The transition began with a grim handshake and a mostly closed-door conversation.
President Barack Obama welcomed Donald Trump to the White House on Thursday to begin transferring the immense responsibilities of being commander-in-chief and running the federal government.
Meanwhile, since Election Day, thousands of people have demonstrated outside Trump properties around the country, including one of the largest demonstrations here in New York. Elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, began developing a two-fisted approach — prepared to work with President Trump on one hand and resolved to oppose his more nauseating policies on the other. De Blasio, for instance, listed steps the city could take to support New Yorkers’ access to health care and secure immigration status.
Those fights will become more real as Trump’s ideas move from proposal to policy (you can browse his transition website, incredibly called greatagain.gov).
That is one worry driving New Yorkers into the streets. But the other has more to do with the discriminatory, vile mindset embraced by some of Trump’s supporters, seemingly buoyed by his electoral success.
Trump can’t take back what he has said
For the millions of Americans who not only voted against Trump but also saw his candidacy as a magnet for the worst impulses of American politics and culture, the worst has indeed happened. They look out on the rabble-rousing behavior inspired by Trump’s candidacy with alarm.
In April, the Southern Poverty Law Center published an unscientific survey of educators who found a “Trump effect” in schools, where marginalized students were being doubly harassed due to the election cycle. It’s kids-being-kids gone out of control — students being branded with slurs worried about deportation and tracking, a kindergartner asking “Is the wall here yet?”
That atmosphere was echoed by grownups of all sorts at his rallies around the country, and it hasn’t abated after the election. On Thursday, Council on American-Islamic Relations-New York executive director Afaf Nasher noted in a statement that hate crimes increased in the UK after Brexit. She warned that the same could happen here, asking for more NYPD resources for anti-hate crime work.
New Yorkers against Trump might shake their heads in annoyance at reports of celebratory fireworks in Trump-supporting parts of the city, but harrassment isn’t an acceptable way to celebrate — such as reports in Queens of students telling minority peers to get to the back of the bus now that Trump was president-elect.
This is a dark way to start anew. Trump, who bears much responsibility for unleashing this behavior, now has the duty to denounce such conduct to ward off violence and the fear that his supporters will engage in the racist, misogynistic and discriminatory behavior that characterized so much of the campaign trail.
There is a way forward
Since the election, Trump Tower — the president-elect’s home — has been secured by a growing contingent of Sanitation trucks, police barriers and uniformed personnel, which is understandable for a new president. But he must not barricade himself away from the Americans his campaign has made fearful.
He has an opportunity now, before the political battles of his presidency begin, to decisively renounce the deplorable behavior of some of his supporters — perhaps also scheduling a series of meetings with the groups his campaign alienated.
That won’t rewrite the past or dull the concerns many feel about a Trump presidency. There will be many, many policy battles ahead and there is little doubt “Never Trump” opponents will be vigorously and loudly engaged in those fights. But at least it would begin to combat the disturbing behavior of his supporters, done in his name.