Broken glass lines the windows of shops, and graffiti covers walls, as smoke rises from the remnants of trashcan fires. Rather than a post-apocalyptic film scene, this is the work of protests against President-Elect Donald Trump in Portland, Oregon.
Following a significant level of violence, the police declared the protests a riot. Rioters damaged a car park and threw objects at police who attempted to quell the violence. Reports claim rioters attacked drivers in their cars and shut down the I-5 and I-84 freeways. At least 29 people were arrested.
Though Portland saw the brunt of violent activity, protests in other major cities caused trouble as well. Protesters in Baltimore sat in the streets, blocking traffic during rush hour. In Minneapolis, they blocked freeways, halting traffic both ways for upwards of an hour. In Los Angeles, they blocked a major highway and burned an effigy of Trump. One protester stated, “people have to die to make a change in this world.”
While violence in reaction to Trump’s election has come from relatively few people, a hypocritical current seems to runs through the anti-Trump side. Just last week, the media criticized Trump supporters who said they would protest should Hillary Clinton win what they believed to be a rigged election. However, as Trump gained the necessary 270 electoral votes, Clinton’s most vehement supporters began doing exactly, or more than, what they lambasted those Trump backers for suggesting. They not only took to the streets, but caused disarray and chaos.
Trump won at least 290 (and with Michigan, probably 306) electoral votes due to narrow margins in Florida, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The last two states were surprising wins, especially since neither has supported a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980s. Clinton leads in the popular vote by .2 percent at the moment, having won California and New York by amounts larger than the entire voting populations of many states. Her popular-vote margin is likely to grow, perhaps substantially, once all of California’s ballots are counted. Trump, however, apparently won 30 states to Clinton’s 20, often by margins comparable to hers in California and New York.
Many Clinton supporters have expressed their anger about the result online. The slogan “not my president” has permeated social media, and petitions have appeared on change.org demanding that the Electoral College either elect Clinton or be abolished.
Protesters, both online and in the streets, give the impression of wanting to undermine the democratic process. Their refusal to accept the results, even though they were due partly to lower Democratic turnout in key states compared with 2012, suggests an unwillingness to tolerate diversity in politics. Had the election swung the opposite way, surely Clinton supporters would be telling Trump supporters to accept the results and move on, as they had said for weeks, anticipating her win.
Nevertheless, they engaged in the same response they mocked Trump supporters for considering. In addition, many have verbally and physically harassed and intimidated those who voted for Trump, refusing to acknowledge that many Republicans cast their ballots for economic and foreign policies rather than Trump himself. Shockingly, not all Republicans think alike. In addition, racism and homophobia are not the fundamental reasons why he won.
Furthermore, it is not as if one man has the power to undermine centuries of American progress. The president is checked by Congress and the court system. The social policies so many people fear Republicans will pursue lack both the support of the entire Republican coalition and the supermajority in the Senate necessary to pass them.
No matter how upsetting you may find the results of the election, protests and violence are not the way to enact positive political change. If you want change, get out and vote in two years. Encourage your friends to vote. Do your research and advocate for the candidate you think best fits your beliefs. America has survived through well over 200 years of presidents, some great, some not so great. Three of them, or four counting Trump, did not win the popular vote. Some elections were even more aggressively contested than this one. Nevertheless, America is still here, and in four years’ time, America will still be here.