The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion After Trump’s ‘shithole’ obscenity, my president doesn’t exist

President Trump gestures as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 12. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

I’ve never been afraid to say exactly what I think of President Trump and his never-veiled bigotry. I’ve been calling him and the campaign he ran racist, xenophobic and misogynistic since he descended (physically and metaphorically) that escalator on June 16, 2015. But one thing I never uttered was #notmypresident.

Twitter was awash in that hashtag in the early days of the Trump presidency. When I saw it on a protester’s sign in the park across from the White House, I winced. Yes, Trump more than proved himself worthy of such opprobrium. But once the American people speak at the ballot box, the person in the Oval Office must be accepted as our president.

Follow Jonathan Capehart's opinionsFollow

Trump squandered the moral authority of the presidency when he deemed “very fine people” the white supremacists who unleashed racial and anti-Semitic terror on Charlottesville last August. But when Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) confirmed reports that Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?,” I found myself with one persistent thought: He’s not my president.

My president recognizes America’s power as a beacon of hope and inspiration around the world. My president intuitively understands that while freedom and liberty are universal ideals that know no boundary, the United States projects them and protects them around the world. My president doesn’t play with his nation’s problematic and still-complicated racial history as he would a fully loaded gun in a sadistic game of Russian roulette. My president would never feel compelled, once again, to say that he is “the least racist person you have ever interviewed.” My president is supposed to be a representation of our better selves — not perfect, but always striving for the unattainable goal of perfection by doing our best to live up to our ideals.

My president knows that “shithole countries” have helped to make this country great. That we are nothing and would be nothing were it not for the free labor from Africa that built our solid foundation or the immigrants who brought their labor and dreams to a land where freedom and liberty were in greater supply. My president would be in awe of those who risk all to get to our shores and would respect their sacrifice.

My president doesn’t exist.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj
Subscribe to Cape Up, Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast