Below is today’s column in USA Today on the protests against President-Elect Donald Trump and why, despite having a house full of family members and friends who have come to protest Trump, I will not be joining them. Instead, I will be home with my kids as we have been in every inauguration – celebrating the peaceful transfer of power in our democracy and wishing the newly elected president (and our country) the best with an inaugural toast. I criticized Trump (and Hillary Clinton) during the campaign (and I will not hesitate to criticize Trump again for policies or actions that I disagree with). However, I find the claims of illegitimacy and attacks this week to be highly disturbing. I totally respect the right of people to come to protest Trump and his policies. However, there appears to be a concerted effort to delegitimize his presidency and create a type of political mythology about this election.
In this column I discuss that mythology and, more importantly, the meaning of the day of inauguration for many of us. Regardless of my criticism of both Trump and Clinton, I always knew that on January 20th I would raise a glass to the 45th President of the United States and wish him or her . . . and us . . . the best of luck in the coming years. It is a time when we reaffirm our commitment not so much to a politician but to each other. We reaffirm a common article of faith that, despite our disagreements and divisions, we remain one country joined by our belief in democratic transition and government. There is much to celebrate this week as a glance around the world at places like Gambia will readily confirm. Donald Trump will be the 45th President. Our President.
DONALD TRUMP IS OUR LEGITIMATE PRESIDENT
It is inaugural week and Washington is again the rallying point for hundreds of thousands of people. Indeed, my house in McLean, Virginia is hosting roughly a dozen people from Illinois and Florida. They are not, however, coming to celebrate but to protest. My brother Chris, his family, and various friends will be joining thousands protesting the inauguration and then will join the “Women’s March.” I will not be joining them. While I fully support their exercise of free speech and share some of their concerns, I believe that this week is about celebrating the 71st time that a democratically elected president has taken the oath of office (and our 58th formal inauguration). I was highly critical of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the campaign. However, there is a time to protest and there is a time to come together, even if only for an inaugural ceremony.
Over 50 Democratic members of Congress have publicly announced that they will not attend the inauguration, including some like Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who has insisted that Trump is not the legitimate president. (Lewis and other members also boycotted George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001 because they insisted that he was not the true elected president.) Ironically, many of these members were the same people joining Hillary Clinton in denouncing the “horrifying” notion that Trump or his supporters might not accept the results of the election. Clinton decried how Trump, by not stating that he would accept the results of losing, he was “denigrating — he is talking down our democracy.” That was when Clinton was viewed as a shoe-in. Then came election night.
After the election, Clinton joined others in challenging results in key states and Democrats began to question the legitimacy of the election — first due to the fact that Trump lost the popular vote and later based on Russian hacking of Democratic emails.
It is of course immaterial that Trump lost the popular vote in a system based on electoral, not popular voting. (For the record, I have long been a critic of the Electoral College.) Moreover, while references to the “Russian hacking of the election” have become common shorthand, the Russians did not hack the election. Emails were hacked and those emails were not faked or tampered with, as repeatedly claimed by DNC chair Donna Brazile. As recently confirmed by the intelligence report, they were real emails showing incredibly dishonest and corrupt practices. Although there is no question that the leak appears selective in targeting Democrats, Washington seems most aggrieved by the fact that the public was given a true insight into the false and duplicitous behavior that defines the establishment. However, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, the spin is not taking: almost 60% of voters do not believe the hacking determined the outcome of the election.
In the end, the protests are not about legitimacy. Trump is by any measure our duly elected and legitimate president. It is about a refusal to accept legitimate results. Even the title of “The Women’s March” is dubious.
While Bill Clinton insisted that his wife lost because Trump figured out “how to get angry, white men to vote for him,” the fact is that it was the Democratic leadership that secured the election for Trump. Despite long-standing polls showing that voters did not want an establishment figure, the establishment pre-selected Clinton, who is not only one of the most recognized establishment figures but someone carrying more luggage than Greyhound. She is also someone who had even higher negative polling on character and truthfulness than Trump.
More importantly, it is a well-maintained myth that Clinton was the candidate of women who overwhelmingly rejected Trump. Clinton pulled basically the same percentage of female votes as Obama did four years earlier. Indeed, Clinton actually did slightly worse this election than Obama did in the prior two presidential elections with women. She received just 54% of women’s votes while Obama received 55% against Romney and 56% against McCain. Trump handily beat Clinton among many groups of women. For example, 62% of white women without college degrees voted for him over Clinton. Even among college-educated women, Clinton only won 51%. She lost the votes of white women by a whooping 52-43% against Trump. It was her margin among black female voters (over 90%) that eked out an overall majority of women.
Moreover, Trump won basically the same percentage of white voters as Romney. Indeed, according to Pew Research, the percentage was virtually identical with Trump beating Clinton by 21 points and Romney beating Obama by 20 points. Clinton actually fell in the percentage of black voters. Trump outperformed Romney among black, Hispanic, and Asian voters. For example, despite all of the coverage of Trump’s illegal immigration comments, he received roughly 30% of all Hispanic votes.
The point is not to belittle the basis or numbers of opponents to Trump. Yet, there is an effort to establish a mythology that Trump was elected by white men and heavily opposed by women. Worse yet, there is an effort to portray him as some presidential pretender to the office. In reality, it is Democratic leaders who have abandoned tradition and denigrated our democracy by refusing to stand with the new president at his inauguration. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., said she would not attend because she did not want to “contribute to the normalization of the President-elect’s divisive rhetoric by participating in the inauguration.” That “normalization” is called the democratic process. We are celebrating not a particular victor but the fact that there was a victor — a democratically elected victor followed by a peaceful transition of power.
So, I will not be with my brother and friends at the protests. I will be home toasting the 71st oath of office . . . and, yes, the 45th president of the United States.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.