On December 3, Donald Trump once again took to Twitter to whine about a TV comedy sketch, posting: “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live - unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can't get any worse. Sad.”
The SNL cold open, incidentally, was poking fun at the President-elect’s inability to stay off his Twitter account long enough to, say, sit through an entire intelligence briefing—and, at his penchant for concerning himself with pettiness online, even while drastically more urgent priorities are at hand.
The irony was not lost on me. I tweeted back, “Jesus f***ing Christ, @realDonaldTrump. You are the president-elect. Pick your f***ing battles, man. You're embarrassing yourself.”
I wasn’t finished. Over the course of two dozen tweets, I tore into him, posting, “Baldwin's impression isn't ‘Sad.’ You know what's sad? In 7 weeks, you'll be responsible for 330 million lives, and you can't think of anything better to do than tweet about a comedy show. You know that actual lives are at stake, right?…Do you know how many trans people were murdered since Election Day? Do you know how many veterans killed themselves? Do you know how many children went to bed tonight without enough food to eat?”
I went on to call him an impostor, and a fraud. I called his claim of millions of illegal voters “absurd,” and accused him of propagandizing. I called him out for stacking his cabinet with cronies, and for inviting his children—who are, explicitly, supposed to distance themselves from his administration, given their roles in his companies—to attend diplomatic meetings.
Finally, I said, “We will not allow you to trample our civil rights! We will not allow you to destroy the progress we have made!...We will #RESIST until abortion is accessible to everyone who needs it. Until LGBTQ are safe & healthy, until people of color are safe.” Then, to everyone: “We cannot ‘wait and see.’ [Trump] is telling us, here and now, what he is going to do. Believe him... ‘Millions’ of ‘illegal’ votes is not a claim about reality…It is a warning, a threat [to suppress the vote]. Pay attention. Resist.”
This message has seemed to resonate with people. My so-called “tweetstorm” went viral, garnering tens of thousands of retweets, and appearing on multiple mainstream media outlets the following morning. I gained 90,000 Twitter followers in one day. Many people even asked me to set up a Patreon profile (a crowd-funding platform for content creators), so that they could donate to me in support of my continued activism efforts—which I was flattered, and honored, to do.
So, who’s the woman behind the tweets? And what set me off, tearing into him so aggressively, and publicly?
My name is Danielle Muscato. I’m 32, I have half a college degree, and I don’t think I’m anybody special. I’m a civil rights activist, an atheist, a musician, and a transgender woman from Missouri. I’ve been an activist since 2011, writing articles, organizing events, appearing in the media, and doing public speaking and formal debates. I talk about topics of progressive political and social interest, such as separation of religion and government, abortion access, and Black Lives Matter. There are many people, both professionals and volunteers, who care about and do the very same things that I care about and do.
I believe, simply, that I said what a lot of Americans have already been thinking, for months now—and following my “tweetstorm,” a lot of people confirmed this to me, as well. I was simply fed up, and decided to let it all out.
I hardly begrudge a president-elect taking a break from preparing for the presidency to watch a few minutes of television. But when I see in the news that Trump is skipping intelligence briefings, or that he’s waffling on moving into the White House versus splitting his time in Trump Tower, this sends a message—or rather, shouts it: Donald Trump has no real passion for, or interest in, this job. In my view, he ran for president for attention, and for the enrichment of his brand, and never expected—or even wanted—to win. But despite losing the popular vote by millions, he did win, and here we are. In my view, the President-elect’s horrifying inability to be trusted with something as simple as his Twitter account qualifies as a national emergency. Remember, in seven weeks, we are going to hand him sole discretion over the nuclear launch codes. (If you’ve never seen the film Thirteen Days, about the Cuban Missile Crisis, I recommend it.)
I did not watch Saturday Night Live in its entirety last weekend; I don’t own a TV. Like many Americans, and especially many transgender people, I am homeless. I live in a minivan, and I write my articles and lectures using the “socialist” tax-funded internet access at a public library. I eat protein powder mixed with water for most of my meals, and I read a lot. It wasn’t always this way: Two years ago, I was the director of public relations at a respected national non-profit, until I was laid off, and then lost my apartment, at the same time that I experienced a number of health problems that make finding work difficult—but that I cannot afford to treat properly. I’m ashamed of being homeless, and until this moment, only a handful of my close friends were aware of it. I’m not disclosing this here to seek pity: This is not about me. This is about something much bigger than me.
Rather, I want everyone to understand the reality of what it is like to be poor in America: a country in which nearly two-thirds of people cannot afford a $500 car repair; a country that, unlike virtually every other industrialized country, does not guarantee health care to all its people. A country that, despite being the richest country in the world, has a terrifying lack of social safety nets for its most vulnerable citizens—people who cannot afford to go to college, people who have chronic health problems, people who were not born to rich parents or who have been disowned by their families, people who belong to stigmatized and marginalized groups. A country in which the average CEO is paid more than 350 times what the average worker makes—double the ratio of the country with the second largest CEO-to-worker pay gap, Switzerland, where CEOs average 150 times what the average worker makes. That’s 350 times the average: not the lowest-paid worker, not the janitor—the average, middle manager-type pay.
As is the case for many Americans, proper health care—even preventive health care—is nearly impossible to access for people like me. I am hardly alone in this; many Americans struggle to pay their medical bills, which are the leading cause of bankruptcy—a concept utterly foreign to our Canadian neighbors to the north, to Brits, and to countless others in dozens of countries around the world, in places where universal, guaranteed health care is a reality, and to govern otherwise would be unthinkable.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a president-elect who cares, deeply, about the health, welfare, and wellbeing of every single American, regardless of income, education level, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, country of origin, or any other factor. I am genuinely frightened of what even the first 100 days of a Trump administration will mean in practice for someone like me, who struggles to afford food—let alone her medications and doctor co-pays, even with an Affordable Care Act insurance plan. I do not believe Donald Trump could possibly be bothered to care about people like me, as he cares only about himself, and his children, whom he views as extensions of himself. And if it were true that he intends to let Mike Pence do all the real decision-making, I’m in even more trouble: Pence is the stuff of nightmares for LGBTQ people.
I believe it is absolutely necessary that the rest of us actively, consistently, and loudly call out Donald Trump, continually, each and every time he inches away from what is right, what is ethical, what is appropriate, and what is just—no matter which side of the aisle we’re on. In the words of writer and blogger Jonathan Korman, “Fascism accumulates power by testing people.” It is imperative that we resist Trump, that we send a univocal message at each and every turn, that we remain completely and absolutely intolerant of the racist, hateful, and literally dangerous speech and actions—before his ideas become normalized, and well before they become codified into public policy. Complacency is death, for potentially millions of people around the world, as well as within our borders.
If we even begin to allow Trump’s outrageousness to decline to normalcy, we have already lost. To preserve the progress we have made—or as much of it as possible—we have no choice: We must resist. It is our only hope. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and some of us will not survive. But I believe that this is a fight worth fighting. I intend to do my part, and I hope that you will join me.