I identify politically as a progressive. During the primaries, I was excited to vote for Bernie Sanders because it was the first time I had gotten to vote for a candidate who so closely aligned with my political views. Earlier this month, I was elated to vote for Hillary Clinton because over the summer, I found that despite our differences of opinion on some topics, I could see a great deal of her in myself, and I experience a deep resonance with a vision of a world where we are Stronger Together.
To be totally clear: It would have taken a complete break with the historical arc of the Democratic Party to make me even consider not voting for a Democrat when the other choice was Trump/Pence. The selection of Pence as a running mate is itself an open threat to established LGBTQ* and women’s rights. Their campaign actively courted the “alt-right” (which is difficult to distinguish from white nationalism) and then officially aligned itself with them by making Breitbart’s executive chairman Steve Bannon the CEO of the campaign and now the chief strategist to the President. Their tax plan would reduce revenue by cutting taxes, especially for the rich, while somehow still raising taxes on for some low and middle income families. Setting aside the consequences of reducing Federal revenue, the widening of the wealth gap is the last thing this country needs right now. I could go on. And on. And on.
You can guess how I feel about the election results.
Just in case you need some help: I feel sadness. I feel fear for those who have been and will be hurt by the discrimination and violence that has been normalized by inflammatory, divisive language. Trump’s lack of civility and condoning of violence brings out the worst in all of us. I am afraid for my rights and the rights of others who are not rich straight white men, because Trump is a narcissist, and he does not see me in the mirror. I feel the urge for action, but my resolve is only beginning to re-solidify after such a disruptive result.
And this is who I have been over the past few days as I have seen the NotMyPresident hashtags and signs. I do not doubt I share much with many of those who have taken up this phrase. The sentiment is familiar to me even–I felt it acutely after the election of George W. Bush when I was a sophomore in college.
And yet, now, it is uncomfortable and will not settle in my mind.
Despite my disagreement with the election of George W. Bush, despite my personal rejection of him, he was nevertheless the President of the United States of America. I spent the summer of 2001 through the summer of 2002 studying in Europe, and the distance taught me that I had to take responsibility for the results of my country’s democratic process. I had disagreed. I had argued with people. I had made my opinion known. (I did not vote in that election because I was too young to do so, which made it an all more bitter pill to swallow.) I did not support his election, and I spent his administration in a constant state of disagreement with an alarming number of his words and deeds. He spoke for my country at home and abroad. He commanded my Armed Forces. He led the executive branch of my government. He was not my choice. And yet he was still my President because I cannot abdicate my responsibility for my elected officials, even when I do not vote for them.
When Barak Obama was elected, I was relieved and excited. The last eight years have had me angry less often, though I have deep disagreements with some of what is now quickly becoming Obama’s legacy. Acknowledging him as the President of my country never caught in my throat as it has for many. Despite their denials, he has been their President, too.
The wheel has turned, and I find myself dreading hearing from the not-too-distant White House, in acrid anticipation of rhetoric and policies that step on my values and my own interests. And I find myself called to find what it means to take responsibility for my country. To find what it means to take responsibility for these men leading our nation.
I know that the protesters who chant that Trump is not their President are doing so out of their own sense of responsibility. They need to let others in our nation and around the world see that his election is not a unanimous choice, that our country should not be synonymous with the regressive comments and disturbing alliances that have been woven into his campaign. I can understand that, and I can see value in that. I hope people listen to them more than I listened to those who said the same sentiment about President Obama. Had I listened to them more, I would have learned much more about the state of our electorate and been less surprised this month.
I did not vote for Trump. He and Pence poorly represent my identities, values, ideas, and dreams for the future. They are not mine because I want them or because we are alike. They will be my President and Vice President, nevertheless, come inauguration day because their administration is the product of our democracy, and no matter what anyone says, this is my country. And it is the country of those who voted for him. And it is the country of those who voted for other candidates. And it is the country of those who chose not to vote. And it is the country of those could not vote for whatever reason and yet call it home. The Presidency is responsible for the whole country, and the whole country is responsible for it. We do not lose our relationship to the highest office just because we don’t like the person in it. Whoever lives in the White House is mine.
And don’t think for one minute that I will let them forget it.