You’re Wrong, But Thank You: An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear President-Elect Trump,

You’re wrong. You may have calculated correctly that the Rust Belt’s resentment would turn the election. You were right that social media would turn popular opinion into fact and smear campaigns into accountability. You played the game right, but you’re still wrong.

You know that your status as a political outsider, as a wealthy white man, lends credence and forgiveness to every word that escapes your mouth, but you’re wrong in thinking you’re safe now. Now, you’re part of the Washington establishment, and I hope for your sake you have the faintest clue about how it works and how to move it. You’re my president, and you have to answer to me now.

You now have to answer to all of the people you wrote off, the people you reduced to the color of their skin, their faith, their sex lives, or their genitals.

Thank you for shaking us out of our complacency. For stopping us from believing that racism was over because we elected a black president or that sexism would be over if we elected a female president. Thank you for shedding light on the divisions that persist in American society — I don’t think we would have taken any of this as seriously had you lost tonight. We would have deemed your movement defeated when it would only have been pushed farther underground.

Now what matters is that we have a walking reminder of how far we have left to go instead of a hidden and increasingly radical pro-Trump crowd. Four years is the price we will have to pay (to quote your predecessor and your superior in every possible way) to stay fired up and ready to go.

When the results were first announced, I experienced an identity crisis unlike any I had ever experienced. I didn’t want to be American anymore. I felt betrayed by the country I used to be proud to call my own.

Then I got angry.

America is not yours. America belongs to everyone that believes in equality of opportunity, in a space for the persecuted to rise to their potential, and the radical idea that we are stronger as one. For you to deny that is to declare war on the values of the country you now lead. Do not claim to ‘Make America Great Again’ if you cannot adopt the principles that make me proud to be an American.

You don’t get to decide what makes someone American enough to get a seat at the table or access to the American dream. So I will pledge my life to the erosion of the idea that one person gets a leg up by the virtue of something they never worked for.

I have never felt more inspired to make a positive change in my community, in my country, or in the world at large. I’ll work so that no one else will ever know the pain of being made to feel unwelcome in the land they call home, or of being used as a scapegoat to whip up support in a disenfranchised voter base. My daughter will not have to watch as a man who only values her for the ways she can pleasure him becomes her head of state.

I will do everything in my power to make sure that your rhetoric has no place in the America of the future, even if it represents the will of the people today. Call me undemocratic, but I believe in progress over resentment and inclusivity over sectarianism.

You are not a champion or a visionary. You are a symptom of an America often overlooked and disregarded in the calculations which allow the powerful to decide which voices matter. Yet you are as significant as you are disgusting — you lit a fire under not only your supporters, but under those who refuse to let you define what it means to be American.

Superpower status be damned, we have work to do.

Yours sincerely,

Pauline Werner