What Happens When a Privileged White Man is Told “No” For the First Time?
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the chaotic events following the recent US General Election.
We’re also probably familiar with the heaping hoards of people who are citing election fraud as the reason for Trump’s loss. And guess who is at the head of this rhetoric? Donald J. Trump himself.
A couple of days ago on social media, I saw someone post about how “Trump just hasn’t ever had to accept defeat before.” And all of a sudden, a flood of ideas came through me, this fierce inspiration, food for thought that had never crossed my mind before. And I realized something: the chaos that we’re witnessing stems from denial. It comes from our president having to hear the word “no” and refusing to accept it.
Let’s be honest: this is quite possibly the first time in Trump’s white, male, privileged, cisgender, heterosexual, wealthy life that he has ever heard the word “no” so concretely — and had no option but to accept it.
A man who once got a “small loan of a million dollars” is not used to hearing the word “no.” A man who has no qualifications or credentials in politics and served as a businessman for decades — but somehow managed to win a presidential election four years ago — is not used to hearing the word “no.” A man who committed tax fraud but has never been punished for it is not used to being told “no.” A man who was on trial to be impeached, but somehow remains in office with millions of diehard supporters, is not used to hearing the word “no.” A man who is routinely ableist, sexist, misogynist, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic can do so without remorse; he has never had to hear the word “no” from someone and actually honor it, because his shenanigans continue without accountability. A man who sexually assaulted tens (maybe even hundreds) of women but was never once been held accountable or had to serve a sentence or pay a fine for such an offense is used to being told “no” by women and quickly dismissing it as if it’s nothing. He’s not used to accepting the word “no.”
Our president has simply lived a life where he either does what he pleases and never hears the word no because he is privileged enough to act without consequence — or he has heard the word no, but he is privileged enough to sit there arrogantly and refuse to accept it without ever having to face repercussions.
This is terrifying.
I often think of the double-standard that we live in. I think of how Hilary’s email scandal was the downfall of her campaign. If Trump had a scandal like that, it would be in the news one day, dismissed by millions, and completely forgotten the next. No one would criticize him. He would not lose votes or have to experience the hatred that Hilary did. He would simply go on as normal. No harm, no foul. Trump himself has said that he could “shoot someone in the street” and still not lose any of his supporters. I am afraid he might be right.
I think of politicians like Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose every moves are attacked and ridiculed, especially because they are women of color. Regardless of political views, it’s very apparent that the disapproval people harbor for them is motivated by biases and racial and gender prejudice. I think of how the word “terrorist” is dropped on the daily to describe Omar, who is only trying to do her job and has never had a history of crime — in fact, she has been nothing but kind and tolerant even towards her haters. I think of AOC, who has been called a “bitch” by congressmen before, and although she addressed it head-on, it was clearly not her first rodeo. She’s been bullied and called names by people since the beginning of her career. And we’re talking about two women who have never even remotely broken the law or acted in a violent or unkind way towards others. These women have never committed tax fraud, assaulted anyone, harassed anyone, mimicked a disabled person, or manipulated people with fear.
I think of Elizabeth Warren, who came so far in her campaign for President. She has also been the object of some of Trump’s name-calling, but despite him making her another one of his punching bags, she rose above. She still ran for President. She still worked her butt off. And even though she probably did more in her year of campaigning than he has done in his whole presidency, she still graciously admitted defeat and withdrew when Biden received the nomination. She didn’t attack her opponents. She didn’t even attack Donald Trump. She was an adult about it; she expressed sadness, conceded her loss, and resumed her fight for equality.
I think of Barack Obama, who endured years of discrimination from people who doubted his heritage, his birthplace, and his competence as a politician. He was constantly barraged with negative comments spewing that he was inept, a terrorist, lied about his birth certificate, and several other false claims. Still, he went on with his job and did his best. He was even polite and peaceful to Trump during the transition of power from his presidency to Trump’s inauguration ceremony.
I think of survivors like Christine Blasey Ford and Chanel Miller, who have had to hear the word “no” countless times. They have had to stand in front of a crowd of doubtful people who consciously choose to side with their abusers. These women went to court, testified, and pursued justice. And when it didn’t come, they didn’t have a tantrum. Yes, they used their voices — Chanel Miller even wrote a brilliant book about her whole experience — but they did not cower and fuss and refuse to accept the verdict. They tried, as best they could, to go on, despite knowing in their heart that they were cheated and betrayed.
So why did I bring up all of these people? Why am I using all of these examples when I’m supposed to be talking about Trump?
I brought all of these people up today because each of them is a perfect example of someone who is used to the word “no.” Whether it’s because of their race, status, gender, sexuality, or background, they have had to stand up against adversity and hear the word “no” time after time after time. These people recognize that it’s unfair. They recognize that the world is not ready to appreciate their power yet. These are people who deserve every piece of progress that they have made, who have worked hard to get where they are today, who have been treated poorly from the very beginning, who have constantly had to prove themselves to society even though they never should have had to.
But when have we ever seen these people attack their opponent? When have we ever seen these people make false claims in order to get what they want? When have we seen these people refuse to admit defeat? When have we seen these people fight like toddlers over something that they didn’t even earn in the first place?
The answer is because they can’t. The world would come down on them, close in on them after one mistake. It’s already happened before.
And these people have heard the word “no” before. They are used to having to persevere, to work twice as hard for something they rightfully deserve.
Trump is not. His privilege has allowed him to live an existence filled with manipulation and lies and cheating. His privilege has allowed him to get exactly what he wants without even going through the due process to get it. His privilege has allowed him to be absolved of blame, even when he clearly needs to own up to his actions. His privilege has allowed him to get away with crimes, falsities, discrimination, and threats without ever feeling remorse or questioning his own ethics.
So what happens when a person with this amount of privilege is faced with the word “no”? What happens when they are finally defeated?
Answer: election fraud.
Answer: they will do anything to take back the truth. They will do anything to convince their supporters, and the world around them, that they are the fair-and-square winner. They will stop at nothing to get exactly what they want.
And that’s what Trump’s doing now.
He is refusing to accept the word “no.” He is hearing it and he is shrugging it off as if it’s nothing. He is treating Americans as his puppets, and this country as his own personal playground, a territory that is his over which to take ownership.
I understand more than ever now why all of these women have come forward for decades to tell the world that he didn’t listen to them when they said no. I understand now why people who have been victimized by him have been warning us, since day one, that he is a pathological liar. I always believed them, but I get it now. Everyone should be getting it by now. We are watching it unfold with our own eyes this time.
He is one of our leaders, and he represents this country. Why are we allowing this to continue? Why are lawmakers siding with him and insisting on fraud investigations, despite multiple pieces of credible evidence that nothing happened? Why are we standing idly by and letting this man use his privilege, once again, to deny the power of “no”?
It is sobering — and terrifying — how many people there are in this country that are willing to not only excuse his actions, but actively enable them. Instead, we should be confronting him. We should be condemning his response to this situation. He is obstructing justice, peace, and the vital functions of our government. He is corrupt, and he needs to be stopped.
I dream of a day when the injustices that plague us will finally drive us to change. I dream of a day when boundaries will be respected, and kindness and peace will be restored once again.
I dream of a day when the word “no” will be enough. I dream of a day when those “no”s will be accepted. When they will finally be traded in for a “yes” for someone who deserves it.