Today is the last full day that Barack Obama will be my president. No matter who was coming into office, I would have been filled with a deep sense of sadness. This man embodies the values I most hold dear – intellectual curiosity, strong sense of family, deep compassion for the suffering of others, a sense of humor, a strong and steady hand amidst the maelstrom of politics, and a willingness to discuss complex issues without minimizing them into soundbites. I would have liked him to be more boldly progressive, but I admire his willingness to acknowledge that by winning in 2008 with 53% of the vote and 2012 with 51% of the vote, he also had to represent the close-to-half of Americans who did not vote for him. Say what you will about him, but don't call him an ideologue. A pragmatist, yes, and one who soldiered on every day despite unprecedented obstruction, resistance and bald-faced disrespect. And despite all of that resistance, he retained his deep-seated faith in the basic goodness of Americans and a commitment to the democratic principles outlined in the Constitution he spent years teaching.
He was ridiculed for being a community organizer rather than a career politician or an opportunistic and wealthy businessman, like most of the other people who run for office. Ridiculed for getting out into the neighborhoods and talking to people and motivating them to engage. Ridiculed for the audacity of his hope.
And he was called un-American, quite literally, by the man who is about to ascend to the highest office in our country. Other than the color of his skin, what could possibly have inspired this line of attack? What better way to undermine him, and in so doing, to undermine the millions of Americans who look like him? Of course, it was a line of attack to send a message to all those who want to make America white again that they still are in charge. And just as he knew they would, those people came out during this election, in full force, with their red trucker caps screaming their superiority. Is it possible that none of them ever once thought about the millions of their compatriots who have lived hundreds of years in the shadow of slavery and of segregation and who justifiably live in fear of injustice still today? Never once considered that their own privilege can only exist because of the subjugation of everyone with brown or black skin? Never once considered that in what is considered to be America's heyday, women were still very much second-class citizens? I ask you – when exactly was America great for non-white, non-male Americans?
“We are tired of being ignored by the liberal elite,” they cried as they voted for a man whose scorn for knowledge came through with every juvenile tweet and incoherent speech. “We are tired of being politically correct,” they shouted as they voted for a man who mocked a disabled reporter. “We are tired of being called racists,” they bellowed as they voted for the man who called Mexicans rapists and refers to black neighborhoods as hell-holes. “We are tired of being called sexists,” they retorted as they voted for a man who lurked backstage in teenage dressing rooms and bragged about grabbing women's pussies without permission. “We are tired of losing our jobs to immigrants,” they chided as they voted for a man who makes all his products in China and who makes promises he can never keep about bringing near-obsolete industries like coal-mining back to life. “Lock her up,” they chanted as they voted for a man who duped Americans with a phony university, used his “charitable” foundation illegally for his own financial gain, possibly sexually assaulted countless women and raped his own wife, illegally discriminated against black tenants, hired illegal immigrants from Poland during the construction of Trump Tower, violated antitrust laws during his casino years, and broke countless contracts as he refused to pay workers and contractors simply because he didn't want to. “We hate Obamacare,” they railed, often not even realizing that Obamacare is actually the Affordable Care Act that covers more people in Trump Country than anywhere else. “We hate the liberal media, they lie!” they thundered as they voted for a man whose use and manipulation of the media for personal gain is unparalleled and who hurtled to prominence with the assistance of the most egregious fake news sources. "Stop telling us what to do!" they yelled as they voted for the restriction of reproductive rights, of marriage equality, of gun control. “Politicians are all corrupt, drain the swamp!” they shouted as they voted for a man who would go on to nominate a cabinet with historical levels of conflicts of interest, billionaires with no experience in the departments they are supposed to lead, and oh, by the way... a man whose very election was likely enabled by Russian interference. All of this as they voted for a man who whines and tweets over every criticism, who shuts down any opposition he faces, who threatens freedom of the press and due process under the law with every belligerent and ignorant pronouncement.
And those votes have cost us all. They've cost us our standing in the world. They've cost us the integrity of our elections. They've cost any remaining shred of bipartisanship that we had left and they've cost us the right to try to sell the world on the benefits of democracy because we have only a skeleton of one left.
So on the eve of this horrible transfer of power, as our institutions crumble before our eyes, who can we rely on to help steer the ship?
A Secretary of State with no political experience and deep ties to Russia and who is the personification of Big Oil in a time when climate change threatens our very existence.
A Secretary of Education whose only experience with education is working to funnel public school money into for-profit and religious schools; who thinks guns should be allowed in schools (because, you know, the grizzlies); who refuses to commit to upholding current policies protecting victims of campus sexual assault; does not believe in protections for students with disabilities; and who has no understanding of even the basics of educational policy.
A Secretary of Energy who actually misunderstood the job he's in line for, thinking he'd be an ambassador for the oil and gas industries rather than managing our nuclear arsenal.
A head of the EPA who rejects rules protecting air and water and who doesn't see climate change as the most urgent and existential issue of our lifetime despite unanimous science proving otherwise.
A Secretary of Housing and Urban Development whose only qualification is that he is a black man who once lived in public housing.
A Treasury Secretary who made his living lying and cheating people out of their homes.
And the list goes on.
And I am angry at my fellow Americans whose refusal to reject this man, this affront to common decency, will have real and painful impacts for the rest of us. I am angry at people whose first interest in politics bubbled up in response to a reality-show charlatan and who demean and dismiss the insights of people who have spent a lifetime engaging in politics. And I am angry about how much worse it will be for our black, brown, LGBTQ, and Muslim American neighbors and friends, and how much worse it may be for my daughters growing up than it was for me because not only will the progress we've made towards gender equality be turned back, but they've seen first-hand that a woman can be twice as qualified as a man and still lose because she wasn't likable enough.
The GOP has become a mean, brittle, unforgiving, partisan bully. They've tried to hide their darkest impulses for years but now they've got a mean, brittle, unforgiving partisan bully as a leader and they are emboldened. Read any comments section and you'll see people of my ilk called “libtards” and “snowflakes” for challenging Trump or for standing up for the neediest amongst us. I and many of my friends are fearful to use bumper stickers and signs because we are likely to have our cars and homes vandalized. My children were given the middle finger at a rally to save the Affordable Care Act the other day. I have been attacked by people I care about for not abandoning everything I believe in to get on board with a deplorable man after watching eight years of attacks on Barack Obama, who, even if you disagree with his politics, is a decent and good man. Hate crimes soared after this election and white-nationalists celebrated their ascent – and I saw NO condemnation of these acts from Trump voters and only a reluctant and half-hearted disavowal from the man who would have us believe he wants to be a president for all Americans.
I truly and fundamentally believe the fate of our democracy is at stake. I truly and fundamentally believe that we are at a crossroads not unlike the one the Germans found themselves at in the 1930s, or the Turks found themselves in as Erdogan came into power. We have a choice between authoritarianism and democracy; between antagonism and compassion; between hatred and love. I'm only mildly comforted by the fact that more people voted against Trump than for him (despite Republican attempts to suppress the minority vote) as it highlights just how unfair this representative government really is. And as Trump smashes the very pillars of democracy that have held up this fragile experiment of a country for the past 240 years, as Republican after Republican refuses any compromise and any dedication to anything besides helping their team win, the country will divide into two groups: one that aids and abets the dismantling of the ideals our country was built upon; and one group that fights back. I know which team I'm on, and I'm glad that when kids read their history books 100 years from now, I will have been on the side fighting for the soul of America, even if it costs me dearly. If you ask me, and I know you didn't, I know who the real American patriots are, and they are gathering in the streets at this very moment in solidarity against tyranny. Expect us.