Why I Don’t Say “Not My President?”

cursor_and_not_my_president_-_google_searchDonald Trump is my President.

Those are five words that are painful for me to say or write. But I don’t buy into the “not my President” rallying cry of so many of my well-intentioned friends. I’m a citizen of a nation that uses a representative democracy form of government. Our collective democracy chose, via the electoral college system established in our Constitution, Donald J. Trump to lead us for the next four years. God help us, it’s true and immutable.

So I don’t say “not my President.” I say “not my values.” I say “not my morals.” I say “not my policies.” Citizens are allowed to have different values, morals and policy preferences than their President.   But we can’t wish away our President.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  It doesn’t work.

I also claim Donald Trump as my President because I shouldn’t be let off the hook. Using those words continually reminds me that I’m partly culpable for the American embarrassment that is “President Donald J. Trump.”

No American citizen should be able to wash their hands of this national embarassment with a cavalier “not my President.” We are all part of the nation that elected this clown, and those of us who want that to change need to do more to win the hearts and minds of that nation, including the nearly 46.9% of Americans who didn’t vote. Donate. Speak out. Volunteer. Reform the system. Choose more compelling candidates. Support better journalism.  Own it.

It’s as important to say as it is painful: Donald J. Trump is my President. Shame on me.

20 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Say “Not My President?”

    • I really do respect the opinion, Dennis. As someone blessed to have the freedom to effect change in my democracy, I feel responsibility and ownership. If I wasn’t a citizen I could say “the”, but as long as I’m a citizen I have to say, gulp, “my.”

  1. I also don’t say “not my fault.” If I’m willing to take credit for what America does right, I should also be ready to accept blame when America takes a wrong step. That said, I’m not going to let negative feelings stop me. There’s work to be done, and the midterms will be here before we know it.

  2. I’m with you even though our 45th president is the most unqualified individual to hold the office in modern times. I would trade Mr. Trump for any major party candidate of the last 70 years in a flash including George W. (my choice for worst president of my lifetime (so far)), Nixon, Carter, McGovern, Barry Goldwater, Dukakis. I would rather pick a person at random from the phone book (if there were still such things) on the theory that he or she would be less likely to have Mr. Trump’s particularly dangerous combination of overweening ignorance, casual mendacity and con artist instincts.

    And yet I will give him a chance to prove me wrong. My greatest hope is that I’ll look back a year from now and have to admit that – like his electoral chances – I missed something about Mr. Trump’s ability to govern, to be a president for all Americans, to break the gridlock of partisanship that is strangling our democracy (and not in the small-government way conservatives support).

    This is not “normalizing” Mr. Trump. As you point out, it’s what we do – or at least should do IMHO – as citizens who support the peaceful transfer of power in a representative democracy. To their enduring discredit, too many political opponents of Mr. Obama did not extend him such consideration. I won’t stoop to that level.

    So far, though, I’m not seeing much to think I’ll be happily surprised by Mr. Trump rising to the office he’s about to occupy. To the contrary, Mr. Trump’s behavior during the transition has been an extension of his despicable campaign. His cabinet picks represent a concentration of wealth unseen in government heretofore. His gloating “thank you” tour has done nothing to heal the divides in our country. His reckless meddling in foreign affairs, the intelligence community and his sycophancy regarding Mr. Putin has unnerved our allies and emboldened our enemies. Those who have worked so hard to force us into a “clash of civilizations” based on religion could not have designed a better foil for their efforts. His mocking disregard of the need for disclosure and disengagement from his businesses is unethical and offensive.

    My hope is that none of us retreat to the basement (as Eric Black plans), turn off the TV or pretend this didn’t happen. No matter where it goes from here, he’s OUR president.

    Which I’m choosing to treat as a call to action. Now – more than ever in my lifetime that has included the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights struggle, Watergate, 9/11, the invasion of Iraqi – I believe our country and its core values are at risk and this is the time to lean in. Part of that – a big part in my book – is the danger that Mr. Trump himself represents, but even more concerning is the underlying conditions that made his election possible.

