Rescind The Appointment Of Steve Bannon

I have been in politics for five decades, and I have never seen anything like what we are seeing today. A man who lost the popular vote by more than two million votes is now the President-elect, and his election has sparked a wave of hate crimes across America.

This is a simple statement of fact. But it raises a critical question for us as a country: how do we respond to the election of Donald Trump?

Many Democrats want to work with Trump when we can. I understand and respect that impulse because Democrats like to get things done. It’s why many of us got into government in the first place.

If Trump wants to pursue policies that will help working people, Democrats should take a pragmatic approach. Because Democrats have a responsibility to improve the lives of Americans. But we also have other responsibilities.

We have a responsibility to be the voice of the millions of Americans sitting at home, afraid that they are unwelcome in Donald Trump’s America.

We have a responsibility to prevent Trump’s bullying, aggressive behavior from becoming normalized in the eyes of Americans — especially the millions of young people who are watching and wondering if sexual assault is now a laughing matter.

We have a responsibility to say that it is not normal for the KKK to celebrate the election of a President they view as their champion with a victory parade.

In other words, we have a responsibility to lead.

Indeed, a majority of Americans opposed Trump. Many of my Republican colleagues in this chamber opposed Trump. And they were not alone: Trump will be the first president to take office having lost the popular vote by more than two million votes.

Every day for the past week, a majority of American voters have awakened to a difficult reality: not only did the man who lost the popular vote win the election, but his election sparked a rise in hate crimes and threats of violence.

Since Election Day, the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported 315 incidents of harassment and intimidation. That is the same number of incidents that are typically reported in a five- to six-month period.

Overwhelmingly, the hateful acts are anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic, anti-African American, anti-woman, anti-LGBT, anti-Semitic, and anti-Asian. I have heard these stories myself, from friends and family.

They lead to one unavoidable conclusion: many of our fellow Americans believe that Trump’s election validates the kind of bullying, aggressive behavior Trump modeled on a daily basis.

If we fail to hold Trump accountable, we all bear a measure of responsibility for normalizing his behavior.

This letter was written by a seventh-grade student in Rhode Island, the day after the election:

“I’m extremely scared especially being a woman of color that the president of the country that I was born and live in, is making me feel unsafe when I usually don’t feel unsafe. It even scarier because this man who is now the president of the United States of America has said such rude, ignorant and disrespectful things about women and all different types of people and is now in charge of our country. I want to feel safe in my country but I no longer can feel safe with someone like Donald Trump leading this country.”

Our president is supposed to make our children feel safe. But on Wednesday, a seventh-grade girl awoke feeling frightened to be a woman of color in America because Donald Trump was elected president. If we ignore her voice, she will be left to conclude that we, as a nation, find her fear acceptable.

How do we show her that she does not have to be afraid? The first step is facing reality. No matter how hard the rest of us work, the main responsibility lies with the man who inspired the fear. President-elect Trump must act immediately to make Americans — like that seventh-grade girl — feel that they are welcome in his America.

Healing the wounds he inflicted will take more than words. Talk is cheap and Tweets are cheaper. Healing the wounds is going to take action.

So far, rather than healing these wounds, Trump’s actions have deepened them. In his first official act, Trump appointed a man who is seen as a champion of white supremacy as the #1 strategist in his White House.

By placing a champion of White Supremacists a step away from the Oval Office, what message does Trump send to the young girl who woke up Wednesday afraid to be a woman of color in America? It is certainly not a message of healing.

If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing he should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon. As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office, it will be impossible to take Trump’s efforts to heal the nation seriously.

So I say to Donald Trump: take responsibility. Rise to the dignity of the office instead of hiding behind your Twitter account.

Show America that racism, bullying and bigotry have no place in your White House.