Trump needs to listen to, not condemn, those protesting him

After a particularly hellish election season, Donald Trump hit the necessary 270 electoral votes to take the Presidency despite Hillary Clinton being on track to win the popular vote. And there really isn’t a word to describe the calamity that has ensued.

As soon as the news was announced, a barrage of petitions, blog posts, and protests erupted. They haven’t stopped since, and it’s giving President Elect Trump and his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway a headache.

“It’s time really for President Obama and Secretary Clinton to say to these protesters, ‘This man is our president,’” she told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” also suggesting to FOX’s Chris Wallace that some of the protestors were professional and paid.

Trump chimed in with similar sentiments, tweeting, “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

Defensiveness is a natural reaction to virulent opposition. But what Trump and Conway are failing, or just refusing, to understand is that people are protesting as loudly as possible because they feel their voices have fallen on deaf ears. They are angry. They are afraid.

People are afraid because a man who called Mexicans rapists, who mocked a disabled reporter, who egged supporters on as they taunted reporters, who had to disavow support from the KKK (twice, the first time being bafflingly reluctant as he claimed to not know who David Duke is), and who cavalierly discussed sexually assaulting women and then dismissed it as “locker room” banter, who generally has a terrible track record when it comes to women anyway, who chose a notoriously LGBT and women unfriendly man as his Vice President, who’s beginning to make questionable cabinet choices, and whose list of offenses and perceived offenses can’t even be written in full here, was just elected President of the United States.

People are afraid that others know this but voted for him anyway.

Clinton wasn’t unanimously supported as the ideal alternative to Trump, given the rampant support of Senator Bernie Sanders in the primaries. She wasn’t always perceived as the best ally for people of color and was often criticized for shifting her stance on marriage equality (it’s worth noting that President Obama changed his mind on marriage equality as well). But she made an effort to include social issues as part of her 2016 platform, evidenced by a reasonable attempt at unity in her response to a debate question on race relations.

“We’ve got to do several things at the same time. We have to restore trust between communities and the police. We have to work to make sure that our police are using the best training, the best techniques, that they’re well prepared to use force only when necessary,” she said. “Everyone should be respected by the law and everyone should respect the law…Right now, that’s not the case in a lot of our neighborhoods.”

Trump, however, seemed to dig the hole of division a little deeper by suggesting stop and frisk be brought back.

Despite his various missteps and inflammatory instances, there is, of course, a chance Candidate Trump will be far different from President Trump. His presidency might even be good. He might recognize the need to tone down his bombastic rhetoric (that arguably led a portion of his supporters to behave the way they do in the first place). He may realize that he cannot, and should not, try to enact even the most major policies that made up his platform. Clinton herself said the nation owes him an open mind.

But having an open mind does nothing to calm the fears presently had by so many Americans, and whether Trump can actually push his promised policies into existence doesn’t matter. What matters is that he once wanted to, which validates the “build that wall” and anti-Roe V. Wade apologists. Clinton seemed to acknowledge these facts too, imploring Americans to “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

Trump did seem to change his tune, later tweeting “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!” But within days, he went back to his old tone by bashing the New York Times. So rather than deeming it “unfair” for protesters to practice their constitutional right, Trump needs to prove that he will consistently listen to those who oppose him, properly address their concerns, and make it well known if and when he does (maybe he could begin by reconsidering his cabinet choices or at least not picking people with “clear ties to white nationalism.”). He needs to condemn, more strongly than he already has, the string of attacks against marginalized communities that happened in the wake of his election. He does not deserve an open mind from any of his future constituents if he does not plan to have one himself.

Tessa Roy is a freelance writer currently based in Boston.

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