This is an open letter to President-elect Trump. I want you to know that America expects better of you as president than what it saw in the campaign you ran. You are now to be our president, and that brings new responsibilities. I hope you feel the call of history to live up to them.
That history calls on you to remember that America is a wonderfully diverse country. We are Christian and Jewish and Muslim and Hindu and none of the above. We are gay and straight. We are black, brown, white and innumerable combinations. We are young and old, female and male, with and without disabilities, urban and rural, and liberal and conservative. Every one of us is an equal American. Every one of us deserves a voice that our President will hear.
I am gravely concerned about climate change. You campaigned as blissfully unconcerned. As president, you will hear from our military and all our national labs and from NASA (the folks who put a rover on Mars and may know a little bit about real science) how deadly serious this is. Listen to them. There is a grown-up world of people beyond the creepy alt-right and the fossil fuel industry who actually know what they are talking about. You may go to any major university and confirm what they will tell you. You have responsibilities as president. Remember the full-page ad you signed in the New York Times in 2009 calling for strong climate action. “We support your effort,” your ad said to the Obama administration, “to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today. Please don’t postpone the earth. If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.” The signatories did not include just you, but your children, Donald, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka. Their future and their reputations are in your hands too.
More than anything else, I want you to know how you have scared people, particularly young women. I can’t tell you how many women and girls I’ve heard from, or heard about from their parents, in the first days after your election. Little girls who cried when they heard you had been elected. Students who wept together, comforted by their teachers. Mothers who cried, and hid their crying from their kids. I heard from friends, family, nieces, college students, mothers and grandmothers, and from old friends reporting about their spouses and daughters. I received a flood of texts and emails. Over and over, they spoke of tears and fear. Over and over they repeated the same words: “scared,” “frightened,” “terrified.” Of you. It has broken my heart to hear so much of this in the last few days, and to try to reassure them that it will somehow be okay. These youngsters are not faking it or making it up. This is heartfelt and widespread. You may not have intended it, but you came across as an ogre to them in this campaign. You frightened them. You frighten them now. This is real. You have a lot of damage to repair.
I don’t need to say what dark impulses you have stirred that Latino and African-American friends recognize. The dog whistle is not just heard by the racists. It is heard loud and clear by people for whom racism is a regular fact of their lives, people who grew up with different expectations and fears in their lives because of that racism, people who heard the Jim Crow stories from their parents and grandparents, people who now have to have “the talk” with their sons. They are Americans, too, and this experience is in their lives, at their hearts.
Finally, please also bear in mind that Secretary Clinton got more votes than you did. Without the electoral college, she’d be president. If past presidential years are any guide, there were likely more votes cast nationwide for House Democratic candidates than for Republican candidates. In 2012, House Democrats won the national vote by over a million votes. Without REDMAP’s gerrymandering, Speaker Pelosi would have the gavel. It will take a while to know whether more votes were cast for Democratic candidates for the Senate in total than for the Republican candidates, but it’s possible that Democrats got more votes than Republicans across the board in both elected branches of the federal government. Either way, working together is the right thing to do, and will make you successful, not trying to drive a harsh, partisan agenda from a position of having lost the popular vote.
You will find that Democrats love America just as much as you do. We want to work with you. I believe that the role of president of the United States is vastly different from the role of candidate, and that the Donald Trump of the campaign will not succeed as president. The campaign is over, and real responsibilities lie ahead. For all our sakes, I wish you well.