The inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States this past

Friday (January 20, 2017) sparked the biggest protest demonstration in the entire history

of the United States.  The protests were very ubiquitous, as they took place in more than

500 cities across the US.  Nor were the protest demonstrations limited to the United

States, as they also took place in numerous international cities as well, including London,

United Kingdom and Oslo, Norway.  It is believed that the protest demonstrations in

Los Angeles attracted the greatest number of participants, with the nation´s capital

Washington D.C. coming in second.  It has been estimated that the total number of

protestors is north of 3.3 million people.

 

Given the fact that many polarizing figures have been elected President in recent US

history (e.g. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama) many might ask what

makes Donald Trump the most polarizing US President of them all.  I believe that the

evidence points in the direction of there being numerous reasons underlying this

phenomenon.  For starters, Donald Trump has been a very famous person for a very

long time, going all the way back to the early 1980s.  Hence, many people already had

strong feelings about Trump one way or the other, probably to a greater extent than

virtually everybody else who had been elected U.S. President in recent history.

 

Another reason underlying the unprecedented backlash against Trump is that his

campaign rhetoric (during both the primary and the general election) was arguably

harsher and more overt than previous GOP Presidential candidates.  An example of this

is the fact that his rhetoric was deemed racist by many, such as when he said that a lot of

the Mexicans coming across the border were rapists and/or drug dealers, and when he

said that Judge Curiel (a US born judge of Mexican descent who presided over the Trump

University case) couldn´t be objective when it came to his case because he ¨was a

Mexican¨.

 

Another example of this is the fact that he fully embraced torture during the campaign as

a means to extract information from enemy combatants.  This was somewhat of a

contrast to previous GOP Presidential candidates like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney

who instead used the words ¨enhanced interrogation techniques¨ to describe harsher

methods of obtaining information from terrorist detainees.  Trump even went as far as

saying that he would support torture ¨Even if it didn´t work¨.  And yet other examples of

Trump campaign rhetoric that was regarded as draconian by many people (including even

many conservatives) were his proposals to round up and deport all of the undocumented

immigrants living in the U.S. as well as prohibit all Muslims who are not US citizens from

entering the US.

 

In addition to the unusually harsh tone of a lot of Trump´s campaign language and the

arguably draconian nature of many of his policy proposals, yet another reason that

underscores Trump´s unprecedented polarization is the fact that a lot of his proposals

are deemed to be unconstitutional by liberals and conservatives alike.  For starters, many

of his proposals are deemed to be a violation of the First Amendment.  The

aforementioned Muslim ban would be a prime example of this.  Another example would

be his proposal to change the libel and slander laws in the US to such an extent that

freedom of the press would be greatly curtailed.  Trump wants to make the libel and

slander law in the US to be more like the way that they are in the U.K., which would

effectively significantly shift the burden of proof in libel and slander lawsuits.  Such a shift

is deemed by many of all political stripes to be a violation of the First Amendment.

Additionally, his draconian proposals to punish Americans who burn the US flag by

imprisoning them for a year and/or stripping them of their citizenship is regarded as being

unconstitutional by many on the left, whereas he has espoused support for campaign

finance proposals which are believed to be unconstitutional by many on the right.  On top

of all of this, his advocacy for a nationwide ¨Stop and Frisk¨ policy as a means to reduce

crime is viewed as a violation of the 4th Amendment by many people.

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Another thing that factors into the protests is the fact that Trump lost the national

popular vote by nearly 3 million votes (around 2,865,000 votes).  While it is true that

George W. Bush also lost the popular vote to Al Gore just 16 years earlier, the popular

vote differential in the 2000 US Presidential election was only around 540,000 votes,

which is less than one-fifth of what the popular vote differential was in the 2016 US

Presidential election.  One could very easily make the case that Bush could have won the

national popular vote in 2000 if it was his main objective to do so.  It is much harder

to make the same case for Trump during the 2016 US Presidential election given the

much wider margin in the popular vote.  In fact, of all of the electoral vote winners in the

history of US Presidential elections, only Rutherford Hayes in 1876 performed worst in

regards to the popular vote margin than Trump did in 2016.  Trump´s poor showing in the

popular vote contributes to many people viewing him as an illegitimate President, which

in turn serves as another catalyst for the protests.

 

And I believe that the final factor contributing to this past weekend´s protest

demonstrations is the belief held by many American liberals that Donald Trump did not

defeat the legitimate Democratic Presidential nominee, who they believe is Bernie

Sanders.  This is because they believe that the Democratic National Committee (DNC)

rigged the primaries and caucuses to virtually ensure that Hillary Clinton would win the

Democratic Presidential nomination.  Specifically, they believe that the DNC utilized

Super-delegates (something that the Republican Party does not have), intentionally held

the primary debates during less than optimal times to ensure low viewership, and kept

voting precincts which favored Hillary Clinton open for longer hours than they did for

voting precincts which favored Bernie Sanders.  Such people believe that had the DNC

been impartial that Bernie Sanders would have probably been the Democratic Presidential

nominee.  Additionally, they believe that had Bernie Sanders been the Democratic

Presidential nominee that he would have defeated Donald Trump, and hence Donald

Trump would not even be the President now.  The most obvious piece of evidence to

support this belief is the fact that exit polls taken on election day showed that voters

chose Sanders over Trump by a margin of approximately 10 percentage points in a

hypothetical general election match-up between Trump and Sanders.  And more

specifically, the polling data indicates that Bernie Sanders would have won enough states

(including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, all states which Clinton lost) to have

achieved a victory in the electoral college, which is what really matters.  Sanders´

comparative advantages over Clinton as a general election candidate in 2016 include the

fact that he has been consistently to the left of her on international trade policy (by

embracing more protectionist policies than Clinton has), is viewed as being anti-

establishment in the ultimate anti-establishment year (in contrast to Clinton who was

viewed by most as being an establishment candidate), and the fact that voters view

Sanders as being more honest and trustworthy than Clinton.