Washington Watch What just happened and why I won’t ac­cept it

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS - By Dr James J Zogby

My wife came down to break­fast Thurs­day morn­ing still in a daze over the out­come of the elec­tion. She said, poignantly, “I feel just like I did af­ter my fa­ther died. I used to wake up each day with a sense of dread say­ing ‘that re­ally didn’t hap­pen, did it?’ But it did hap­pen, just like this elec­tion happened, and I’m hav­ing that same sense of dread”.

She’s not alone. Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, my­self in­cluded, are reel­ing and in shock. That Don­ald Trump is the pres­i­dent-elect is sim­ply un­be­liev­able. Some are telling us to get over it; to re­spect the demo­cratic process and ac­cept the will of the peo­ple; and to honor the in­tegrity of the of­fice to which Don­ald Trump has been elected. I un­der­stand why Pres­i­dent Obama has been gra­cious, promis­ing a peace­ful tran­si­tion of power. That is what he must do. But, with all due re­spect, I can­not.

Pun­dits are hor­ri­ble at pre­dict­ing, but great at dis­sect­ing, af­ter the fact. And so de­spite be­ing wrong for months, they have now dis­cov­ered why Trump won. They are say­ing that he spoke to voter anger. He tapped into their fears. He con­nected with their alien­ation from and frus­tra­tion with the es­tab­lish­ments of both par­ties. Vot­ers sim­ply didn’t trust Hil­lary Clin­ton. She was in­au­then­tic. She was an elit­ist who em­bod­ied the es­tab­lish­ment. I get all that.

What I don’t get and what is dis­turb­ing and even trau­ma­tiz­ing, is that the pres­i­dent-elect is a crude, cor­rupt, and con­temptible char­la­tan. He is a self-pro­claimed bil­lion­aire whose bank­rupt­cies have cheated thou­sands of work­ers and small busi­ness own­ers out of their pay­checks. His “univer­sity” robbed hun­dreds of their money and their dreams of ad­vance­ment. And his dis­hon­est deal­ings with dozens of char­i­ties cheated them out of promised sup­port.

Feign­ing con­cern for the “for­got­ten mid­dle class”, Trump did prey off the fear and anger of those who have felt be­trayed by a sys­tem that was, in fact, rigged against them. But he pro­vided no con­struc­tive so­lu­tions, of­fer­ing in­stead the vague prom­ise of a re­turn of “lost glory”, all the while fu­el­ing their fear and stok­ing the em­bers of their anger with scape­goats to strike out against: Mex­i­cans, im­mi­grants, Mus­lims, and the ur­ban poor. He made fun of the dis­abled and dis­played a de­plorable lack of re­spect for women. And on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, he brazenly en­cour­aged his sup­port­ers to use violence against those who op­posed him.

The pun­dit class never un­der­stood Trump’s ap­peal. Dur­ing the pri­mary sea­son they re­peat­edly and mis­tak­enly pre­dicted his demise. As he in­sulted, in rapid-fire suc­ces­sion: women, his op­po­nents, Se­na­tor John McCain, pop­u­lar Fox TV host Megyn Kelly, Mex­i­cans, Mus­lims, a dis­abled per­son-they an­nounced that he had gone too far and would soon drop in the polls. What they failed to un­der­stand then, and only now see, was that Trump had tapped into a vein of raw anger in a por­tion of the elec­torate. He might be a crude bully - but he was their crude bully and he was lash­ing out for them and they loved it.

It is a wrong to ar­gue that Trump’s val­ues are un-Amer­i­can. They are, sadly, very much a part of our history that we must not ig­nore. We’ve seen it be­fore - rage and violence against African Amer­i­cans, Na­tive Amer­i­cans, suc­ces­sive waves im­mi­grants from for­eign lands, the “Red scare”, and gays, to name a few. As Trump un­leashed his cam­paign of hate, the pun­dits, liv­ing in their rar­efied elite world, never un­der­stood, un­til it was too late, that his mes­sage would res­onate and he could win. Now that he has won, with a dis­mis­sive wave of the hand, they want us to put our con­cern and dis­gust aside and move on. I dis­agree be­cause even if Trump sur­prises us by pur­su­ing a mod­er­ate gov­ern­ing agenda, the hate he has un­leashed and val­i­dated will not eas­ily be con­tained.

The other rea­son I can­not so eas­ily move on is be­cause through­out this long elec­tion sea­son Trump’s lan­guage has been so vul­gar and his be­hav­ior to­ward women has been so dis­gust­ing that par­ents had dif­fi­culty ex­plain­ing him to their chil­dren. It be­came so prob­lem­atic that my own grown chil­dren ag­o­nized over whether or not to let my grand­chil­dren watch news cov­er­age of the elec­tion. The en­tire cam­paign was a night­mare, which we couldn’t wait to end.

It now ap­pears that the night­mare is only be­gin­ning. What we are strug­gling with is how to ex­plain to our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren that the man who said what he said and did the things that he did will now be our pres­i­dent.

I, too, have done a post­mortem of this elec­tion. Within the Demo­cratic Party, I am ar­gu­ing, as I have for decades, that we have slighted the white work­ing class. De­spite hav­ing been the back­bone of the Demo­cratic Party, we ig­nored the hard­ships they en­dured as they be­came vic­tims of economic and so­cial dis­lo­ca­tion. We for­got to speak their lan­guage and failed to iden­tify with their nar­ra­tives and have even demon­strated dis­dain for their cul­ture and val­ues. I agree with the ar­gu­ments advanced by Bernie San­ders and Joe Bi­den: it is pre­cisely be­cause we turned our back on this crit­i­cally im­por­tant con­stituency of Amer­i­cans that we left them vul­ner­a­ble to the hate­ful mes­sage of Don­ald Trump.

I ac­cept this crit­i­cism and am com­mit­ted to chang­ing this sorry state of af­fairs. But what I can’t ac­cept is that Don­ald Trump will be my pres­i­dent. His elec­tion is not a death in the fam­ily. Death is ir­re­versible, elec­tions hap­pen ev­ery four years.

Now some might sug­gest that by say­ing I can­not ac­cept Trump as pres­i­dent, I am be­ing un-Amer­i­can. I pro­foundly dis­agree. By work­ing with al­lies in Congress and civil so­ci­ety to de­fend the vul­ner­a­ble - Mex­i­cans, African Amer­i­cans, Mus­lims, and gays - who have, in just the few days since this elec­tion, been tar­gets of acts of hate and violence in schools and in their neigh­bor­hoods; by de­fend­ing women from be­ing de­graded and as­saulted; and by draw­ing, quite clearly, the line be­tween what is ac­cept­able and what is un­ac­cept­able - I am be­ing very Amer­i­can.

Work­ing for jus­tice is also a proud part of our history. Our chil­dren need to learn this les­son. They need to know that we will pro­tect them and oth­ers who are vic­tims of in­jus­tice. And they need us to teach them right from wrong. They de­serve this from us. And so, I re­spect­fully dis­sent and proudly state that I will not ac­cept Don­ald Trump as my pres­i­dent.

NOTE: Dr James J Zogby is the Pres­i­dent of the Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tute

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