Just like “the most powerful factor determining a company’s performance is the condition of the marketplace in which it operates,” as Joshua Rothman writes, so, too, is the most telling factor determining a president’s or presidential candidate’s effectiveness and reach of that power is the demography in which they operate. Trump isn’t the problem, he’s the latest, most serious symptom. Just like we need people to somehow stay behind and rebuild not racist walls but a system that actually gives a damn about life and doing it well together (with each other and all non-human life that exists both now and in the future), we need people who are going to say no to self-interested power, to megalomaniacal racism, sexism, ableism, to fear-based governing.
The reason this NO is so important is because democratic governments require as bedrock the consent of the governed. Apartheid would not have begun to end if it had not become obvious that the regime enforcing it was not ratified by the people: in other words, as long as the administration inflicting apartheid on its subjects was seen as legitimate, the brutality would have continued. I have friends in other countries and the most confusing, angering or terrifying (depending on which country they’re in) to them about Trump is not the man himself; it’s why the hell we’re giving him any attention at all. Why are we legitimizing this man and, by proxy, all the ugliness he stands for? Leaving is saying, “I don’t. I don’t hold that form of “leadership” to be legitimate. And I don’t consent to being ruled in that way.”
Trump isn’t the joke – he’s actually lethally serious about being the next president of the United States – the system is the joke and it is vital to witness to that fact because this battle against hatred, bigotry, political hijackery in the name of personal advancement and narcissistic egotism will not be over if Trump loses. So leaving is also saying no to the system that not only created Trump, but is continuing to give him a platform. In a democracy (both the one you were taught in high school we have, and the one we actually have), “the system” is the people. We the people. (Of the United States…in order to form a more perfect what? Quick. What word comes next? Can you find it anywhere? Remember, if none of the three branches of government are using the Constitution anymore, you can’t, either). But I cannot be one of those people (speaking of union) if Trump is president. Just as some feel convicted to stay and try to make things better, I feel the same depth of conviction to say no to all that Trump is and all he has given permission to crawl out of the attics, closets and swamps of this country by leaving. To say I do not consent to being governed in and under fear or fascism or by racism, sexism, and TV-show flippancy, irreverence and mockery. To say no to self-directed power, bullying and shameless abuse. Staying is a legitimate option – indeed the only one for many (the people who are likely to be hurt the most by a Trump administration) – but so is leaving. Both, if done with conviction and humility, can witness, both can speak truth to power. Let’s not divide ourselves along one more line.