I have to smile when I see supporters of Donald Trump complain about the ongoing street protests against his election and about the unwillingness of Democrats to rally around our new president-elect. And no, it’s not a happy type of smile — it’s more of a tight little “you have got to be freakin’ kidding me” kind of smile.
Barely a week ago, many of these very same people now preaching unity and patriotism were ready to greet Hillary Clinton at the White House door with articles of impeachment and were promising to turn her administration into one endless string of ugly, bitter congressional investigations. In fact, some of them still entertain themselves with the idea of tossing her in prison. Trump himself was riling up crowds everywhere he went with warnings that the election was being stolen from them and that post-election action might be needed, and he ostentatiously refused to commit himself to accepting its outcome.
As a result, the air was thick with hints of post-election violence should Trump and his followers be denied what they believed was theirs by birthright. I’ve watched the grace with which Clinton and President Obama have handled all this, and it’s impossible not to imagine the contrast if current roles were reversed, if Trump had won the popular vote by more than a million votes but lost the presidency. I suspect we’d be in a whole different kind of place.
It’s also important to note that while a majority of electoral votes may have made Trump president, they have not changed who and what he is. This is a man whom fellow Republican Ted Cruz called “utterly amoral” and “a pathological liar,” warning that with a Trump candidacy “we are staring at the abyss.” John Kasich ran campaign ads drawing parallels between Trump and the Nazi Party. Rick Perry called him a “cancer on conservatism”. Marco Rubio called him a “con artist”, concluding that he is “wholly unprepared” to be president and point-blank accused him of fomenting violence as a political tool.
“This boiling point that we have now reached has been fed largely by the fact that we have a frontrunner in my party who has fed into language that basically justifies physically assaulting people who disagree with you,” Rubio warned, a statement that was accurate then and accurate today.
We’ve all heard heated political rhetoric; we all know that candidates can get carried away at times. However, the warnings about Trump’s character and the danger that he posed to the republic were extraordinary not just for their harshness or the fact that they came from members of his own party, but also because of the heart-felt sincerity with which they were delivered. It was the honest, unvarnished truth.
Those warnings also came from conservatives who weren’t directly involved in the fight for the GOP nomination, but who had stakes in it as Americans. Our two previous Republican presidents were so disgusted with Trump that they made it publicly known that they could not stomach casting a ballot for him, which is extraordinary. Most of the GOP foreign-policy establishment signed a letter warning that their party’s nominee lacked the judgment, temperament, knowledge and self control to be placed in charge of the nuclear arsenal. Again, extraordinary. For a time there, elected leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan were highly critical of Trump’s degrading attacks on Muslim-Americans, women and on a Mexican-American judge assigned to hear his fraud case. “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” as Ryan said noted. Extraordinary again.
Since then, tribal loyalty, rank opportunism and the allure of power have caused many of those Republicans to conveniently forget what they know about Trump, just as they have somehow ignored the reality that he has come to office with the clear assistance of a foreign power, a situation without parallel in American history. Their problem is that they are going to be reminded of Trump’s basic nature over and over again in the days to come, not by Democrats or liberals but by Trump himself.
Meanwhile, I and many other Americans have not forgotten who Trump really is and what he represents. Loyalty to our country and its founding principles requires us to continue in strong but peaceful, and I stress peaceful, opposition, if for no other reason than to remind him that he was elected without a majority or even a plurality, and that we are still out here watching and we still have a voice.