The shock throughout much of the nation still hasn’t worn off, but people are now getting used to the reality: Unless the Electoral College makes a radically monumental decision when it meets on Dec. 19, Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States.
Since his election last week, he’s been revealing, little by little, the policy changes he expects to enact. The most pronounced was regarding the Affordable Care Act. Trump has said he wants to keep parts of the law intact, like the provision preventing insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, and another allowing children to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. He’s also backed down on insisting that 11 million undocumented immigrants would be pushed out of the country on day one of his presidency, softening that to his estimate of 3 million who he believes are criminals, and he is vague on those who are not.
He spoke about these and other things on CBS in an interview with 60 Minutes Sunday night, his first since the election, but it doesn’t mean that a Trump presidency is any less dangerous than what people are fearing and if he’s going to be the “president for all Americans,” as he said during his victory speech, then he has a long way to go to make people feel secure in that statement.
During the interview, Lesley Stahl asked him about the thousands of protesters in the streets, angry that the nation has elected what comedian Dave Chappelle called on Saturday Night Live an “Internet troll,” whose campaign was wrought with incendiary, racist rhetoric, misogyny, and offenses toward nearly every demographic in the country except his own, White males, who along with White women, catapulted him into the presidency. Trump had only this response:
Don’t be afraid. We are going to bring our country back. But certainly, don’t be afraid. You know, we just had an election and sort of like you have to be given a little time. I mean, people are protesting. If Hillary had won and if my people went out and protested, everybody would say, “Oh, that’s a terrible thing.” And it would have been a much different attitude. There is a different attitude. You know, there is a double standard here.
He answered Stahl’s follow-up question on xenophobic harassment by his supporters in the wake of the elections by saying he’d heard little about them and that’s what is scary. His simplistic response was patronizing to the millions who have been in fear since last Tuesday.
I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, Stop it. If it– if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.
In elementary school, do you remember how many bullies stopped beating up and intimidating kids just because a teacher said, “Stop it.” None? That’s right, they didn’t stop in my elementary school either.
If Stahl had time, it would have been nice to hear her ask about whether or not Trump feels that he has emboldened violent racist sentiments — which have always existed, but now seem to be given a platform that George W. Bush, or even Ronald Reagan’s election did not give them. That Trump only said “Stop it,” seems like he’s only saying, “You bad kids behave yourselves, while I go fix us some peanut butter sandwiches.”
Meanwhile, just as an example, anti-Muslim retribution has jumped across the nation since the night of the election. Muslims were one of Trump’s primary targets during his campaign and have been a focal point of hate since 9/11. In California, a Muslim student at San Jose State University had her hijab pulled off by an attacker who choked her as well. In New York, Trump graffiti was scrawled on an Islamic prayer room door at New York University.
“Stop it,” is not going to protect people who are being intimidated like this and near silence from the man who will be leading the nation very soon is basically giving them a nod to keep up this and worse types of violence.
But a president doesn’t do his job by himself. He surrounds himself with advisors and surrogates and in this case, at least one of Trump’s picks seems to indicate that not much will be done to stem incidents like these.
For example, Trump’s choice for chief strategist is Steve Bannon, who ran the alt-right web platform Breitbart.com until quitting to be a part of the Trump campaign. But while at Breitbart, one of Bannon’s gems was perpetuating a conspiracy theory during his Sirius XM radio show that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abadin was tied to Muslim terrorists, something easily discredited, but an example of what types of people Trump is willing to surround himself with in the new job.
So how can Trump be a president for all Americans if he has aides who are willing to spread political disinformation and not even walk it back when it’s proven to be untrue? Bannon’s hijinks at Breitbart went even further when he pushed it to the extreme right. Stories on the website included pieces that defended the Confederate battle flag, and that warned readers that young Muslim-Americans are consistently linked to terrorism.
Perhaps Trump’s selection of the more moderately conservative Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff will balance out the Bannon pick. But that remains to be seen as more decisions are coming soon as to who will be a part of the new administration.
In the meantime, what the nation needs are the types of assurances that Trump has not given. Sure, President Obama and Hillary Clinton have urged us to get behind the President-elect and help move the country forward, but people are afraid to do that when the coming commander-in-chief has only softened the racial rhetoric that boosted him into office in the first place, and chooses a top advisor whose own agenda runs contrary to how the nation is becoming more diverse and less socially myopic in scope.
Madison J. Gray is Digital Managing Editor of EBONY.com and JETMag.com. Follow him on Twitter @madisonjgray.