    We – and I’m being expansive here to include all of us regardless of political persuasion – need to get involved, need to watch, need to demand accountability and transparency from Mr. Trump and his administration but we also need to understand what made him viable in the first place. There’s a lot of people out there who either 1) lack the ability to see what a flawed person we’ve elected or 2) see it just as clearly as I do but have the reached the point of thinking anything is better than business as usual. Both notions scare the hell out of me long term.

    The bell is rung, the signal fire is lit, the klaxon is sounding…but it should be answered from all sides of the political spectrum.

    This may not be the best time to sound a call to arms from the center – our economy is in flux, our consensus is fractured, our politics are dysfunctional, our media is under economic and reputational attack, technology is an unfaithful genie – but we don’t always get to pick the time and place for a stand. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “You go to war with the army you have.”

    Let’s roll.

  3. No, Trump is NOT president, as far as I’m concerned. The Constitution of 1789 had quite a few clinkers in it– provisions especially designed to make the slave holders happy, like the 3/5ths-of-as-person apportionment provision, the fugitive slave rendition clause, the protection of slave importation for 20 years. And the Electoral College was another mistake–it worked so poorly right from the first so that the 12th amendment was passed to try to fix it; since then more amendments have been introduced to alter or abolish it than for any other purpose; unbfortunately they weren’t enacted. So the booby-trap remains. But we no more are obliged to honor and respect its operation than the abolitionists were obliged to honor and respect the legally-established fact of human slavery. Indeed, we are morally obliged to protest and denounce this institution which manifestly has thwarted the will of the people, back in 200 and even more so in 2016. The basis of democracy–INCLUDING representative democracy–is majority rule; the means of determining the will of the majority is by popular vote adhering to the principle of one person, one vote. To accede to other results is to commit civic suicide.
    Therefore, while it may be said that Trump is legally the president, he is not legitimately the president, since he cannot claim that authority after he has been clearly rejected by a majority of the voters. Yes, he will go ahead and acquire the trappings of office and God Help us all exercise the powers of that office–and more, since he intends to rule as a dictator rather than govern within the framework of that Constitution which you claim handcuffs you. It sure won’t handcuff him!
    Don’t surrender. Don’t concede. And don’t ever fail to reiterate that the people clearly and decisively rejected tyrant Trump. It is tragic that so many people who could have voted failed to do so. It is awful that so many did vote for the orange maggot–whether because they were conned or because they really liked his bigotry, sexism, and bullying. But it is TRUE that the American people rejected Trump and voted in favor of Mrs. Clinton. It’s a pity that the Democratic leadership is made of the same stuff as the 1930’s appeasement crowd, because what the USA needs now is leadership willing to establish a government-in-exile and fight for democracy. If you think that the Constitution’s worst and most undemocratic feature is the one which must overrule the Founders’ essential vision, articulated later by Abraham Lincoln with the immortal phrase “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” then you have committed a profound mistake in political and historical analysis. A few months–much less an indefinite length of years–of one-party extremist oligarchy will be an eye-opener.
    Trump was rejected by the people. Until the Constitution is amended and our democracy is brought out of danger, we absolutely must insist that he has no title to the office; and considering that this Trump is mixed up with the Russian autocrat Putin in odious and obvious treasonous collusion, it’s clearly the patriotic duty of every American is to resist and obstruct this impostor’s regime at every step of the way.
    That denial of legitimacy, by the way, was the deliberate decision and strategy adopted and adhered to by the Republican party and its propaganda apparatus in 1992 when Bill Clinton took office and in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected–and they were BOTH fairly elected by popular pluralities.
    Now, why this was OK when done by the Republicans for NO good reason but is wrong when done against the Republicans for EVERY good reason, leaves me puzzled. We’re up against fascism and we’d better realize it and start acting like we care enough about liberty and democracy to really fight for our country—and that means understanding that domestic enemies now have taken control of the federal government despite the clear verdict of the American people.

