“I love war. I’m good at war. I’ve had a lot of wars of my own. I’m really good at war. I love war in a certain way, but only when we win.”—Donald J. Trump, Nov. 2015
The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States is the most audacious act of mass racial aggression since the American Civil War. To understand how the election of an American president can summon such a comparison, consider that, according to Pew Research, a majority of Americans believe that the Civil War is still relevant to American politics and political life. Donald Trump’s epically racialized ascension to the presidency makes the War of Rebellion especially germane now.
Students of history will remember the Civil War as a “hot” conflict that cost more than 600,000 American lives, or roughly 2 percent of what was then America’s total population. Trump, himself, has threatened a revivification of such political hostilities. Trump has condoned the use of violence against our Republic: “Hillary wants to abolish—essentially abolish—the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don't know.”
To my knowledge, Trump is the only major party candidate in the history of the Republic to invite citizens to assassinate his opponent: “I think that her [Clinton’s] bodyguards should drop all weapons, they should disarm, right? I think they should disarm. Immediately, what do you think? Yeah, take their guns away. She doesn't want guns. Take their–let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away, OK? It'll be very dangerous."
The Civil War, however, was most importantly a war of ideology because President Abraham Lincoln, abolitionists, and many others understood that the institution of slavery was incompatible with democracy. So, too, is racism. And when a candidate gains office by naked appeals to racism, his election is not democratic because in a democracy how one wins is as important as the fact that she won. Democratic legitimacy is not just about the result, it is about how one achieved that result.
Thus, Americans who opposed candidate Trump are under no patriotic, moral, or logical duty to recognize the legitimacy of President Trump because in embracing racism, nativism, and chauvinism, Trump and his supporters have cast aside too many of our treasured civic mores born of the blood of the Civil War, the first Reconstruction, the movement for women’s franchise and equality, and the Second Reconstruction.
At an even more basic level, President Trump is due neither respect nor legitimacy because he spent the past eight years attempting to de-legitimize the duly elected leader of the Free World, Barack Obama, for no other reason than the fact that Obama is black. If Donald Trump didn’t respect the office of the presidency enough not to cast baseless aspersions on his predecessor’s place of birth and eligibility to occupy the Oval Office, why would any rational American accord President Trump such respect?
Trump and his troglodytes are counting on the same mealy-mouthed liberals who abetted the Democrats’ catastrophic defeat at the polls to now play nice. But folks like former Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod should lose all credibility and respectability when they claim, against an over-abundance of evidence, that Trump is not a racist.
And those Democratic politicians who are interpreting the election results with clichés like “The American people want Democrats and Republicans to work together to find solutions to our common problems,” are conveniently ignoring the fact that partisan polarization in Congress has been asymmetrical. It’s not that both sides have been moving equally from the political center—the Republican Party has lurched much further to the right than Democrats have to the left, and their movement to the right has been accompanied by a rejection of the constitutional norms that bind us together as a union. Look no further than the Republican Senate’s unprecedented refusal to hold hearings on Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, breaking the record for the longest gap between nomination and confirmation.
For any Democrat to fantasize about “working together” when Republicans have consistently shown Democrats the backs of their hands is foolhardy, naïve, and pusillanimous. What is called for at this moment in our history is a political mobilization and resistance proportionate to the cancer that President-elect Trump and his supporters have sown in our body politic. This resistance should start with every Democratic congressmen and senator boycotting Trump’s maiden State of the Union address, or if they must attend, they should stand with their backs turned to Trump.
Candidate Trump threatened that there would be a “constitutional crisis” if Hillary Clinton were elected president instead of him. If progressives have any backbone, they’ll make President Trump live through his own.