PIQUERO: Protests are your right, but he’s your president
Opinions Column: The Principled Millennial
There we have it.
After 18 months of grueling campaigning, countless speeches and rallies and over $2.6 billion spent, the 2016 presidential election has finally come to a close. Donald Trump is, unequivocally, the next President of the United States.
Despite this seemingly indisputable fact, many demonstrations have popped up in large cities and college campuses around America denouncing the outcome of this election, including our own campus. Their protest seems to stem from their disagreement with President-elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies, which they deem as immoral and unethical. They loudly proclaim their support for Rutgers to become a “sanctuary campus,” meaning that undocumented immigrant students will receive special status so as not to be subjected to legal action due to their illegal status.
I would like to preface this article by irrevocably declaring my support of freedom of speech and a citizen’s right to protest. It's quintessentially American to challenge and object to certain actions ordained or supported by our government. The Constitution protects these rights wholeheartedly and without care of an individual's race, color or creed. Indeed this fundamental right is what distinguishes America from most other countries around the globe and what gives us a distinctive edge. The fundamental nature of a healthy democracy promotes such actions on the part of its subjects. However, I believe that the post-election movement discrediting the outcome of the election, degrading the institution of the presidency and rejecting the way we conduct democracy is all-together harmful and unproductive and only serves to further divide and disunite our republic.
A sober conversation can unquestionably be had regarding the merits of the Electoral College (the system that ultimately elects Trump in December). I believe that there are good points to be made in favor and against the institution. What I do not believe, however, is that it is justifiable to reject the President-elect wholesale based on the preconceived and established rules set prior to the election. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Trump both understood how the election worked, and both altered their campaign strategy as a result. This is not an issue of policy or ideology, this is an issue of respecting our constitutional way of democracy and rule of law.
The Electoral College was added to Article II of the U.S. Constitution by the Founders of this country in order to give added weight to smaller states who felt outmatched and outgunned when it came to presidential elections. The idea was that by adding slightly more weight to smaller states, larger states with considerably denser urban populations would be unable to control the outcome of presidential elections. Out of 57 elections that the United States has had, only five have ever been so close that the winner of the popular vote and the winner of the electoral vote did not match up. It's only fitting that in this time of great divide, frustration and anger, we would experience this phenomenon again.
The #NotMyPresident movement that has garnered significant attention following the election is a repudiation of this process. Supporters of the movement view the President-elect as illegitimate despite the fact that he constitutionally has every right to govern. In every legal sense imaginable, Donald Trump has every right to assume the office of the Presidency.
This disavowal on the part of the protesters (which I hypothesize is even greater than realized) is intrinsically damaging to the democratic culture that has provided so much for so many. In almost all ways it highlights the increasing disjointedness of American society that has practical and profound effects on everyone’s life. By rejecting the outcome of the election, it empowers Congress to continue opposition politics, which is the source of such unprecedented impotence and malaise in Washington. In addition to this, delegitimizing the President-elect sets a dangerous precedent for the future. By promoting this notion, it sets the standard for forthcoming elections whereby the losing group can automatically cry foul and claim that the eventual winner is somehow invalid. Make no mistake: This is exactly how revolutions are fermented.
Instead of advancing this extreme rhetoric, I think it would be more prudent for the protesters to petition for policies which they view as important to them, and against policies that they take issue with. The democratic process is meant to give a voice to groups of people who are underrepresented and undervalued. It is designed to alleviate public distress by means of public discourse and debate. The current demonstrations spreading across our country encompass none of these attributes.
My only hope is that we can look past this time of unparalleled hatred and division and toward a future where all of America is united under the core beliefs that have made this country the envy of the world. I pray that time is near.
Michael Piquero is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and history. His column, “The Principled Millennial,” runs on alternate Fridays.
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