Stop. There is no reason to believe that Donald Trump the president will be any different than Donald Trump the candidate or the man. The danger he presents to us, our democracy, our global standing, and our stability only increases if we pretend otherwise. He has been very clear about who he is and what he wants to do. Believe him. He does not understand governance and does not care to. He prides himself on being the boss. He understands dictating his will and suppressing resistance. He reacts badly to all slights, real or imagined. His skin is so thin as to be nearly translucent. Do not hope that he will change; he won’t, and to persist in believing he will is delusion.
Democracy is not self-sustaining, and it will not swoop in to save us, cape flying, with a big red, white, and blue "D" on its chest. Of all forms of government, democracy is the diva. It requires constant attention, care, and appreciation from those who seek its favors. Don’t think for a second that its norms, or even the Constitution, will rein Trump in. He got where he is by grinding them into the dirt, and he was amply rewarded for doing so.
Donald Trump was elected far more by omission than commission — not just by the minority of the 26 percent of eligible voters who chose him but by the 46 percent of voters who stood by and did nothing. In the law, life, and electoral politics, silence means assent.
Usually, when voters sit one out, they say it’s because they were unmotivated to vote for either candidate. This inaction is never defensible, but especially not in this election. One wonders what kind of motivation these voters needed. The belief that Hillary Clinton and Trump were equally undesirability is ridiculous — it flies in the face of abundant and readily available evidence.
Believing it means they equated her lifetime of public service, hard work, and sacrifice for the benefit of others with his singular focus on sating himself at the expense of everything and everyone around him. It means they dismissed the unprecedented clarion warnings of former national defense and national security officials, cabinet secretaries, attorneys general, judges, and federal prosecutors — numbering in the hundreds — that Clinton was fit and ready to be commander-in-chief while Trump was an affirmative danger to the country.
When balanced against his adultery, voyeurism, gleeful objectification and humiliation of women and girls —including his own daughters, proud boasts of sexual assault, and 12 alleged sexual assault victims, along with his regressive views on working women, equal pay, and an increased minimum wage, they did not prefer her lifetime of successful work improving the quality of life for women and children, here and around the world.
They saw no distinction between Clinton’s celebration of diversity, calls for inclusion, fairness, and social and economic justice and Trump’s bigotry, racist rhetoric, and policies. Now his former campaign CEO, a white nationalist and anti-Semite, has been appointed White House senior advisor and counsel. In the wake of his Electoral College win, hundreds of incidents motivated by racial, religious, and ethnic hatred have been documented. The alleged perpetrators frequently reference Trump’s name.
The non-voters also somehow managed to ignore the fact that one candidate promised to continue safeguarding our democracy, its values, our relationships with allies, and the Geneva Conventions while the other promised to temporarily ban some Muslims from entering the country, deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, kiss Putin on both cheeks, order the military to commit war crimes, and build a wall on our border with Mexico.
And they were unmoved by the fact that one candidate was an internationally respected former secretary of state who traveled to 121 countries engaging in diplomacy, making tough decisions, and restoring our reputation around the world while the other, having traveled nowhere internationally except for pleasure, offered the extortion of our NATO allies, possession of nuclear weapons by South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Japan, and the use of nuclear weapons by the United States as acceptable foreign policies.
Sadly, it is likely they viewed Clinton as more untrustworthy than Trump. The truth is, Politifact and other fact checkers found that Trump lied in at least 70 percent of the campaign statements they investigated — 77 percent if you count statements they determined to be half-true. When added to his myriad business disasters, failure to pay income taxes, and history of strip mining his own companies, their belief in his ability to grow the economy is baffling. By contrast, 16 percent of Clinton statements the fact checkers researched were untruthful 16, up to just 28 percent if you count ones that were half-true.
In their defense, these non-voters were guided by a media whose 30-year appetite for negative Clinton stories reached its peak this year. Substantive coverage of the candidates’ policy positions was relegated to the nosebleed seats while the gaggle fought daily for a ringside seat in Trump’s rhetorical Coliseum. Pundits wallowed in false equivalences and unchallenged lies. Thousands of stories assured them that Clinton’s private email server was a frightening glimpse into her permanently dark soul, while Trump was always one pivot away from decency and redemption.
Still, they only had an obligation to do one thing: Decide which candidate was likely to govern best and vote for that candidate. They didn’t. Instead, they chose to sit the election out and hope for the best. God help us; we’re all about to get the government they chose.
Andrea Cabral is the former Suffolk County sheriff and Executive Secretary of Public Safety for the Commonwealth.