On Nov. 8, 2016, the thing that countless progressives, Democrats, and advocates for feminism, racial justice, and norms of common decency had long feared actually came to pass ― Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, defeating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the electoral college, despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin. And now, the outgoing Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate has spoken out about what he feels this means for the country: If you've got the time, read Harry Reid's searing letter on Trump's election, because it gives voice to the things that so many people around the country are feeling right now.
Reid, 76, is retiring after 29 long years in the Senate, representing the state of Nevada. He's always been a sharp-elbowed political operator, most memorably on the national stage in 2012, when he claimed that an unnamed source told him that former Republican nominee Mitt Romney had paid no income taxes. He later confessed that his tax attack was untrue, intended to force more disclosure from Romney.
What he's laying out in his parting shot to the incoming president is not some series of vague, murky, unknowable claims, however ― it's a straightforward, fiery denunciation of Trump, labeling him a "sexual predator" who won the electoral college with a campaign of "bigotry and hate."
I have personally been on the ballot in Nevada for 26 elections and I have never seen anything like the reaction to the election completed last Tuesday. The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America.
White nationalists, Vladimir Putin and ISIS are celebrating Donald Trump’s victory, while innocent, law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear – especially African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans and Asian Americans. Watching white nationalists celebrate while innocent Americans cry tears of fear does not feel like America.
I have heard more stories in the past 48 hours of Americans living in fear of their own government and their fellow Americans than I can remember hearing in five decades in politics. Hispanic Americans who fear their families will be torn apart, African Americans being heckled on the street, Muslim Americans afraid to wear a headscarf, gay and lesbian couples having slurs hurled at them and feeling afraid to walk down the street holding hands. American children waking up in the middle of the night crying, terrified that Trump will take their parents away. Young girls unable to understand why a man who brags about sexually assaulting women has been elected president.
I have a large family. I have one daughter and twelve granddaughters. The texts, emails and phone calls I have received from them have been filled with fear – fear for themselves, fear for their Hispanic and African American friends, for their Muslim and Jewish friends, for their LBGT friends, for their Asian friends. I’ve felt their tears and I’ve felt their fear.
We as a nation must find a way to move forward without consigning those who Trump has threatened to the shadows. Their fear is entirely rational, because Donald Trump has talked openly about doing terrible things to them. Every news piece that breathlessly obsesses over inauguration preparations compounds their fear by normalizing a man who has threatened to tear families apart, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and who has directed crowds of thousands to intimidate reporters and assault African Americans. Their fear is legitimate and we must refuse to let it fall through the cracks between the fluff pieces.
If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.
If Trump wants to roll back the tide of hate he unleashed, he has a tremendous amount of work to do and he must begin immediately.
While some elected Democratic officials have been taking a wary yet calming tone in discussing the upcoming transfer of power ― President Obama in particular, despite how upsetting this entire experience must be for him. But that's clearly not the approach Reid, an old political hand who has no more races left to run, has decided to take.