It was only last August when President Obama said “The Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president…He keeps on proving it…What does this say about your party that this is your standard-bearer?”
Only two months later after a 90 minute Oval Office meeting with President-Elect Trump, President Obama said this “And as I said last night, my number one priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful…And I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together to deal with the many challenges that we face.”
What had changed in two months that made Trump “unfit to serve as president” because of his attacks on Latinos, immigrants, and Muslims; his ridiculing of a disabled reporter; and his misogyny toward women, to President Obama’s statement that “We are now all rooting for his success”?
This jarring turnaround represents America’s “peaceful transition of power” that many recently have reminded us is a part of the success of American democracy.
News media responds to Trump election
The majority of cable news stations expressed astonishment at Trump’s win even with their dearth of reporting on Clinton’s weak support; Sanders winning in state primaries like Michigan and Wisconsin; and the revelations of the Democratic Party’s concerted effort to undermine the Sanders campaign. Much of the post-election analysis has focused on what constituencies voted for who; the weak overall voter turnout; Clinton’s “inability to maintain the Obama coalition;” and an emphasis on the peaceful transition of power.
Most of the talking head commentators were white with few representatives from the communities most vulnerable to a Trump Presidency, i.e. Blacks, Muslims, Latinos, LGBTQ, and immigrants.
Reporting on protests across the country
There has been superficial reporting on the widespread national protests that began immediately after the election. Scant discussion on how large or prevalent they are; who is protesting and why; and the fact that the protestors represent the groups most under attack for the last several months.
What has been the media coverage of these protests?
The local Chicago news media noted the size and traffic disruption, but little analysis of the reasons for the protest or even the make-up of the crowds.
One report suggested protestors were angry that Clinton won the popular vote but not the election – ignoring the multitude of other possibilities related to Trump’s immigration policies, law and order stand, anti-Muslim statements, and assaults on women.
There have been thousands of protestors in the streets of America’s largest cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Oakland, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Dayton, Cincinnati, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, Providence, Las Vegas, and Portland.
Many cities have had protests each day since Election Day with the popular hashtag #NotMyPresident. A national protest is already planned for Inauguration Day.
This is the largest protest of an election result since 1968 when Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey over the Vietnam War. Similarly, neither candidate was popular and the Nixon Inauguration itself had huge protests with little press attention.
Trump’s response on Twitter Saturday to the protests was
This will prove to be a great time in the lives of ALL Americans. We will unite and we will win, win, win!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2016
Like much of the media, he also played down the size and significance of the protests. He acknowledged that these protests are happening and called them “small groups” that have “passion for our great country.”
During Trump’s exclusive interview on the CBS show 60 Minutes last night, when asked about the protests said
“Some of them are professional protestors…driven in part by Hillary’s edge in the popular vote.”
As the media has been reinforcing since the election, Trump is echoing the message that those who object to his win are disgruntled Clinton supporters. He rejects the notion that there could have been groups of people he alienated during his campaign.
Increase in racist and anti-Muslim violence under-reported
The day after Trump’s victory, someone painted racist messages referencing the election on a wall in Durham, North Carolina.
“Black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes,” the message said, according to CNN affiliate WNCN.
Since the election, the New York Times and multiple civil rights groups have reported an increase in attacks on Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and LGBTQ people.
Pulled from news reports, social media, and direct submissions to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) website, they had counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation as of Friday, November 11 at 5pm. “These range from anti-Black to anti-woman to anti-LGBT incidents. There were many examples of vandalism and epithets directed at individuals.” As of November 15, the number has climbed to over 400.
SPLC also started an online petition with over 35,000 signatures asking Trump to condemn the behavior.
During the 60 Minutes interview, Leslie Stahl asked for Trump’s response to reports of “his supporters threatening Latinos and Muslims” since his election. “Have not heard of threats by my supporters. It’s a very small amount…If it helps I can say it to the camera, don’t do it. It’s terrible.” Like the media, Trump is downplaying the extent of these threats with no acknowledgement that actual attacks and hate crimes are taking place. He does not take them seriously enough to do anything other than tell his supporters to “stop it.”
Less than 48 hours since Donald Trump was elected, reports of Islamophobia are already rising. Attacks on Muslim Americans were already high before the election with hate group experts attributing the increase to his candidacy. But the situation appears to have worsened since his win.
This has already been a year when widespread anti-Muslim rhetoric has brought Islamophobia into the mainstream. Now it has come to the White House.
It is no surprise that there have been inter-faith events across the country like the one Saturday in Oak Lawn, a suburb of Chicago. It was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and other faith-based groups with the theme “Rally against Islamophobia in Oak Lawn. Stand in Solidarity with Muslim Neighbors.” Supporters handed out signs saying, “We support our Muslim neighbors” to store owners to put in their windows.
Immigrants have also reported widespread fear of deportations being increased under President Trump. In the 60 Minutes interview, Trump said, “Yes” to the question whether he still “planned on building a wall.” He also said his immediate focus is to “get the people with criminal records – 2 to 3 million – out of the country. After the border is secured, we will make a determination on the rest.”
