President-elect Donald Trump's incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said during an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos that people questioning the legitimacy of Trump's presidency should be silenced by President Obama, who "should step up and get his people in line, and tell them to grow up and accept the fact that they lost the election." It is an argument that is fundamentally incompatible with the basic tenets of a democracy.
Reince Priebus, who will serve as Donald Trump’s chief of staff, is, like many of his fellow Republicans, outraged that Democrats would, based on a consensus view of the intelligence community that Russia intervened in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf, question the legitimacy of his presidency.
Brushing aside the breathtaking hypocrisy that his party, led by Trump, questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency for eight years, based on nothing but a thoroughly discredited conspiracy theory, Priebus agitatedly called on Obama to “step up and get his people in line, and tell them to grow up and accept the fact that they lost the election.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is a fact that Donald Trump was questioning whether President Obama was eligible to serve as president under the Constitution.
PRIEBUS: And many people were, George, but that issue’s been resolved for years now, and it’s been resolved for at least two years in Donald Trump’s mind. To bring that up as justification for John Lewis questioning the legitimacy of the democratic activity that has been around since the beginning of our country is wrong. And the outrage is—
STEPHANOPOULOS: Just a factual point: He didn’t stop raising these questions until late in this campaign. Not two years.
PRIEBUS: But look, George, that’s not the point! The point is not where Barack Obama was born. The point is is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump, who won in an electoral landslide. [sic] That’s the issue; that’s where the outrage should be — not old news, but the fact that we are preparing for the transfer of power, and we have been working with President Obama, hand-in-glove, and I think that they, including the President, should step up and get his people in line, and tell them to grow up and accept the fact that they lost the election.
It is deeply chilling that the official position of the incoming Trump administration is that dissent should be disallowed. That is not the way a democracy is meant to work. That is the way dictatorships work.
Citizens of a democratic country cannot and should not be expected to “get in line” behind a politician with whom they disagree. If Trump did not want to be criticized, then perhaps he should have sought a different line of work than leader of a diverse democratic nation of more than 300 million people, with a Constitutional right to dissent and an implicit duty to hold their leaders to account.
Like his boss, Priebus tends to speak in projection — and when he admonishes Trump opponents to “grow up,” he is projecting onto us the immaturity inherent in demanding capitulation, which is about as sophisticated an argument as a toddler throwing a tantrum.
Criticism and dissent are not reflective of a refusal to “accept” the loss. They are reflective of an acknowledgement of that loss which came by way of election interference.
Those of us who unyieldingly reject the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency are not doing so just because we do not like Donald Trump; we are doing so because we deeply value and desperately want to preserve our democracy.
That Priebus’ response to that is to deploy a sickening argument advocating a further erosion of democratic principles is horrifying.