(TriceEdneyWire.com) — On Nov. 9 I watched Hillary Clinton give a gracious concession speech, one that was filled with hope and a touch of reassurance. It was, in some ways, a celebration of our democracy and its stability, which depends on the peaceful transition of power.
President Barack Obama, who campaigned fiercely against Donald Trump in the final weeks of the campaign, has been equally magnanimous, reminding us of the incredible dignity and grace with which he led our country over the past eight years.
I share the sentiments they expressed. We do need to give Trump a chance, for the good of our country. Maybe he will surprise us and build bridges, not walls.
But we can’t suddenly forget or forgive what he said during the campaign.
We can’t forget that Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and killers, or that he said a federal judge can’t decide a lawsuit fairly because he is a ‘Mexican’ (he was born in Indiana).
We can’t forget that his signature campaign promise is to build a wall at the border with Mexico.
We can’t forget that he proposed banning Muslims from entering our country or that he suggested that the ‘Muslim community’ was complicit in the terrorist attack in Orlando.
We can’t forget the despicable way he talks about women or that he bragged about sexually assaulting them.
We can’t forget that he mocked people with disabilities.
We can’t forget that he exploited ugly, racist stereotypes when he described African American communities as “war zones” and “hell.”
We can’t forget that he failed to immediately disavow the endorsement of David Duke, a neo-Nazi and probably the most well known White supremacist in America.
We can’t forget that he named as his campaign manager a man who runs a website catering to the alt-right, a rebranded White nationalist movement.
We can’t forget that he re-circulated racist and anti-Semitic tweets.
We can’t forget that he went on Alex Jones’ radio show and told the far-right radio host that his “reputation is amazing.” Jones is, in fact, a fabulist, a con artist known for propagating wild conspiracy theories, such as his claim that the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was the work of the government.
The point is, in Trump we suddenly face a president-elect who has been wallowing in the cesspool of hate and extremism.
White supremacists who backed his candidacy are jumping for joy. They think they now have their man in the White House.
Andrew Anglin, proprietor of the Daily Stormer, a truly sickening website popular among neo-Nazis, declared, “Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor. Make no mistake about it: we did this.”
David Duke was equally exultant, tweeting that “our people played a huge role in electing Trump!”
Kevin MacDonald, an outspoken anti-Semite and former professor, wrote: “This is an amazing victory.
Fundamentally, it is a victory of White people over the oligarchic, hostile elites.”
We can’t afford to take these statements as the ravings of extremists on the fringes of society. They are now at the gates.
But it’s not just sieg-heiling Nazis and cross-burning Klansmen who should trouble Americans concerned about what a Trump victory portends. It’s also the more polite, suit-wearing extremists who move in mainstream political circles and already have their nose under the Trump tent.
They’re people like Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who birthed the viciously discriminatory, unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws enacted by Arizona, Alabama and other states several years ago; and Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state who is now a senior fellow at the rabidly anti-LGBT Family Research Council. Both are reportedly serving as key members of Trump’s transition team.
As is customary, Trump has pledged to be a president “for all Americans.”
If he truly means it, he must first boot the extremists out of his tent and tell them in no uncertain terms that they will have no voice or place in his administration. If he does that, perhaps he can begin to stanch the bleeding from the wounds he ripped open in our country.
But given the early signs, we’re not counting on it.
No, we’re going on what Trump has been saying all along. The time is now for progressives everywhere to unite and fight with everything we have.
(Richard Cohen is president of the Southern Poverty Law Center).