The response to anti-Trump protestors that goes, “Why didn’t they vote?” is bullshit.
First of all, any number of them did vote.
Secondly, democracy doesn’t only happen on election day. It happens year round.
Thirdly, though I find proud non-voters and third party voters infuriating, I would rather encourage them when they do what I agree with (e.g., use the other channels of democratic influence) than try to guilt them into compounding their self-disenfranchisement even further. We can argue about their other civic responsibilities when they’re relevant again.
Fourthly, as vital and irreplaceable as votes are, people who persuade others’ votes (including elected officials’ votes) influence a given election, and any number of aspects of our eventual governance, more than someone who only registers their one vote but influences no one else.
Fifthly, Trump needs to be stopped and to get the numbers to accomplish that, we don’t need purity tests on whose support and efforts we’ll accept.
Sixthly, the world is watching and it’s vital to global perception that Trump not be seen as univocally representing the American people with all his dangerous bluster. We need to be visible in the streets conveying that this nation is not complacent about the threat to stability at the top.
As long as they’re moral, as long as they uphold democratic institutions rather than undermine them, as long as they’re civil and non-violent, and as long as they’re against Trump, I’m not criticizing them for speaking their mind, protesting against what Trump represents, and showing solidarity with those who are marginalized.
The idea that we must “give Trump a chance” is simply a joke. He has already crossed lines that are disqualifying for a leader of the United States of America. There is no trusting him at this point. Obstructing him is not rooting against America. It’s rooting for America. We should be actively pressuring him to compromise with us so that what he does can actually benefit America (or, at least, harm it less badly than his rhetoric promises). He has openly and explicitly declared his authoritarian view of how power is to be wielded. Sending a message to a would-be autocrat that he will be obstructed if he tries anything that violates the rights of the people is asserting our rights to retain our democratic republic and not descend into the madness of despotism that he’s threatening.
It is all well and good when Obama and Hillary bend over backwards to be as gracious as possible to Trump. That’s their job. It’s vital that they focus on the health of our democracy and its commitment to have peaceful, easy, and, even, friendly transitions of power. It’s vital that they model the commitment to Democratic norms that we are all depending on Trump to start respecting. They want to be above reproach so that he cannot cite them as precedence in breaking with democratic norms. They were both breathtakingly admirable role models of magnanimity towards Trump last week, as they should have been.
But we are not elected officials. We are the people. It’s not our responsibility to suspend our judgments about Trump or to wait for him to clamp down on our civil liberties, our civil rights, or our human rights. We are under no obligation to wait for him to undermine our vital alliances around the world since he’s already begun doing that with his reckless rhetoric. We need not be patient to wait and see if he will stoke racism, xenophobia, and misogyny in dangerous ways—he began a long time ago doing these things. He has already earned protests. He must receive counter-pressure from before the start of his administration if we are to have any influence on that beginning.
He will certainly be ready immediately after the inauguration on January 20 to sign a number of executive orders and possibly legislation already passed and prepared for his signature. He will have already put in place the cabinet that will run the entire executive branch of our government by then.
Now is the time to be fighting to oppose the most dangerous candidates for his cabinet. Now is the time to be rustling up public will against his most dangerous executive orders and legislative goals that will be in the pipeline between now and January 20. This is the time to act like participants in a democracy, rather than obeisant subjects in an autocracy. To put it in terms, Donald Trump could actually understand—and possibly actually respect—this is a time for negotiation, not coronation.
If we wait until minute two of his presidency to start being suspicious and criticizing him again, we will already be two months late. In many ways, we’re already a year and a half late as it is.