  4. Here’s some more why Trump is not a legitimate president: His party cheated; the GOP set upon a deliberate, decades-long effort to subvert the voting-rights protections won during the civil rights movement–and they succeeded. Voter suppression schemes and tactics in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, among other states, tilted the table. Now, this isn’t fresh news. You all know Professor David Schultz,from Hamline University–I refer you to his Oct. 20 2014 commentary in Capitol Report, headlined “The Republican rigging of elections,” or the the New York Times magazine’s cover story on the sabotage of the voting rights act (published in 2015, look it up.) As a student of history, I know that voting rights have been violated before–especially in the post-Reconstruction south, using terror and violence and also LEGAL means such as poll taxes, “white” primaries, etc. So it could be said, and should be said, that the legitimacy of all US presidential and many US state elections was marred and tainted by those violations during those benighted decades. But it is outrageous, that now this vicious practice of voter suppression was revived successfully in our era, after the progress of the civil rights movement! Let’s figure out what matters, what our moral imperatives are—and let’s understand that the refusal to concede legitimacy to the Trump gang is an essential moral footing upon which we must insist. Call him what he is–a dictator, a bully, a traitor, a sociopath. Don’t call him “President.” YOU DON’T HAVE TO! And if you want this to ever be a “free country” again, this is the first step to take. Resistance starts with individual decisions to refuse to conform, or to accept the morally unacceptable.
    As for those who want to “wait and see” or “give him a chance” to happily surprise us . . . there’s a special place in hell for moral temporizers and political eunuchs. If you don’t know by now what kind of creature you’re preparing to herald as “president,” you’ll soon find out, to your sorrow. But there’s no excuse for being literate enough to follow this blog, and not be able to tell.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Oliver. As I said in the post, I’m all for passionate anti-Trump activism and resistance. I just choose to acknowledge that I am part of what we Americans collectively did on November 8th. Overall, though, we seem to agree much more than we disagree.

      • Joe, what we Americans did collectively on November 8 was to repudiate Trump by nearly a 3-million vote plurality. Every effort will be made to minimize or dismiss, or as Trump is doing, to simply deny that truth, which I think is going to be the key element, the most important rallying point, in any hope we might have of restoring democracy and overcoming the oligarchy. (What if the outcome had been reversed? If Trump had won the popular vote and lost the Electoral, we’d have had a second Civil War. And it would have been won by the Trumpists, since the police and armed forces would have joined the insurrection.) We cannot contest the outcome by force, but we must contest it by every other means, including the rhetorical refusal to dignify Trump with the title of “president.” That much is within our individual power to do; and as I see it, it is a moral imperative to do so. Review exactly what was said and done by Trump, as he deliberately lied to promote the “birther” de-legitimization of Obama, and every step along the way since then. His elevation now cannot alter or erase the trail of treason and vileness he pursued to get into power!
        Back in 2000, when the previous subversion of the popular will occurred, the Democrats refused to do their duty of keeping faith with the people who had indeed voted for Gore over Bush. Instead, they capitulated to the theft (as it was) of that election and turned their fury on Nader as an easy scapegoat. It would have taken more courage than they dreamed of possessing to face the reality of the problem–the undemocratic Electoral College and the fascistic power-drive of the post-Reagan Republican party.
        Let’s repudiate the Electoral college NOW, just as the anti-slavery crusaders repudiated the Dred Scott decision in its day–to quote Thomas Paine (in another context) “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”
        So don’t be hypnotized or bamboozled by the incantation “Electoral College”–it is an archaic encumbrance and it violates the fundamental principle of one person, one vote. We would still have federalism without it, because of the structure of the Senate—but note that the 17th amendment established election of Senators by popular vote, so that every member of congress in both houses can only be elected by getting the most votes in his or her contest. The President should be no exception! Yes, it’s terrible that so many voters did pick Trump, but they still were fewer than Clinton’s, and the notion of minority rule is antithetical to the basic idea of popular government. What Americans did on November 8 was vote to reject Trump; what the Democratic politicians did on November 9th was to cave in once again and break faith with the very people who resisted the Republican demagoguery and smears and fear-mongering and voter suppression and FBI mischief and foreign-power meddling. I urge you and others who at this point too readily accept the morally unacceptable, to reverse your gears, now, and (to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln) quit “groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man.”

