Birth of the Resistance

By Philip E. Jenks

resistttumpNovember 10, 2016 – Wednesday, November 9, dawned gray and damp here in Port Chester. Just like the weather in Morrisville on November 23, 1963, the day after President Kennedy was killed.

When JFK was blown away, I felt grief, helpless rage, despair. The unexpected election of Donald J. Trump makes me feel much the same, except in 1963 I didn’t feel alienated from half my fellow citizens.

I didn’t have to face the fact that 59,700,000 American voters found it in their consciences to vote for a candidate the Washington Post dismissed as “dreadful.”

There’s some comfort, I suppose, that more voting Americans favored Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote at 59,900,000. But the archaic electoral college, designed in 1787 to prevent the votes of free northern blacks from overwhelming the votes of white southerners, proclaimed Trump the victor by 279 to 228 electors.

Nor is this the first time in recent history that the winner of the popular vote lost a presidential election. In 2000 the popular winner Al Gore lost to George W. Bush by five electoral votes. A case might be made that those five votes resulted in what historian Gene Edward Smith calls the most disastrous military decision in U.S. history, the invasion of Iraq, and a dismally unsuccessful presidency. But the Electoral College survives, and Hillary Clinton is the fifth presidential candidate to win the popular vote but lose the election.

But hard as it is to understand, millions saw their way clear to voting for Donald Trump. I cannot comprehend how so many Americans could look at the man and not see the traits he so amenably flaunted: his xenophobia, his misogyny, his Islamophobia, his chronic inability to distinguish truth from fantasy, and – perhaps most revealing of all – his cruel taunting of persons with disabilities and people he calls “retards.”

Mr. Trump’s flawed character was rarely concealed either by himself or by most of the media (Fox News being the major exception).

One columnist, Charles M. Blow of the New York Times, who shows a remarkable ability to view most politicians with patient equilibrium, made it clear he abhorred Mr. Trump and his candidacy. The headline of Mr. Blow’s post-election column explains why: “America Elects a Bigot.”

Blow writes:
Businessman Donald Trump was a bigot. Candidate Donald Trump was a bigot. Republican nominee Donald Trump was a bigot. And I can only assume that President Donald Trump will be a bigot. It is absolutely possible that America didn’t elect him in spite of that, but because of it. Consider that for a second. Think about what that means. This is America right now: throwing its lot in with a man who named an alt-right sympathizer as his campaign chief.

How can I make sense of the fact that the president appeared in pornos? How can I make sense of the fact that the man who will appoint the next attorney general has himself boasted of assaulting women? What will this president’s vaunted “law and order” program for “inner cities” look like in an age where minority communities are already leery of police aggression? How do I make sense of the fact that a man who attacked a federal judge for his “Mexican heritage” will be the man who will nominate the next Supreme Court justice and scores of federal judges? I can’t make it make sense because it doesn’t. I must sit with the absurdity of it.”

Today, President Obama, trying to put the best light on it, said he was “encouraged” by his meeting with the President-elect and described the encounter as “excellent.”

What could that possibly mean? Did Trump tell the president he was only kidding about deporting millions of undocumented residents? That he never meant to say global warming and climate change were Chinese hoaxes? That he didn’t really think inner cities need more cops and more law and order? That he has no intention of building a huge wall between the U.S. and Mexico? That the Affordable Care Act can’t be eliminated because he has no idea what to put in its place? And don’t worry about giving him the nuclear codes because with his poor retention span and would quickly forget them anyway?

Chances are none of this happened and Mr. Obama’s rosy report was – shall we say – a lie.

In fact, if Mr. Trump moves to carry out all of his promises, even the ones made with little thought or comprehension of the consequences, a lot of people – immigrants, persons of color, women, persons in the LGBTQ community and their allies – will be hurt. Progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions will be slowed or completely eliminated. The rights of women over their own bodies will become political battlegrounds again. And 59,700,000 mostly white folks who voted for Trump will feel they have been given a presidential license to marginalize, demean, and threaten any group or individual they regard as “other.”

If any of that begins to happen, I don’t see how the 59,900,000 of us who voted the other way can stand by and watch silently. Prominently included in this group must be we persons of faith – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and others – who remained relatively silent while Mr. Trump rose in prominence.

I affirm Mr. Blow’s declaration: “I respect the presidency; I do not respect this president-elect. I cannot. Count me among the resistance.”

“it is impossible for me to fall in line behind an unrepentant bigot,” Mr. Blow writes. “It will be impossible for me to view this man participating in the pageantry and protocols of the presidency and not be reminded of how he is a demonstrated demagogue who is also a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe and a bully. That is not a person worthy of applause. That is a person who must be placed under unrelenting pressure. Power must be challenged, constantly. That begins today.”

The Resistance against a historic and dangerous political anomaly is born. Count me in, too.

My earlier essays on Mr. Trump can be found at

About Philip E Jenks

Philip, a synodical deacon in the ELCA Metropolitan New York synod, is a retired communicator for American Baptist Churches USA, the U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches, the U.S. National Council of Churches, and two Philadelphia area daily newspapers. He and his spouse, the Rev. Dr. Martha M. Cruz, are the parents of six adults and are members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rye Brook, N.Y. They live in Port Chester, N.Y.
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