Obama, a man whose life of public service was defined by his tolerance, kindness and dignity, was respectful towards those he disagreed with, even when he was slandered with some of the most heinous names and accused of the most ridiculous crimes.
(And to those who say that President Obama and Vice President Biden did not live lives of service dedicated to these principles, I’ll kindly help you pull your head out of your ass.)
President Trump, though, only seems to adopt a semblance of these qualities when he’s in a situation directly to his advantage. His Twitter persona and his public persona are so different, it’s astounding. He’ll make a bold statement on Twitter- “Global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese,” for example- and then, on TV, act incredulous and claim he never said it.
And sure, the global warming stuff isn’t great.
But what’s more concerning to me is when Trump hints at or proclaims policies that would directly infringe upon the people’s First Amendment rights. For instance, when Trump writes that those who burn flags should either be “stripped of citizenship or given a year in jail,” that’s disturbing. I don’t like flag burning in the slightest, but, truth is, I don’t have to like it. I accept that, while unappealing to me, flag burning is a constitutionally protected right, supported by a Supreme Court case.
Will Donald Trump actually preserve, protect and defend all areas of the Constitution? Or will he pick and choose the amendments or sections that appeal to the more radical side of his base the most, and leave the rest of us unprotected?
That’s why there’s fear. That’s why there’s anger. Because for millions of Americans, they believe that this country has elected a man who will not give them a seat at the table.
And so the world waits. Maybe he won’t do anything drastically awful. Maybe he’ll be so bad that he quits. Maybe he’ll be the “greatest jobs president since Reagan.” Hell, maybe he’ll crown himself Emperor of the Sun. I don’t know.
All I know is, no matter what happens, I have a sinking feeling that the office of the president won’t be properly respected.The unfortunate thing is, that has occurred before.Guess I had just hoped that it wouldn’t happen again.
Above all, I know this: If we don’t start talking to one another in a way that doesn’t involve shouting into the void, we’re not going to get any better.
Bell is a contributor for The Millennial Times.