‘Agitate, agitate, agitate’
We must push back against a ‘Trump nation’
Since it became more or less official that Donald Trumpis the presidentelect, I have heard one person after another, including President Barack Obama, call for “unity,” and I have observed otherwise cautiously skeptical folks like House Speaker Paul Ryan fall into line as the worst sort of sycophants.
But I am with the people protesting from coast to coast. There can be no “unity” until we really knowwhataPresident Trump stands for. There is no way that patriots who pledge “liberty and justice for all” can simultaneously pledge fealty to an agenda that actualizes the racist, xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic and anti-intellectual rhetoric that propelled Candidate Trump this far. His early moves dismay. Over the weekend Mr. Trump named Stephen Bannon chief White House strategist — despite all that is known of Mr. Bannon’s white nationalist leanings and his voice-of-a-movement status as incubator and disseminator of “alt-right” views through Breitbart News, an operation he directed before becoming Mr. Trump’s campaign strategist in its final months. Do-nothing Republican lawmakers nowadd “know nothing” to their attributes as they claim ignorance about Mr. Bannon and his public record. TheAnti-Defamation League, for one, describes the alt-right as “a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists.” Think about it: Mr. Bannon is one of Mr. Trump’s first executive choices.
Mr. Trump’s trigger-happy penchant to tweet before he thinks and to glide between his yin and his yang was on view in response to “Not My President!” rallies springing up across the country. At 9:19 p.m.: “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” Just hours later, at 6:14 a.m. last Friday, the Dark Knight of Trump Tower gave way to the Donald Trump, left, and his chief strategist, alt-right leader Steve Bannon, right, tour a Civil War site. future resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, tweeting: “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!”
President Obama, who has pledged a smooth transition, remains troubled by the looming Trump presidency. Following a gracious meeting at the White House — apparently the first time the two men had actually met — the president’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, made that clear. “The president’s views haven’t changed,” Mr. Earnest told journalists. “He stands by what he said on the campaign trail.”
This is what President Obama had said just the day before the election while stumping for Hillary Clinton: Mr. Trump is “temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief.” He is “unqualified to be America’s chief executive.” After noting that aides had taken away Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, Mr. Obama added: “Now, if your closest advisers don’t trust you to tweet, then how can we trust him with the nuclear codes?”
In an interview with Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” this week, Mr. Trump insisted that he was shocked and saddened to learn from her that his supporters are stepping up hate speech and even physical attacks against people they see as “other.” Quite unconvincingly, he said: “I hate to hear that, I mean I hate to hear that.” Turning to the camera he said to those supporters, “Stop it.” But they won’t stop until he stops sending signals — through those with whom he surrounds himself, those whose advice and counsel he values — that hate is so OK that the Ku Klux Klan and other bottom-feeding white nationalists are brazenly touting their newfound mainstream status as members of “Trump nation.”
The nomenclature of “Trump nation” is rearing its ugly head across the country in hundreds of acts of hate speech and vandalism, including in Maryland where “whites only” and swastikas and the N-word have cropped up on walls of schools and a church and on an interstate ramp. Attorney General Brian Frosh has denounced what he assesses as “a problem all over the place” and vowed to work with law enforcement officials to punish the offenders.
Some say this is politics: You win some, you lose some and you move on. I take issue. This post-election feeling that is an odd mixture of grief, anger and abandonment stems from something more profound than losing a competition.
Some say that this is in God’s hands. I say that as we “wander in the wilderness of uncertainty” — as my pastor in New York, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts, described the situation Sunday — we still have a part to play in shaping the future.
Rather than appeasement, we must for now follow the advice of Frederick Douglass: agitate, agitate, agitate.