U.S. Should Rely on Constitution in Turbulent Times
In the months since the presidential election, I have heard people question our system of democracy. This is understandable, as the democratic process led to a result that many find abhorrent and in conflict with the United States’ core values. However, as we seek ways to resist Trump and move forward, we must follow the leads of former President Barack Obama, former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and commit ourselves to abiding by the Constitution.
From the moment the election results were announced, Obama and Clinton have been two of the staunchest advocates for a peaceful transition of power. Clinton accepted her loss in a stirring concession speech, asking her supporters not to question the election results but to move forward.
“We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future,” she said. Despite her loss, Clinton dedicated herself to the task of being a peacemaker, stepping aside for the president-elect and even stoically attending his inauguration.
Obama has taken a similar track, immediately reaching out to Trump after the election in an attempt to advise and aid the incoming president. He encouraged Democrats to be patient and open-minded, from Nov. 9 through his historic farewell address in Chicago.
“Democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders quarreled and compromised and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one,” he said during his farewell address.
Neither Obama nor Clinton focused on disagreement or division. Instead, they insisted on the necessity of unifying the country.
These actions taken by our former President and former presidential candidate weren’t only for Trump’s benefit; they were for ours. By respecting the law, even when it contradicted their instincts and ideals, they strove to provide the stability, impartiality and fairness that our turbulent nation needs. Our Constitution was written not to judge individuals or divide us, but to protect and bind us under common principles.
In this past week, another law-respecting figure garnered attention when Yates announced that the Department of Justice could not justifiably defend President Trump in banning refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Trump fired her for “betraying the Department of Justice.”
While Trump responded emotionally, Yates made her decision on legal grounds, saying “I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.” Trump’s lack of appreciation for that fact is both disconcerting and telling. He is biased, emotional and fickle in his policies.
In determining the best means of resistance, Democrats up and down the line, from Senators to canvassers, have a lot to learn from Obama, Clinton and Yates. Every American cherishes their own ideals, but resisting Trump isn’t simply a matter of stating that we believe he is wrong and that we are right. Regardless of the intensity of our convictions in our beliefs, we are all only human; one group has no right to assert itself as superior to another. Instead, we must use the law as the basis for our arguments and resistance.
If there is one thing Americans likely all share, it is our demand for independence and self-determination. The Constitution is one of the most complete representations of these values and relying on it will not only legally shield Americans from the effects of Trumpism, but will serve as a more useful point from which to argue. Our Constitution was written as a direct response to autocracy and the sufferings of those without representation or right. By sticking to the tenets of our Constitution, we protect our legacy and freedoms as Americans and embolden our resistance to Trump. Like Yates, Democrats should be courageous in rejecting any illegal orders from our new executive department. And like Clinton and Obama, Democrats should be mindful to accept and respect lawful behavior from our President, such as with his Supreme Court nominations or economically conservative decisions.
Resistance is vital to communicate many Americans’ disagreement with Trump’s policies. Protestors have the right to form and express our opinions. But if we want to make real change, taking the high road is important. This is one movement in a nation with a rich history of social revolutions; we ourselves won’t be here for much of America’s history, but the degree to which we can “preserve, protect and defend the U.S. Constitution” is essentially related to our nation’s ability to overcome the next four years.