July 11, 2017

Trump Is Our President, Just As Obama Was Theirs

DCPS Walkout, Independence Ave, Not My President

Remember when Barack Obama was the president of the United States? I sure hope so. It wasn't that long ago, after all. You probably still remember when he was elected to his first term in 2008. I bet you even remember how some conservatives reacted to his election and how some of them treated him throughout much of his presidency. Remember how they sought to de-legitimize him? Remember how they insisted on using his middle name? How about the "terrorist fist bump?" If you were a liberal in those days, you might have even complained about this. Many of us did.

Some pointed out that even if one did not like President Obama or his policies, the office itself deserved more respect than it was being shown. Others suggested that criticism of the president's policies was often warranted but that ridiculously over-the-top attacks on his person or members of his family were inappropriate. And still others highlighted the manner in which some of the attempts to de-legitimize him (e.g., birtherism) seemed racist. Lots of us objected to how President Obama was treated, and we had many valid reasons for doing so.

Fast forward to today. We have a new president, a president who is now being de-legitimized by many of the same people who complained about the efforts to de-legitimize President Obama. We mock his physical appearance, diagnose him with mental disorders, call his wife a whore, alter photos of his sons, and so on. Do two wrongs make a right? Does their treatment of Obama really justify our treatment of Trump? Is this sort of thing only a problem when they do it to our president?

Whether we love him or hate him, Donald Trump is our president. He is our president no matter how much we despise his policies or how unfit for office we think he is. He's our president just as President Obama was their president regardless of how they felt about him.

None of this means we should not criticize President Trump's policies or work against them when we believe they would be bad for us. There is plenty to criticize. The thing is, we can criticize Trump's policies and work to prevent them from being enacted without abandoning freethought or giving into tribalism, irrationality, and hypocrisy. We can criticize our president without denying reality or seeking to de-legitimize him. If we are not doing so, I suspect that this says more about us than it does about him.

Some will be determined to interpret this post as a defense of President Trump. It isn't. The thing about hypocrisy is that while no one particularly likes to admit to it, ignoring it tends to undermine one's credibility and erode one's claims to any sort of moral high ground. Exposing it is often unpleasant, but that does not make it any less necessary.
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