About a month ago today, a tape emerged of President-elect Donald Trump bragging about abusing his fame to sexually assault women. “When you’re a star,” he boasts, “You can do anything.” If Trump’s use of fame to harass women is any indication of his potential to use the presidency to pursue a doctrine of hate, then we must seriously consider the implications of participating in the election of someone who sees power as a free pass to inflict harm on others. Now that Trump has been democratically elected as the next President of the United States, can he still “do anything”?
Republican Senator Mike Crapo denounced Trump’s treatment of women as “disrespectful, profane and demeaning.” Marco Rubio called Trump a “lunatic” who is unfit to serve. Richard Viguerie expressed “concern about his mental stability and his moral background, or lack thereof.” Nevertheless, these three, as well as many other Republican figures, still voted for Trump on Tuesday.
So many of Trump’s opponents and allies alike have condemned the real-estate mogul’s actions and comments towards women, immigrants and disabled people– not to mention religious and ethnic minorities. And yet, despite public scandal after scandal that left Republican party members like Mike Lee saying that Trump “scares me to death,” the man with the small hands remained the party nominee. In the face of this, I must emphasize the horror of using the democratic process to legitimize a platform of rights violations.
Trump’s “policies” aren’t just bad– they’re often explicitly unconstitutional and deliberately rights-violating. The last op-ed in this series explored how Trump’s advocacy for torture, surveillance of Muslims and creation of a Muslim “database” violate Muslim communities’ rights, both at home and abroad. The prospective violations beneath Trump do not stop there though. Forcing mass deportations, ending birthright citizenship, “opening up” libel laws, allowing for mass surveillance and banning abortion are just a few examples of the policies that encourage mass encroachments on civil liberties.
There was a myth circulating that it was okay to be disgusted by Trump and still vote for him. Contemporary political folklore claims that “supporting one’s political party” makes it excusable to elect a man who’s comfortable praising the words of fascists like Benito Mussolini. I would like to dismantle these misconceptions and make one thing clear: A vote for a platform built on hate is a vote to participate in systemic violence. If you knowingly empower a bigot through our nation’s democratic process, then there is no way to wipe your hands clean of the blood that the Trump platform promises.
You can say that Trump’s comments about women and minorities are “not okay,” but if you then in turn chose to validate these comments with your vote, then how are you doing anything but claiming the exact opposite– that Trump’s hate speech are excusable enough to allow him to become the next president?
In his book “States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering,” Stanley Cohen explores how organized atrocities– genocide, torture, and political massacres– are denied and thus violently perpetuated by perpetrators as well as bystanders, i.e. those who stand by and do nothing. The difference between Cohen’s bystander and America’s Trump voter though is that while one is accountable for violence simply by passively witnessing horror and staying silent, the other is guilty of actively deciding to support the perpetrator. When Black lives, Brown lives, Muslim lives, LGBTQ lives, undocumented lives and women’s lives are all under direct threat of oppression, discrimination and violence beneath a Trump presidency, the Trump voter moved beyond the position of a passive bystander to an active accomplice.
Does “democratic legitimacy,” having been chosen by the people, somehow make his actions okay? No. Will today’s subtle distinction of recognizing, but still democratically empowering evil do anything to stop the cries of your neighbors, classmates and coworkers within Trump’s dystopian tomorrow? Not at all. As prospective rights violations loom on the horizon of the Trump presidency, remember that a vote for him, for all of him — the tyrannical, the racist and the ugly — allowed such crimes to happen.
Electing Trump told him that he can do anything he wants. And trust me, for better or for worse, he will.