Thursday, November 10, 2016

Moving Forward: The Trump Presidency

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, there are a lot of emotions taking hold. Supporters are gleeful, if not perhaps a little bit shocked themselves. Some may see him as a Godsend of an alternative to the partisan establishments. Others see him as a reprieve from what they consider the loathsome Obama years.  Of course, on the left, there is sadness and horror. How could someone as pompous and disgusting be chosen as president? Can we trust him with the nuclear codes? We see the scatterplot of triumph and dismay apparent in every conversation you’ve heard since Election Day and in your social media feed. With much speculation about where America goes from here, this what I think to be a reality.

From a legal and legislative perspective, chances are that not much will change. With a Republican-controlled Congress and White House, there is a great potential for some policymaking that conservatives might champion. But with that said, I don’t think you can expect massive rollbacks in laws that exist. Obamacare comes to mind. They’ve tried to repeal it dozens of times since 2009, and it always fails. The truth is that there are millions of people that actually benefit from it despite rising premiums and whatever your racist cousin might say about it all. And these beneficiaries fall both in the liberal and conservative spectrums. At this point, only two years from midterm elections, the GOP has a vested interest in holding control over both houses for as long as possible. The last thing they need is backlash from the working class costing them conservative votes, as well as energizing Democrats in 2018. If anything, you’ll see some Republican tweaking of Obamacare, not a repeal. And maybe, just maybe, red states will now accept the Medicaid expansion money now that Obama’s cooties aren’t all over it.

I certainly don’t think you will see a lot of real backtracking on civil rights. Americans are very conscious of this—even conservatives to some degree. In the age of social media, we are all plugged in, and we are all watching. Social views are changing, and anytime there is a threat to civil rights, there is an immediate response. I don’t think the GOP wants to continue to be the party of archaic social views. They might not want to go as far as progressivism on these, but they’re not going to undo marriage equality for gay and lesbian people. Again, they don’t want Democrats energized for 2018, and they don’t want to be the prejudiced party. Plus, it’s hard to overturn Supreme Court precedence.

And that’s another element I’m not quite as worried about. There is an open seat on the Supreme Court. And as you may well know, the Senate, controlled by Republicans, has obstructed the appointment of a new justice for the last two hundred-plus days since Antonin Scalia’s death. So now, as was the plan, they will fill that seat on the bench with another conservative. But try to understand that though this will be a conservative pick, he or she will replace another conservative. Really, Scalia was one of the most conservative justices they had, and yet marriage equality was still approved. Yes, a conservative majority Supreme Court will sometimes lean right on certain decisions, but rest assured that they are still bound by the constitution, and when it comes to equal protection and civil rights, they will usually rule in favor of American equality.

That being said, I’m a white guy. Almost nothing will change for me other than not feeling aligned with many of the views of our new president. But I have no need to fear when I step into public. I won’t be met with racism and discrimination. I’m a white male raised as a Christian. So my experience with this election and the days, months, and years to follow will differ from that of gays and lesbians or Muslim Americans. And I can tell you that my friends and students who are members of minority groups are frightened. Can you imagine being a Muslim woman who wears a hijab (head scarf) for your religion, and feeling afraid enough that you can’t even carry out religious duties? Muslims, Latinos, gays, lesbians, and African Americans all tell me they’re afraid. They’re not afraid of what Donald Trump will do. They’re afraid of what his supporters will do.

That statement isn’t meant to equate Trump supporters in general with bigots by any means. But consider this:  the KKK and the American Nazi Party both endorsed him. And I think it’s safe to say that there were a lot of actual racists and bigots that did support and vote for Trump. You can see this in his rhetoric throughout the campaign. With all the things that he has said about Mexicans or Muslims throughout his campaign, it’s quite possible that very little of that aligns with his actual beliefs. He said those things to get elected. There is no wall. Never was. A real estate developer with contractors on his speed dial has a year and a half to come up with estimates, dimensions, and plans for a wall, and right after the election, still has none of those things? It was just something that some conservatives wanted to hear. The same goes for his position on Muslims. He’s playing to the cheap seats—the people that actually believe Sharia Law is coming.

That seems relatively harmless, I know. Oh, maybe he’s not as racist or xenophobic as we thought. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know. That remains to be seen. But here’s what I do know. There are people out there who voted for him because of that rhetoric, meaning there are some people out there who hate Mexicans, Muslims, gays, and African Americans, and they voted for Trump. And since he won, perhaps they feel represented, and thus emboldened. And for the people in these minority groups, this is a terrifying thought. Again, before you shrug off this notion, please take a moment to remember that if you’re not a member of those groups, you might not understand this the way they do. You haven’t walked in those shoes.

Folks, it’s probably going to be okay. And if you don’t like the result of this election, get out there and vote next time. But please don’t perpetuate hate, regardless of your views or who you wanted in office. We are all Americans. You may feel like you took your country back or you had your country taken away from you. But this country belongs to all of us.