        • I’m all for repealing the Electoral College. But it has to be done through democratic processes, and a repeal can’t be applied retroactively to an election that already happened. That’s not an attempt to normalize or find middle ground, or a sign of cowardice. It’s simply a recognition of reality.

          • For most of my life – even in 2000 – the Electoral College has been a quaint anachronism good for a flurry of post-November stories about how the “real election” will be held in mid-December when the electors gather. Every four years I could count on one of my kids or their friends asking me to explain it which is good for an old man’s ego.

            This election makes me wish we’d gotten rid of it 50 years ago when there was a possibility of doing so. It ain’t going to happen in today’s fractured environment (particularly when it favors small-population red states) and I would oppose an effort to do so now as it would be yet another source of division.

            I’m not seeking to delegitimize Mr. Trump’s election or his presidency (I think he’ll do just fine on that front by himself). I’ve seen nothing that’s persuasive to me that the election was “rigged” or otherwise illegitimate. I do believe Russia sought to influence it, I do believe decades of efforts to gerrymander and enact voter suppression laws have had an effect, but those factors – or any of a dozen more including fake news, the social media echo chamber, racism, sexism, pick-your-favorite – don’t invalidate the results. Secretary Clinton’s team knew the rules and the landscape as well as anyone. They had all the resources they needed, they ran against a hugely flawed candidate and still they lost. It wasn’t stolen from Secretary Clinton or her supporters; it was won by Mr. Trump and lost by Secretary Clinton.

            To me, I’m much more interested in where we go from here and is there enough comity left to pull enough of us together to stop what I perceive to be a slide into authoritarianism or a blatant kleptocracy. I have to confess I’m not as optimistic on that front as I’d like to be.

            • Fact: Clinton won a plurality of over 3 million voters more than Trump. There is no other election where the person who gets the most votes “loses.” Votes by actual citizens are the basis of popular government. Within the unfortunate legal framework of the 1789 constitution (as amended by 12th amendment), Trump can assume office, but this doesn’t mean that “he won and Clinton lost.” It means he snuck in the side door under what we call a “legal loophole.” Considering how he brags of paying no taxes, he’s the Emperor of Loopholes.
              Too many liberals have a misplaced faith in the strewngth of our system. But guess what–there are no checks and balances left in place. The only hope to prevent Trump and his clique of thieves and corporate gangsters from establishing a dictatorship depends on massive popular dissent–sustained, organized, and passionately pursued. Don’t go like sheep to the slaughter, damn it! Deny to these gangsters any concession of legitimacy. There’s a distinction. We can’t yet contest the legality of the coup, but what is legal is not legitimate if it betrays and contravenes the will of the people. That was the whole point of the original American revolution–that it’s the right and the duty of the people to alter or abolish the system of government when it oppresses the people.
              But get over the delusion that Trump “won.” In Wisconsin, some 60,000 voters were victims of voter suppression–more than enough to flip that state. Likewise, in Michigan, where it’s insanely difficult now to register to vote. The whole country is turning into 1960’s Mississippi, and you say you haven’t seen persuasive evidence. Go look for it! (Check for instance the Brennan Center for Justice.)
              Trump lied, he cheated, he certainly had the collusion of Putin’s spy apparatus–and if he weren’t a willing agent of a foreign power, Trump should have actively rejected such support and help; Trump’s appeals to ethnic and religious and sexual prejudice were blatant and his relish of the aid of white supremacists appalling. And the list goes on. Stop looking for a way to normalize this calamity. If you do so, you yourself become complicit. Want to “stop dividing” the populace? Sorry, it’s too late. The time has come rather to stand up to the bullies. If you hadn’t noticed, the right wing decided a long time ago on “rule or ruin.” Impeaching Bill Clinton for a blow job! Stealing the 2000 election (as was in fact done–read John Nichols’ book “Jews for Buchanan,” staging a decades-long successful campaign to deny voting rights both through courts and legislatures; blocking nominations for no reason; announcing their prime goal was to prevent Obama from governing. You need to recall the words of Abraham Lincoln—quit groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, “vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man.”