Given this very high 2-3 million with criminal records figure, it is likely many have a minor record and deportations will likely exceed the record number deported under President Obama.
In the past, waiting for immigration reform until “the border is secure” without detail of what that means, has been a stalling tactic from taking any action on immigration at all.
Donald Trump’s pledge to deny entry to the country for all Muslims, temporarily disappeared from his campaign website after being added following the attacks in San Bernardino. The removal prompted new questions from the press about this policy, but it was restored Thursday afternoon after what Trump’s staff characterized as a technical glitch.
Like the rally in Oak Lawn, there have also been press conferences to support not only Muslims, but also immigrants. The day after the election, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights held a press conference to respond to the results from the election.
Among the speakers were Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and several other community leaders.
Ahmed Rehab expressed the common feelings of the group:
“…Standing together hand-in-hand we will not be defeated. We will bring immigration reform…we will bring justice to all of the communities in America. We will stand against discrimination and hatred and religious bigotry. We will not remain silent…. the people remain in power so long as they stand united together.”
A racist political system and institutions put Trump in power, not racist voters.
Some Trump voters were undoubtedly racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant. For those voters, the divisive and bigoted Trump campaign encouraged them to act. Those who might have had those views, but normally would not have acted on them, saw their views mainstreamed.
Many voters who were merely looking for a change were encouraged by Trump to blame their problems on these marginalized groups or at least to ignore his hateful rhetoric.
We forget that there was a rise in racist incidents when President Obama was elected in 2008. Here is an NBC News report from November 11, 2008.
“Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting ‘Assassinate Obama.’ Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars. Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.”
When President Obama was elected, the racists in America acted out their anger at a Black man being elected President. Now with a candidate who has made racist statements and is supported by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, those same people feel emboldened to act out their hate as if one of their own has been elected. If there is anyone left who truly believed President Obama’s election represented a “post-racial America” – no one will take him or her seriously.
For those who say wait until Trump does something….
Many on the news and social media including those who don’t feel personally vulnerable in a Trump Presidency and a Republican Congress say “Give him a chance” – “Wait until he does something to protest” – or as President Obama said make it a priority to “Ensure his success…because if he is successful, America will be successful.”
One of the candidates for Attorney General appears to be Rudy Giuliani known for his anti-Muslim, illegal surveillance as well as his racial profiling “stop and frisk” programs in New York City. There is no reason to think he has changed his mind on any of these programs.
Stop-and-frisk disproportionately targeted young black and Latino men to 90 percent of all stops. It was found to be ineffective and ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013. Giuliani’s comments on the Black Lives Matter movement include this statement to Fox News in July.
“It’s inherently racist because, number one, it divides us. … All lives matter: White lives, black lives, all lives.”
He was roundly attacked by civil liberties groups for a secret program spying on every mosque within a 100-mile radius of New York City during his eight years as mayor.
Rudy Giuliani has also been mentioned as a candidate for Secretary of State even though he has no foreign policy experience. In a recent editorial in the New York Times entitled “Why Rudy Giuliani Shouldn’t Be Secretary of State” the editorial board said
“Since leaving office, Mr. Giuliani has earned millions working for foreign governments and businesses, which would raise a flurry of potential conflicts of interest. For instance, he was paid to deliver speeches in 2011 and 2012 defending a cultlike Iranian exile group that was on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
In the long list of ridiculous things Mr. Giuliani has said, his remarks about President Obama in February 2015, when the presidential campaign was gearing up, were particularly disgraceful. ‘I do not believe that the president loves America,” Mr. Giuliani said at a dinner in Midtown Manhattan.
“He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
Trump has already been clear about the action he plans to take on immigration and the undocumented; on admitting Muslims to this country; and (during the 60 Minutes interview) “appointing judges who will be pro-life.”
As of this morning, he has appointed Steve Bannon, the head of his campaign and of the far-right website Breitbart, as his “chief strategist and senior counselor”.
As The Guardian in its profile of Bannon explains:
“Bannon was the executive chairman of the far-right website Breitbart News for much of the past decade. The site is the most widely read conservative news and opinion site in the US, but it is charged with being racist, anti-Semitic and sexist, and of repeatedly peddling conspiracy theories to further its agenda. Breitbart has, among other things, accused Obama of “importing more hating Muslims”, compared conservative commentator Bill Kristol to a “renegade Jew”, likened Planned Parenthood’s work to the Holocaust, said young Muslims in the West were a “ticking time bomb”, and advised female victims of online harassment to “just log off” and stop “screwing up the internet for men”.
What are you waiting for?
So if you are waiting until Trump “does something” to protest, what exactly are you waiting for? There are many vulnerable communities who can’t wait.
If you find yourself saying –
“Maybe Trump won’t be so bad,”
“He sounds like he is softening his positions,”
“Once he gets in the White House he can’t just do what he wants.”
You are probably white, not an immigrant, not undocumented, not a Muslim, not an LGBTQ person, and not a woman worried about her reproductive rights.