In the days shortly after Jan. 20, the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, I cannot help but feel wary of my country’s future. This is a common sentiment following an election, but perhaps more so now than ever before. The 2016 presidential election was a divisive one, both between and within the major parties. The primary candidates each had a core base of avid proponents, but far more vocal were their dissenters.
An open liberal and firm supporter of Hillary Clinton, I often hear my conservative friends utter the phrase, “Just give him a chance.” I understand what they are trying to say, and I agree wholeheartedly; during times like these, when partisanship and hatred permeate politics, it is essential that the country comes together to seek common ground. As President Barack Obama stated in his farewell address just last week, “Democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we're all in this together.” However, I can’t help but feel chided by the phrase “Give him a chance.” They say it as if I plan to deny the validity of Trump’s administration, as if I’ve been planning to pack up and leave the country ever since the election did not go the way I wanted it to.
As if I haven’t been trying to “give him a chance” ever since I realized his campaign was legitimate.
I have – and he has proven himself unworthy every single time.
Not only does the phrase ignore the fact that he has already proven to be a divisive and intolerant figure, but to me, it seems to demand inaction. They say it as if, with the election over and the votes counted, all there is left to do is stand by and watch. I find this perspective ignorant and apathetic, but more than anything, I find it undemocratic. Our primary responsibility as citizens of the United States is to vote, and many of us did. But if we have any political sentiment – any opinion on what the role of our government should be – we are responsible for so much more. President Obama emphasized this concept in the conclusion of his final speech, as he warned us against the fatal mistake of taking democracy for granted:
“So, you see, that's what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there's an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime ... If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing ... Show up. Dive in. Stay at it.”
If, by giving Donald Trump “a chance,” his proponents mean to accept his administration and strive to affect change within it, then yes, I plan to do just that. What I will not do is stand on the sidelines and let the political dialogue of this past year go to waste. Campaigns do not end when the last vote is cast; the issues and ideas they express are far too important to be simply forgotten. Donald Trump may have won the presidency, but he did not win the support of every single United States citizen.
For those of us who disagree with his policies and platforms, it is up to us to ensure that our interests continue to be represented throughout this administration, and we cannot do that if we are constantly waiting for Donald Trump to prove himself worthy of representing our country.