            • The Electoral College is not a loophole any more than the rule that after 60 minutes of playing time, the football team that has scored the most points is declared the winner. When the Clinton campaign boasted of the “Blue firewall” they were counting electoral votes not popular votes.

              The popular vote total is an important data point but it’s not the score that counts under the system we’ve used for centuries.

              Perhaps the descent into civil unrest or even civil war is inevitable and I’m a fool for hoping otherwise. When that day comes, I guess I’ll either fold my tent or arm up and accept the reality that the American experiment is either failed or on hiatus and that – as Mao noted – I’m now in a situation that requires me express my political and economic rights through other means.

              I’m not there yet. Nor am I ready at this point to contribute to the likelihood of such a scenario by emulating the worst of what I’ve seen from the extremists at both end of the political spectrum. I also don’t accept that the answer to Mr. Trump is to out-Trump him in terms of engaging in the same divisive, jingoistic tactics that he used.

              Your mileage may vary of course.

              • Jon, agree with everything you said in those two comments, with one exception. I’d change the Electoral College in a heartbeat. Not going to happen until Democrats can start winning more state elections, but the fact that it would be divisive doesn’t trouble me, because a) the EC is not a small problem and b) just about everything worth doing is divisive in this toxic environment.

                • Oh, we’re in agreement…give me a magic wand and it’s on the list of things I’d change; it’s distorted the results of the popular vote in two of the last five elections and I can stroke my old man ego in other ways.

                  Absent the wand, though, we have zero chance of eliminating the electoral college and the efforts to do in response to Mr. Trump’s election would open yet another front in the right-left battles.

              • As Thomas Paine said, a long habit of not thinking something wrong gives it the superficial appearance of being right. Now, you will say you are not defending the Electoral College but merely recognizing the fact that it exists. What I am trying to point out is that its existence is not only an anachronism, it is a poison pill, a time-bomb implanted in the Constitution, and that the patriotic thing to do is to declare it null and void, so far as the people–who are supposed to be the ultimate sovereigns–are concerned. If we want to save democracy–if we think it worth saving–we need to be able to see past the pettifoggery you’re tangled up in. Your devotion to the loophole is misguided, misplaced, and won’t be rewarded in the end by any happy balancing act. (Yes, that’s what it is—the definition of a legal loophole is that it is a provision of the law allowing one to dodge the consequences of one’s actions and to subvert the spirit and achievement of justice and equity, which ought to be the foundation of every good law.) Because, if you don’t realize it now you’ll be forced to believe all too soon the dismal fact that the Trump gang doesn’t give a hoot about the Constitution or the rules of law.
                They are bullies, con-men, racketeers, thugs, and the guy on top, whom you would dignify with the title of “President,” sets the pace. Call him what he intends to be–the Dictator.
                The only question that any citizen should have is, “How can we resist these tyrants in an intelligent, determined, effective way?” Or, if we’re not in a position to resist, how can we escape? Actually, we can’t escape—there’ll be no place to hide. That’s why I expect a lot of erstwhile liberals to decide to voluntarily forfeit the moral high ground that comes with the fact that the American people rejected Trump, and to accommodate and collaborate. In short, to become “Good Germans.”
                You are of course correct that the Clinton campaign was hoist on its own petard, designing their so-called firewall along the electoral college fault lines; I have been saying ever since last winter that the Hillary campaign reminded me of the 1948 Thomas Dewey debacle (not that Trump should ever be mentioned in the same breath with Truman!!) Democratic party fortunes rose when Howard Dean pursued a 50-state strategy; and one of the most abysmal of many false moves made by Obama was to ditch Howard Dean right after 2008. What idiots. “Here–this works. Let’s break it.”
                No, I don’t say we should use the same weapons as the Trumpists. We should combat their lies, smears, and intimidation with something, however, we should at least FIGHT BACK instead of continually caving in and capitulating and trying to appease their rule-or-ruin onslaught. We believe truth can overcome falsehood, in a fair fight, and what I want you to see is that we don’t have the luxury of a fair fight. Can we not at least analyze why the right-wing lies, as propagated on Fox News, hate radio, and the internet, are so indelibly imprinted in their zombie-like followers? Is there a technique in mass communication which they are using and we are not? I recall listening on the radio to the Nixon-JFK debates and thinking that Nixon had prevailed, only to learn that to the millions who watched on Television, Kennedy was the winner. And when Reagan–once seen as utterly on the lunatic rightwing fringe–made it to the White House, I was mystified until I forced myself to watch one of his scripted speech performances. Well, we can something from our enemies—not to descend to their morally depravity, but to discover the means and mechanisms by which they fool so many of the people so much of the time. And see if we can’t use similar means and mechanisms as skilfully ourselves. At least we should care as strongly about what we believe in as the Trump zombies do about what they think they believe in.

