First, congratulations. I give you a lot of credit for keeping the faith in your candidate and doing what you needed to do to put him in the White House. And, despite my concerns, I sincerely hope that he and the people around him do what’s best for the country.
I know that many of you see his election as a bright opportunity. I can’t take that away from you. Nor would I even try. After all we’ve been through during the last 18 months especially, I have no illusion that I can somehow convince you otherwise. I really hope you’re right.
Likewise, you can’t take away from me and many others like me (about half the country) that, since the early hours of November 9, I’ve had a constant, sickening sensation not just of loss, but real fear. My fear is that his election has ushered in a meaner mood among Americans and that Trump’s reckless behavior and ideas will plunge us into circumstances far more desperate than the ones he claims to be fixing.
Sorry if this offends you, but it’s precisely what I feel. Please hear me out.
Just as I truly do not minimize the concerns that led many to vote for Trump, I hope you won’t dismiss mine as the usual bellyaching by those whose candidates didn’t win. I’ve been on the losing side of enough elections to know that this is far different.
To be absolutely frank with you, what worries me most is that some of the worst behaviors and views that Trump and his supporters uttered, or in some cases refused to denounce, didn’t keep you from voting for him.
I know some of you personally, and have chatted with you over the last year. I’m convinced that you’re not bigots, that patent dishonesty, extreme arrogance and unethical business practices offend your sensibilities, that you abhor sexual assault and sexism, that an apparent admiration for the style and approaches of autocratic leaders like Vladimir Putin trouble you deeply, that you agree that suggestions to reign in press freedoms are dangerous and that threatening to throw your political opponent in jail (on something that even the FBI concluded was not worth prosecuting) is beyond the pale, and you understand that plain old nastiness and vulgarity are not appropriate for a President of the United States.
I trust you agree with me on all that. But, apparently, those very real – how to say? – failings bothered you far less than they did me and many others. Whereas I took quite literally some of Trump's most alarming pronouncements, you did not, figuring, I guess, that, as President, he will grow into the role of the prudent statesman.
That’s a valid choice, but a gamble. It’s a bet that Trump will stick to the actual policy matters that you care about – international trade, Supreme Court nominations, gun rights, abortion, immigration policy, the Iran nuclear deal, the Affordable Care Act, etc. – and leave all the rest behind. It’s a wager that he was, like so many politicians, pressing some buttons in order to get elected but will be a different person as President. I’ve heard many of your fellow supporters say just that.
Obviously, I hope that bet pays off the way you think it will. A lot is at stake. For example, I’m part of a religious minority in this country that heard some terrifying suggestions about us in this campaign, and, if I were a member of a number of other groups that Trump and his surrogates threatened with even more fervor, I would likewise be very afraid. And do you really think that throttling the press or rationalizing assaults against women will be good for America?
The problem is that there is a pretty long and convincing record that Trump will be the guy he was during the campaign and has always been. Even worse, there’s the prospect that some of the most hateful and potentially dangerous people in our society have been encouraged and emboldened by him and will hold more sway than they deserve. I assume that worries you as much as it worries me.
In that case, my big question to you is: if some of those worst fears about Trump begin to materialize, what will you say? Will you dismiss them, as you apparently did when you voted for him, and tell the rest of us we are overreacting or that they don’t matter? Or will you speak up, tell Trump and your other elected representatives that that’s not what you voted for? To borrow a trite phrase: which side will you be on?
I ask you with all due respect and not because I’m trying to hector you or shout you down. Honestly. I don’t want to argue. For the moment, I’m not interested in endless, futile bickering about whether or not each of us thinks it’s a good idea to scrap NAFTA or the ACA or about whether Hillary Clinton is a saint or a sinner. Those issues are beside the point of this query and not really what's feeding my worst fears (though they worry me). This is about President Trump.
I really, really want to know what you will do if (hopefully not when) some of the bad stuff that his campaign suggested becomes a reality. Because, knowing that he and his team will probably not be listening to me, I want some reassurance that the ones they will hear – the people like you who voted for him – will do what you need to do. Can you give it to me?
In my opinion, this is the biggest question of the moment. Not just for those of us who did not vote for Donald Trump but, trust me (to use a Trump interjection), for you, too.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
[Note: I posted this simultaneously on Facebook. To see comments, go to: https://www.facebook.com/jeff.weintraub/posts/10210841266286779