It starts: the "normalization" of Donald J. Trump, the man who achieved the heights in American life -- the White House -- by taking the low road. Specifically the low road of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia.
The normal hallmarks of the transfer of power are being rolled out and extended to the man who, as The New York Times editorialized, "pulped" the American dream, the dream described by Hillary Clinton in her concession speech as "big enough for everyone" -- for "all races, and religions, for men and women, for immigrants."
Already the proforma visits have taken place. First was the White House, where President Barack Obama graciously received the man who launched his own bid by seeking to delegitimize our first African-American president via the birther movement. Next was Capitol Hill, meeting with smiling Republicans who prior to the election were grimly staying their distance from their toxic nominee.
Already we have the "60 Minutes" interview with the President-elect and his family, conducted in the gold-leaf plushness of Trump Tower. And we have Times columnist Maureen Dowd chuckling on "Charlie Rose" that Trump may be more surprised than anyone at his election, that probably "he's sitting up in Trump Tower with a cheeseburger, what the heck." What's more normalizing than a cheeseburger?
And now come the appointments. Causing vehement uproar initially is the appointment of Stephen K. Bannon as Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor. Civil rights groups and Democrats fear Bannon, former head of the hard-right Breitbart News, "will bring anti-Semitic, nationalist and racist views to the West Wing." Even a Republican strategist declares, "The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant, America."
Now comes the astonishing appointment of Sen. Jeff Session as Trump's Attorney General (also here). Sessions, before he became senator, was rejected for a federal judgeship when officials testified he made racist comments -- including calling an African-American lawyer "boy." Our top job at Justice goes to a man known to be hostile to civil rights?
Rudy Giuliani, rumored for Secretary of State, last year made the outrageous charge, "I do not believe that the president loves America" -- claiming Mr. Obama was not "brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country." This xenophobe might be chief diplomat? Before, during, and after his tenure as mayor, Giuliani has had a "fraught history with New York's black and brown residents."
And we haven't even discussed the misogyny expressed by Trump in the campaign against Hillary Clinton ("Does she look presidential, fellas?" "Nasty woman"). And recall the xenophobia against Muslims and Mexicans that Trump engaged in early on, igniting his defiantly "politically incorrect" campaign.
These toxins released by Trump are now being freely expressed by the public. Anti-Muslim hate crimes jumped 67% from 2014 to 2015 (Trump announced for president June 2015). Before and since the election, Trump supporters, out in public and in schools, shout "Build that wall" at Latinos and pull hijabs off Muslim-American women's heads. Since the election swastikas, deportation threats, and racist graffiti have proliferated. And this shocker: Two West Virginia municipal officials (both women, one the mayor) expressed pleasure on Facebook at the prospect of seeing Trump's fashion model wife in the White House, rather than the "ape in heels," Michelle Obama! Properly, both officials have resigned. Describing Michelle Obama, a First Lady par excellence, in such a despicable manner cannot ever become "normal." For shame.
It's not enough that -- belatedly -- President-elect Trump says to his supporters, "Stop it," as he did, turning to the camera, on "60 Minutes" when interviewer Lesley Stahl related various ugly incidents committed by his supporters. Poisoner-in-Chief now wants the poisoning to stop? The word that comes to mind is "hypocrite."
Much quoted is the observation about Trump, by The Atlantic's Salena Zito, that "the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally." But if that is so, Trump supporters are naïve at best and morally compromised at worst if they do not take Trump's toxic methods literally, given their capacity to hurt and even kill. Economic suffering, while valid, cannot justify these methods.
No, it's up to Democrats to reinstate the American ideals of tolerance, equality, fair play. (And moderate Republicans, too: I note little pride among them at Trump's win, just surprise.) It needs to be heard loud and clear: Not only "No" -- to racism, misogyny, xenophobia -- but "Hell, no." These evils can never ever become "normal." They must be resisted, daily. This is not the stubbornness of a sore loser, but principle. We need to reinstate "political correctness," which in truth is another term for our foundational ideals.
Right now, though, Democrats are stunned and deflated by Trump's victory. Like you, I so wanted to advance into a New Day, and to see Trump cast into our rear-view mirror, an artifact of history. But, given the gains made by Democrats in recent decades combatting racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, not to mention electing and re-electing our first African-American president, we might look at this recent election as a massive reaction; a reactionary election. The stage is now set for a Renaissance.
To get there, the Democratic party must reform. Importantly, it must renew its original commitment to the working class, the class we forfeited in favor of moneyed interests and lost to Trump. And, importantly, Democrats must recommit to the ideals we hold dearest -- tolerance and equality -- as Trump, once in office, seeks to normalize their opposites. We can be grateful our nemesis is unusually clear-cut.
All this is not to say Democrats don't wish Trump success. For the good of the country, good luck to him in bringing back jobs, infrastructure repair, etc. But do it, Mr. Trump, without bias or prejudice or violence -- or else you'll have the majority of the electorate, the popular majority that voted for Hillary Clinton, at your door.
Meanwhile: "Stay angry," urges liberal thinker Leon Wieseltier. It is the only way to uphold our principles. Let us "maintain our disgust at the low and malign politics that have just prevailed":
"Trump's success vouches only for his strategy. It says nothing about his probity or decency. Those Americans who are ashamed that we have elected as our president a man bursting with prejudices and lies are right. Their shame makes America great again."
Continuing, Wieseltier writes: "Difficult times are giving way to dark times, and dark times require a special lucidity and a special vigilance and a special ferocity about principle." Providing context, he reminds us "moral progress and social progress are never linear and unimpeded and inevitable":
"If you demand justice, prepare for instability, and for the exploitation of instability by political reactionaries who weaken the wounded with nostalgia and fantasies of exclusiveness... There is nothing Sisyphean or cynical about this. It is the abiding condition of a democracy comprising conflicting ideals. The fight is never over."
And the immediate fight? Not to let racism, sexism, xenophobia -- that is to say, Trumpism -- become "normal." Nothing less than America's soul is at stake. Arise, the Resistance.
Carla Seaquist's latest book is titled "Can America Save Itself from Decline?: Politics, Culture, Morality." An earlier book is titled "Manufacturing Hope: Post-9/11 Notes on Politics, Culture, Torture, and the American Character." Also a playwright, she published "Two Plays of Life and Death" and is at work on a play titled "Prodigal."