Louell Taye (1L) and Aidan Campbell (2L)
As of noon this past Friday, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. We’ve had since November to steel ourselves for this uncharted reality, but it seems that it still hasn’t sunk in yet. When people talk about what a terrible day the Inauguration was, and Election Day before it, one thought occurs: President Trump (ahem) hasn’t even had the chance to get going in earnest. The worst is yet to come.
Two passages of his militaristic, protectionist Inaugural Address stand out:
It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black, or brown, or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first.
The first seems a paltry effort to undo the damage wrought by his openly white nationalist campaign. Such a blatant appeal to ‘unity through strength’ might as well have been lifted from V for Vendetta’s fascist Prime Minister.
The second should not disconcert you just for its anti-Semitic origins* but for the way his campaign (and the demographic that turned up to see him sworn in) leaves little doubt as to which Americans will be prioritized. This is reinforced by the chairman of Trump’s Inauguration Committee describing Kanye West as not “traditionally American” enough to play the Inaugural concert. Apparently, the real America is the “3 Doors Down America” and not the “Kanye West America.”
So, what should we do? What can we do?
March in the streets? Of course. Saturday’s shows of anger and solidarity across the continent were inspiring and moving.
Donate to Planned Parenthood, PEN, the ACLU, or the myriad community groups dedicated to fighting discrimination against all those Trump has vilified? Absolutely. If you agree with their goals and have the financial space, it certainly can’t hurt.
None of this will change the fact that Trump is in the White House, and that he will find scant resistance in the weak-willed and craven Republican Party controlling both houses of Congress. With the filibuster barred from appointment hearings, Trump will see his cabinet approved—with all its wildly unqualified, and even its openly nefarious, characters. After at least two decades of ever-expanding presidential powers, there are few checks left on Trump’s authority short of an outright revolt of the bureaucracy.
There is always that hope among hopes: impeachment. But, if he’s successfully impeached—whether it be over his conflicts of interest, collusion with foreign governments, or whichever future scandal he will inevitably become embroiled in—the job falls to his Vice President, a man who believes in electrocuting the gay out of people.
As American activists and their progressive allies hunker down for the fight of their lives, we can support them. We can cheer them on. But, really, our foremost duty as their friends and neighbours is to ensure that we do not let this come to pass at home.
We’ve seen countless folks give thanks for living on on this side of the border. Surely it’s something to celebrate, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think that the same white nationalist tendencies don’t exist at home. We forget that, despite our large multicultural cities, we are fundamentally a much whiter and more homogenous nation than the United States—which allows tensions to be ignored more easily. Even still, our last federal election featured overtures to “Old Stock Canadians” and Islamophobic tip lines dedicated to outing “barbaric cultural practices.” One can already see Stephen Harper’s relatively subtle approach giving way to more brazen displays of such sentiments now that Trump’s views have been validated.
For the card-carrying Conservatives amongst us, there is obvious work to be done. As your party gets deeper into its leadership race, it’s on you to reject appeals to base xenophobia, and to resist the allure of the bombastic celebrity businessman with open disdain for public policy.
For the leftists, it’s on you to craft an appeal to frustrated and despondent working-class voters, one more inclusive than that of the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. You must avoid the trap they fell into, of attributing Trump’s success to commonplace economic anxieties and declining to confront the inherently racialized elements of Trump’s message.
Though our current government has been great on pushing inclusive rhetoric, there is much to be done to hold it accountable to its campaign promises. It cannot be given a free pass on its failures to implement UNDRIP and discontinue its Kafkaesque system of immigration detention. Because of our close ties to the States, we need to ensure that we don’t let our representatives get dragged down to Trump’s level on the international stage. We must demand more of them before they head down that road.
Trump is not going anywhere. The reality is that the next four years aren’t going to be great. Just how bad they’ll be is difficult to say: with someone as impulsive and volatile as Trump, you can never really predict what’s going to happen next. And that is perhaps the most terrifying aspect of this whole ordeal.
When you’re faced with a situation that you can’t change—one that seems like it’s only going to get worse—a sense of despair starts to set in. But know that one thing that can never be taken away from us is our ability to care for each other.
Let community be our ultimate resistance.
* Krishnadev Calamur points this out in a piece for The Atlantic: