It is safe to say that most of this country was incredibly surprised when, early in the night on November 8th, Donald J. Trump started to pull ahead in key swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania. The race was finally called for Trump after two-thirty in the morning on November 9th, so late that Clinton gave her concession speech much later, around ten in the morning.
In the subsequent days following the election, protests erupted throughout the country over what many see as a fundamentally undemocratic system-- the Electoral College. Clinton’s popular vote lead has now widened to over two million votes, however, because most of these votes are concentrated in already heavily democratic places like California, where Clinton, while picking up more and more votes, will not earn any more Electoral College votes. On a purely surface level, it does seem wrong that in a nationwide election, the raw number of votes for a candidate does not decide who will represent the nation in its highest office.
Unfortunately, this is the system that is outlined in our Constitution, and it would take an Amendment to get rid of it. However, there are certainly reforms that could be made that would make this a more representative system of election our nation’s leader. The biggest flaw of the Electoral College (seen by this author) is the winner-take-all system, which is present in every state except Nebraska and Maine. Under this system, once a candidate has a plurality of the votes in a state, they will win all the state’s Electoral College votes. This leads to many voters in comfortably blue or red states feeling like their vote will get drowned out. A proportional system more like Maine’s or Nebraska’s will lead to an ultimately more competitive and representative election process, more akin to direct democracy while still working within what is dictated in our Constitution.
Now, some four weeks after the election, Trump is well into his transitional period. Two appointments came out very quickly: Steven Bannon as senior adviser and chief strategist and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Both positions require no Senate confirmation, and have considerable influence with the president. Flynn has tweeted or said extremely inflammatory statements about Islam, for example that the United States is in a “world war” with “radical Islamic terrorism.” He has also incorrectly described Islam as a “political ideology,” and not as a religion with over 1.6 billion adherents.
Lt. Gen. Flynn, in his Tweets, has also often linked to articles published in Breitbart News, the largest online “alt right” news source, of which Steve Bannon is executive chair. Bannon’s appointment is, to this author, somewhat frightening for many minorities in this country. Breitbart has frequently published racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic, and overall hateful articles that represent a considerable faction of conservatives, and one that gave immense support to Donald Trump’s campaign. These men are extremely disappointing picks for those that were hoping Trump would step down from his harsh, and often hateful, rhetoric seen on the campaign trail.
Shortly after the appointments of Bannon and Flynn, Trump also nominated Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions was denied an appointment as a federal judge in 1986 after it was revealed that he had made racially-charged statements and jokes, including calling a black assistant US Attorney, “boy.” Some, like Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson, would say that Sessions’ “documented racism and previous ineligibility for public office make him unfit to be the standard-bearer for the nation’s justice system.” While Sessions’ appointment will require Senate approval, it is looking likely that he will indeed hold this office, as the Republican party holds a slight majority of fifty-one or fifty-two seats in the Senate.
There is much more hope for rather moderate appointments in the Trump administration in Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations and rumors of Mitt Romney as Secretary of State. However, the far-right individuals Trump has already appointed do nothing to encourage progressives hoping to make the most of a Republican presidency. Trump has proven that he is truly a new breed of president-elect, and it seems that the most progressives can do is continue to fight for their values. Concerned citizens have already proven that they will fight against hatred and extremism in the protests that occurred throughout the country. Volunteering at and especially donating to organizations that support progressive values is especially important to display popular support. The Trump presidency is a difficult, and even scary, pill to swallow, but one that the system of our nation has decided for us. He will be our president on January 21st and the best we can do is continue to lend our voices to supporting our marginalized fellow citizens.
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