          • I understand what you are saying, and I find it rather sweet and naive that you suggest that it’s our obligation to recognize reality.
            I notice that the Trumpists, the global warming deniers, the unshakeable believers in the gospel truth of everything boradcast by the lying liars of Fox News and rightwing radio and alt.right internet sites—none of THEM are willing to accept reality, and guess what—they have prevailed.
            The Democrats by default have let Fox and the ultraright hate-mongers define reality, and establish the parameters of what passes for political discussion and debate in our benighted country (blow jobs, penis size, and PMS!.)
            Having been brought up as a rationalist, I too realize that there’s no way to prevent Trump assuming the powers and panoply of the presidential office, yet I think you miss the point that there is a battle for the soul of our nation, and for the survival of the planet, going on here. To refuse to dignify Trump with the title; to insist at every turn that his authority is illegitimate; to remind the media, the apparatus of government in the persons of police, politicians, and bureaucrats that the man at the top is a foreign agent and was not the people’s choice—THAT is what our duty as citizens consists of, rather than capitulating to the aberrant outcome of the electoral college intervention against the will of the people. If you doubt that symbolic and rhetorical devices are important or effective, think about the fuss when the football players wouldn’t conform to the flag salutes. Therefore, if we can do nothing else, at this time, to nonviolently resist and protest this historic catastrophe, let’s reject the triumph of the champion reality-refusers, fact-deniers, and assassins of truth. Give them a taste of their own medicine. Stand up to bullies, don’t try to appease them. This is not a normal historical event and it isn’t a “peaceful transition” in a long process, it’s a radical break from all of our heritage and principles. Realistically speaking, Joe, what if Clinton had won the electoral vote and lost the popular vote? There’d have been no “peaceful” concession—there would have been a bloody insurrection led by armed civilians and joined by many if not most of the police and military. The threat of that outcome was real. It was predicated on the willingness of the Trumpists to refuse to recognize reality, in your phrase, and it demonstrates once again the truth of that madman Mao Tse-tung’s insightful epigram: “Political power grows from the barrel of a gun.” That’s a reality a lot of my liberal friends and acquaintances shudder at and refuse to recognize! Political philosophers know how accurate it is.
            George Orwell wrote about the alteration and denial of reality, about the imposing of lies as truth and fiction as history. The best antidote he could perceive was that this intrinsic feature of totalitarianism only failed when it interfered with military efficiency–which is another restatement of Mao’s truism. Historically, one can see this in Hitler’s misdirection of German armed forces and strategy in WW II (the latter part), and contemporaneously we see it in North Korea with its nuclear and missile development programs somehow being conducted amidst a fantastically demented prison state.
            Well, I’m an action guy, not a contemplative sort. I’m hoisting the banner–rhetorically now, for that is the only weapon we can command–which reads: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” If refusal to recognize reality works as well as it obviously does for the enemies of freedom and democracy, then far be it from me to disdain to deploy the same methods in defense of those precious values.

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