In the wake of the surprising (and some would say shocking... in a bad way) 2016 election outcome, anti-Donald-Trump protests broke out across the nation. #NotMyPresident trended, showing up on protest signs around the country. Trump effigies were burned in Los Angeles. The Change.org petition to make Clinton president based on her popular vote victory already has more than 800,000 signatures at the time of writing. According to The Miami New Times, a protest held in Miami on Friday will have the stated goal of getting Trump impeached before he even sits in the Oval Office.
There is value in protest. With more Americans voting for Trump's opponents than for the president-elect, it's powerful to make clear that he lacks a mandate, that he does not engender support from the majority, that those who will potentially be victimized by Trump's policies will not go away or be silently. When your voice is heard, it tells your representatives in the government that the people do not side with Trump and will enact consequences upon those who enable him. But I still have some trepidation about how these protests are going down.
A few weeks ago, Clinton supporters, along with the media and even many Republicans, took Trump to task for saying he wouldn't accept the election results. They were right to be outraged — American government's legitimacy comes from the will of the people, and none should strive to lead that government without acknowledging that will. The institutions of our democracy — not just the presidency itself, but the Bill of Rights, the courts, apolitical military and law enforcement — depend on the people for legitimacy. It was scary when, before the election, Trump supporters called those institutions into question. It should be scary when Clinton supporters do the same now.
Three weeks ago, that tweet from one of Trump's top supporters was horrifying to me and to many Americans, regardless of their political affiliations or presidential readings. Challenging our government infrastructure with "pitchforks and torches" is never permissible. Those of us who opposed Trump need to remember that now.
Trump won according to the rules of the process we use to determine a president. If we lose those rules or that process, we lose the whole institution. And if you are afraid of the damage a President Trump could do, it is that institution you must depend on for protection.
Perhaps Trump will get impeached. Considering his history of fraud and unpaid bills and debts, his threats against press freedoms, and his web of undisclosed conflicts of interest, it is not impossible to imagine a Trump administration actually breaking laws or ethical rules. Perhaps an intrepid reporter will unveil a web of deceit, just as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did for Richard Nixon.
And in that eventuality, we will have to depend on the institution of Congress and in the peaceful transfer of power even as the institution of the presidency is stretched to its limits. If Trump is convicted of "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors," as stipulated in the Constitution, the case for his impeachment must be based on that, not personal distaste for the man or his policies.
If Trump is to be kept in check, everyone in America has to admit that he is their president. But don't worry, that doesn't mean you have to like him.