Tom Perez: Dear President Trump, now more than ever, your words have consequences
President Obama earned the people's trust by fighting for them and being honest with them, and you must do the same, he writes
Editor’s Note: Tom Perez was the Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration and has served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The views expressed here are solely his.
President Donald J. Trump,
As of 12:01 PM ET today, you are the President of the United States. For the next four years, you will assume the responsibilities of our nation’s highest office. But while you won the Electoral College contest in November, you have yet to win the respect of most Americans.
As a civil rights attorney and the proud son of two immigrants from the Dominican Republic, I was appalled by your campaign. You appealed to our nation’s oldest fears and divisions, and you disguised all of this prejudice as patriotism. But now that you have taken an oath to serve the American people, I want to offer some words of wisdom – and of warning.
From the moment you launched your campaign nineteen months ago, you sought to divide and demonize people of every background. You called Mexicans criminals and rapists; you demeaned women and disparaged war heroes; you vowed to ban Muslims and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants; you even attacked a Gold Star family and a disabled reporter. And let us not forget the years you spent working to delegitimize President Barack Obama, our country’s first black president, with racist lies about his birthplace.
And your words had consequences. From schools to churches, your rhetoric fueled bigotry across the country and emboldened all those who wish to divide us by what we look like, where we come from, who we love, or how we pray.
When you weren’t attacking everyday Americans, you were making empty promises. You preached a gospel of jobs, jobs, jobs. But you’ve already shown your campaign to be nothing more than a long con.
Just look at your dangerously unqualified cabinet appointments. You claim you want to raise wages, but you’ve nominated a labor secretary that is the plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to stop millions of American workers from earning overtime pay. For attorney general, you’ve chosen a man who once said that immigrants from the Dominican Republic, my parents’ homeland, don’t have “a provable skill that would benefit [our country] or that would indicate their likely success in our society.” You have failed to appoint a single Latino cabinet member and have done away with the important tradition of appointing members of the opposite party. And instead of “draining the swamp” as you promised, you’ve moved Wall Street back into the White House.
President Obama carried himself with dignity and grace. He understood that democracy is bigger than any one person or party. And that principle guided every decision he made as president – no matter what was popular or politically expedient.
That’s how he led us out of the worst recession of our lifetime, brought unemployment down to 4.7%, and put millions of Americans back to work. Those are facts, not fake news.
That’s why he expanded health care for more than 20 million Americans and brought the uninsured rate below 10% for first time in our history. Those are facts, not fake news.
President Obama earned the American people’s trust by fighting for them and being honest with them, and you must do the same.
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Do not mistake our country for another business you can bankrupt – financially or morally. Do not mistake our people for another contractor you can cheat. Do not mistake our democracy for another one of your reality shows. Your name may be written into history as America’s 45th president, but we, the people, will decide how your story is told.
We won’t go tweet-for-tweet or insult-for-insult with you. We’ve got two better weapons in our arsenal: clipboards and people. And we’re going to build the strongest grassroots organizing force this country has ever seen.
When you try to go after immigrants living in the shadows, we will fight back.
When you try to side with big corporations over American workers, we will fight back.
When you try to crush middle class families while lifting up the wealthiest Americans, we will fight back.
When you try to take away people’s health care or a woman’s right to choose, we will fight back.
When you try to damage our environment and ignore the consequences of climate change, we will fight back.
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And when you try to undermine our democracy through division and despair, we will fight back.
For the next four years, we will not be intimidated by a bully in president’s clothing. We will fight every single attempt you make to stop or roll back progress, and we will continue to promote opportunity and equality in everything we do.
And unlike you, Mr. President, we keep our promises.