Unification Will Be Difficult

By John Tompkins

Since Tuesday, there have been a lot of calls to unify after a divisive, vulgar and raucous campaign. It happens every election and it is a noble sentiment.

There are some sore losers. And the winners, who want to see their candidate supported, offer an olive branch in hopes that their guy won’t face backlash. This is a non-partisan phenomenon.

I don’t want to be the person who says, “but this is different.” After every election, the losers say exactly that because they want to justify their righteous indignation. They want to tell everyone that, ordinarily, they would support the new president “but not THIS one.”

You heard a lot of this in 2008. You’re going to hear a lot of it now.

The call to unify is grating for one obvious reason: those same calls went unheeded when Obama was elected. The “Kenyan Muslim” fought all types of obstinate resistance, stalemate and outright obstruction. He was accused of starting a race war, suppressing whiteness and fighting Christianity and Christian principles. None of which is true.

Some conservative outlets declared his presidency a failure in the first 100 days. Others said they hoped he would fail. Senators said they intended to make him a one-term president.

There was no unity for Obama. And Obama’s opponents will say “Well that was different. He was different.” just like those who oppose the next president are saying it now.

But I won’t go that route. What I will do instead is try to help those with a newfound affinity for solidarity to understand why unification will be difficult.

It’s easy to call for unity when, by and large, those who supported the winner won’t have to worry about facing any repercussions from his election. Those who voted for the losing candidate are worried about their future. They now have a president who: wants to ban an entire religion, deport people who have lived in the United States most of their lives, reverse civil rights for LGBTQ people, thinks sexual assault is acceptable and is slow to disavow support from white supremacists.

Women, minorities, LGBTQ and immigrants fear that they may suffer very real consequences from this president. It’s almost disingenuous to ask them to support a man who propagates rhetoric rooted in the notion that they are second-class citizens.

Some are saying, “Well, he just said that stuff on the campaign trail. He doesn’t really intend to do all of those things. Candidates always promise things they can’t deliver.”

But this is not just what the new president promised to do, it’s also the environment he created and continues to exacerbate. The minoritized not only have to worry about the brash, virulent man who will take office, they also have to worry about those who truly believe in his racist, sexist, xenophobic and prejudicial message (and there are a LOT of those believers, regardless if you want to believe it). They have to worry about stares, discrimination, threats of violence and then, real violence. To say that won’t happen is showing that you don’t care about their fears.

If you supported the winning candidate, that’s fine. You are entitled to your vote. But to those who lost, you ignored sexism, racism, xenophobia, sexual assault and more. That doesn’t motivate people to unify.

To come together is important and it is a valiant effort. Unfortunately it’s a tall order to ask the opposition to ignore oppression against the very core of who they are. If history is any guide, unification won’t happen.

And who could blame them?