Citizenship in the era of Trump

Since Nov. 9, 2016, “Not my president” became a common phrase among supporters of Sec. Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama. For many, it’s a sign of protest and resistance. As columnist Lindy West wrote, “…I live in the America that won — the America with art and empathy and a free press and fierce protest.” However, a strong and durable defense of our democracy over the next four years may require the adoption of a phrase unthinkable for many, including me: “my president.” 

During his Farewell Address, former President Obama remarked, “We, the people, give [the Constitution] power. We, the people, give it meaning — with our participation, and with the choices that we make and the alliances that we forge.” 

The presidency is just an office and the president simply a person who fills it. But, as former President Obama frequently reminded the nation in his trademark speeches, the belief and work of the American people makes possible the outcomes and legacy of a president. It’s what the rallying cry “yes, we can” is all about. 

The United States Constitution states in Article II, Sec. 3, “[the President] shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed…” Article II, Sec. 4 continues, “[the President] shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump took an oath to execute the Office of the President of the United States. We must use our voice as citizens to reinforce the fact the office doesn’t belong to him–it belongs to the people. In the era of Trump, the phrase “my president” is not a symbol of endearment or nationalist unity; it’s a reminder of where power resides in a democratic society–with its citizens. 

In the months and years to come, the energy and resources needed to fulfill the our duty as citizens may come from unexpected places. 

For example, The National Democratic Institute works around the globe to promote citizenship, transparency, and accountability in government. While the bulk of their work exists abroad, their efforts could not be more relevant for the issues we now face at home. Their website reads, “It is not enough to work only on setting up democratic institutions and processes. These institutions and processes must be put to work…”

As Sec. Clinton acknowledged during her concession speech, Trump is now our president. And in 1,381 days he will answer to us, the citizens of the United States. In the meantime, let’s put our institution of democracy to work. 

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