America needs a new coalition. I know this, because I see Americans marching in the streets, justifiably afraid that this country is not safe for them any longer. I know this because the same people who deride those protesters were, themselves, just a few days ago, talking about grabbing their guns and fighting a rigged election. I know this because a whole lot of people felt they had no one but Trump to address their struggles. I know this because we are a Democracy, and instead of running a candidate in either party who could energize the country, we ran candidates who pit us against one another. Sure, some of us feel like one of those was incredibly far above the other. But we’re tied with the people who thought the same about the other one. We have different value sets.
So I know we need a coalition that isn’t just one side. It’s hard to say that right now, when it feels like so many of us have been betrayed and continue to be hated. It’s hard, but it’s unambiguously true. Half the electorate said so.
So I ask myself, what’s next? This is a democracy. This is the president we voted for. Yes, only barely, but that doesn’t matter. Yes, I am angry that someone who espouses hate for so many of my fellow Americans is now our chosen leader, but he is. What’s next?
Some on the left will riot and declaim Trump. Some on the right will gloat and declaim the left. As they always have. More so now, but Trump is not a normal candidate—he is the most disliked president-elect in history, even by those who voted for him. And he has gone out of his way to make many of us feel we are not welcome. So let’s start there, and here’s what I’m going to do. And I invite you to join me.
- I will stand beside my fellow Americans and make sure you are all welcome, your voices are heard, and your rights are defended. If you are a woman, a person of color, a Muslim, a part of the Queer community, a family of immigrants, or any of so many others Trump has derided and reviled, I will be safe for you. And if I do it well, please tell me to continue, and if I do it badly, please tell me how to do better.
Preserving and expanding your space in our democracy is my first priority.
- For those who are gloating and spreading hate or scorn, who are indifferent to the actual people their rhetoric attacks, I will have no patience and no forgiveness. This is not all of you—but it is some of you. You betray your country and your fellow citizens when you do this, and we must let you know it is unacceptable.
Standing against that hate is my second priority.
- If you didn’t vote, or you voted for Trump, and it was a hard choice for you, I will try to understand, and I will respect that. I’m sorry we left you with that choice. I know that white working class people have problems, too. I’m barely a step away, and I remember. I know those problems are real. I can’t respect Trump, and I can’t forgive his rhetoric of hate, but I know you think Trump can help you, and I know we mostly didn’t bother to try, and so I’ll respect your choice and give him a chance to do that.
Making sure your needs do not get forgotten is my third priority.
- Whether you voted for Trump or not, I welcome anyone who will stand with me on the points above. Even if you voted for Trump, you know what rhetoric he used during his campaign. You know why so many of us are afraid of him. Some of you think he won’t actually do those things. But whatever he may do for you, we need to acknowledge his flaws, corral them, and make his presidency, if it works for anyone, work for everyone.
And if you didn’t vote for Trump, you know it’s not a simple task. He promised to make America great again, but it looked great to you already, and now it looks a hell of a lot worse. He said he was going to make America great again by getting rid of you, by cutting out the America some of his supporters won’t acknowledge. We need you engaged, because you will see his flaws immediately and starkly. We need you so we can all help fix them.
Holding this government accountable to all the people is my fourth priority.
- In this campaign, we all knew the other candidate lied far more than ours. Infinitely more. Obviously more. Faced with that paradox, the final thing I’m going to do is doubt. I’m going to doubt the narratives, and question the emotional arguments that drive a wedge between us.
I’m going to do that because those of us who voted against Trump and those of us who voted for him do not agree on what is true, and we desperately must find a way to do that. We must have an arbiter of truth that we agree on, or we will talk past one another forever.
Loyalty, patriotism, and the sanctity of our Democracy demand this—or else we are all betraying the few principles we still agree on.
So building a measure of common truth is my final priority.
Plenty of people won’t agree with me on these, but I hope enough can. Plenty of people will think this isn’t possible, but I hope it is. I’m not sure I can manage it, honestly, but I’m going to try, because I can’t just sit and wait for the next midterm or the next presidential campaign so we can all fight tooth and nail to stall the other side for a little while. Nothing better will get built if I do that. Too many people will be hurt if I do that.
I also know people were being hurt already. We drew a line and we said whose voices we would hear and whose we wouldn’t. We said we would not consider the racist, sexist, prejudiced voices, and that was important. Those voices must be countered. But we were sloppy. We ignored some voices that were hurting and in need. We ignored some voices we just didn’t agree with. We gave those people no way to be heard, and Trump benefited from that.
This problem would have been here no matter who won this election. This need would have been unmet no matter the outcome, because the seeds of it were planted decades ago, and this is just the blossoming of our division.
But if the outcome had been different, many of us would have ignored this need, and now we have the opportunity not to.
So we need a new coalition. We need a coalition of fairness, but one that is loyal to all Americans, that protects us from harm and ensures our freedoms together. We need a coalition of true patriotism so we can decide who to be as a country. And we need it before it is no longer an option.
So let’s make America great, by being stronger together. If America is bigger than its president, it’s time for us to prove it.