By Brett Fafata
As one of the few American citizens living in an international community in Hong Kong, I am often pressed to answer for the actions of the United States – to in a sense act as a representative of my country.
As one would expect, recently I have faced a barrage of questions regarding my reaction to the results of the 2016 presidential election. When asked, this is the response that I have given:
The results of the 2016 American presidential election have instilled an anger in me far greater than I expected, but for a different reason than most.
My anger stems not from the election of Donald Trump by means of the legitimate democratic process, but instead the shameful response from both sides of the political spectrum, and the inability of some of the American people to accept the peaceful transition of power that the American Democratic system prides itself in.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, we have seen dramatic responses from those of all political leanings. On the right, religious and racial bigots, emboldened by Trump’s election, have committed numerous hate crimes across the country. The media and wider public have deplored these actions, which have received nearly universal condemnation, including from Trump himself.
On the other side of the spectrum stands the “not my president” crowd, largely composed of young liberals. Most concerning about this group is the prevalence of their narrative and the refusal of the media at large to condemn actions which include rioting, destruction of property, calls to abandon the democratic process, and threats to assassinate Donald Trump.
These “not my president” protests, while ultimately futile, are not harmful in and of themselves. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right ensured by the Constitution, and I think that it is good that young people are trying to have their voices heard. However, when these protests devolve into disruption of infrastructure and destruction of private property, they become unacceptable.
Ultimately, no amount of “not my president” chants or twitter hashtags will change the electoral map. Ironically, what could have changed it was the vote of the core demographics of the protesters – eligible voting citizens aged 18-29, which saw turnout of a pitiful 50%. Every protester that didn’t participate in the election needs to ask themselves why they are trying to make their voice heard after the fact when they voluntarily silenced themselves by refusing to vote.
There have also been a number of online petitions that urge the electoral college to vote against the election results. The most notable of these petitions is the change.org petition, which is quickly approaching 4.5 million signatures. It concerns me that such a large group is willing to blatantly express their contempt for the democratic process.
While violent protesters can destroy a part of a city, the suggested actions in this petition have the potential to destroy the democratic system in the US as we know it. If the electoral college turns its back on the results of the election, the United States will have lost any claim it once had to be a democratic republic.
Although I find it disturbing that unelected political elites in the electoral college have the ability to vote against the will of the people when electing the president, I find even more disturbing that the public so zealously wishes to exploit such an obviously undemocratic loophole.
A message to those who continue to subvert the election results: you are not morally righteous and you are not creating positive change. If you want to see real change, throw your hat into the political arena and be the change you want to see.
That’s what Trump did, and look at where he is now. Also know this: openly defying and slurring your president, while praying for his failure is not what the United States needs at this point. Stoking the coals of division will only lead to further hatred from both sides of the already intensely divided political spectrum.
Aware of this divided reality, I propose a pact of unity. Not complacency. Not capitulation. Unity. At this time, the people of the United States must come together and accept the results of the election, because without this acceptance it will be impossible to move forward.
Donald Trump must be president if the American political system is to continue as a viable entity. And if Trump is going to be my president, I am going to stand behind him and hope for his success in leading the nation in a positive direction. As Secretary Clinton said, “we owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”
Well, he has my open mind, and I’m eager to see what he is going to do. And if you don’t share my convictions, just remember… whether you like or not, Trump is here to stay.
Brett Fafata a full-time expatriate student studying at Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, originally from Pittsburgh, PA. He has a passion for debate and political discussion.