Four years ago, on the morning after the 2016 Election, I was prepping for a funeral. The country I thought I knew had died. In a deep state of mourning — dressed completely in black as a sign of silent protest — I went to my law school classes knowing that my country had royally f**ked itself. It had just elected a conman with clearly fascist, authoritarian tendencies to the highest office in the land.
My social media post that fateful November 9 morning reflected my profound disappointment:
“Today, even as I’ve seen the outcome, l still struggle to wrap my mind around what an immense setback this will be for the progress we’ve made in this nation, progress that many have fought tooth and nail for over the last 50+ years.
This was not an ordinary election cycle by any means, and those whose privilege allows them to think that this was solely about “politics” woefully miss the point. This wasn’t about respectful disagreements over policies. This was an all-out battle for two very different visions for America, one where we come together in our differences to ensure a place for everyone in this nation, or one where we let fear of the “other” divide us.
To think that over 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement, in which we stood up to racism and bigotry and said it has no place in the mainstream, so many of my countrymen (and women) have elected a man, whether directly or by default, who is enthusiastically endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan is unthinkable and deeply disappointing.
What does this say to the rest of the world about our values? That in America, men without an ounce of political experience who brag about sexual assault, threaten to prosecute their opponents, ruthlessly belittle others, and incite fear and discord can still become President? That my fellow women, no matter how qualified, or whether we’ve given our lives to public service, will still be seen as an outsider in a “man’s world”? That people who worship differently should be subjected to the threat of deportation? That people who love differently should be subjected to conversion “therapy” treatments to humiliate them into unsuccessfully changing their sexual preferences?
This is not the America I have believed in, and this was not the vision I hoped and rallied for.
…I am proud of the fact that I stood up for MY values — even if it meant pissing off a few people, or several. I can only pray that this country that has survived a Civil War now has the wherewithal to live with the consequences, both global and domestic, that will surely reverberate for years to come.
And yet, even as I mourn, deep down I still remain hopeful. I must continue to believe in an America that is better than the darkest moments in our history, and that no matter how long it takes, in the very end….“Love Trumps Hate.”
Fast-forward four years to a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Democratic victory. By a margin of more than 5 million votes, the country voted to again embrace a platform of inclusion, common decency — and, frankly, a return to reality. Was Donald Trump, therefore, a mere aberration? Or, was he an urgent wakeup call for America to confront debilitating issues simmering in its underbelly?
“He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) had declared in 2019. “But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism he amplified and reanimated.”
Many of us didn’t need a Trump presidency to test the fragility of American democracy, or the loopholes that could enable a dictator to arise. In Trump, we saw one coming. Our alarms went out into a void. Trumpers said we were being dramatic and sensationalist — “snowflakes.” Trump would soon pivot — become “presidential.” His bombast was mere puffery. He would soon be tempered by his cadre of experienced advisors. Well, bless their hearts.
Trump did none of those things.
Four tumultuous years later, the majority of Americans could hardly wait to rid themselves of the tragically inept circus posing as a presidency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Trump is now the first impeached president in U.S. history to run for re-election and to lose the popular vote twice. Come December 14, our antiquated Electoral College system will not save him — at least, not legitimately. But inasmuch as this is a monumental moment— a resounding win for American democracy — we are not yet out of the woods. Not by a long shot. Even with Trump’s defeat, another authoritarian — far more competent than he— could well arise.
Over 71 million Americans — 57 percent of white American voters and 56 percent of American male voters, including more men of color than in 2016 — essentially concluded that they were down for four more years of Trump’s shitshow. Their stance on issues such as abortion, conservative Supreme Court justice appointments — or whatever their “single issue” was that determined their vote for Trump — doesn’t excuse the fact that they witnessed a president who:
- mocked a disabled reporter;
- separated immigrant children from their families and locked them in cages;
- dog-whistled to the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, designated by the FBI as domestic terror organizations;
- kowtowed to a foreign enemy, to the point that it is still undetermined whether he is, indeed, a Russian asset;
- insulted our military and veterans by calling them “suckers” and “losers”;
- committed tax fraud and paid $750 to the IRS — far less than a person on minimum wage;
- instructed his attorney to pay hush money to a porn star — out of campaign donations — to cloak his infidelity;
- told over 25,000 lies during his time in office;
- told four sitting U.S. congresswomen of color — all American citizens — to “go back” to the countries they came from;
- continued to incite chants of “Lock her up” against a U.S. governor, even after a foiled kidnapping plot against her; and
- recklessly endangered the lives of millions of Americans (11 million of whom contracted Covid-19, 247,000 of which lay dead) by playing down the deadliness of conoravirus in a global pandemic, withholding critical information from the public, and holding superspreader rallies where social distancing and masks were optional — thereby, contravening the guidelines of renowned scientists and immunologists.
Trump may have been defeated, but the tentacles of Trumpism have become entrenched. White supremacy threatens the lives of countless Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). The repudiation of science by the Trump administration puts the health of our citizens — and the planet — in grave jeopardy. Disinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories prey on the minds of Americans, so much so that an attempted coup by Trump supporters to overturn a legitimate election could well be underway. When Trump decapitates the Department of Defense by removing Defense Sec. Mark Esper, who opposed the use of troops on U.S. streets — and the heads of the FBI and CIA are also in line for removal — the warning signs are clear. In fact, when Sec. of State Mike Pompeo promises “a smooth transition to a second Trump administration” — instead of conceding to a peaceful transition of power to a Biden administration — Trumpism must be viewed as a cancer. If left untreated, it will metastasize throughout the rest of our body politic and destroy America from the inside.
To my fellow Americans I say, enjoy our recent victory but remain vigilant. We still have so much work to do. There are still two seats up for grabs in Georgia in election run-offs on Jan. 5. Democrats must regain control of the U.S. Senate to reestablish a legislative check and balance on executive power. Thanks to those like Stacey Abrams and her Fair Fight organizing efforts, we stand a fighting chance of flipping the Senate blue. Beyond that, systems of racism and patriarchy must be eradicated and rebuilt on foundations of equity. And to be damn sure, holding this incoming administration accountable to its promises must remain a priority.
Joe Biden’s election victory has evoked spontaneous street celebrations, fireworks, and church bells resounding throughout the world. However, the tears free-flowing from joy and relief are juxtaposed by the bitterness of Trump’s fervent supporters, most of whom show no signs of repentance or acknowledgment of the harm they have caused.
Make no mistake, the work of undoing the damage created by Trumpism over the last four years has only just begun. We must roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty to “Build Back Better.” Together.