Opposition is patriotic to some

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, December 29, 2016

Meet Megan Hicks, sore loser.

The Philadelphian was camped on a bench in the Pennsylvania state Capitol rotunda in Harrisburg on Monday morning, waiting, like the rest of us, for the Keystone State’s presidential electors to go through a hugely symbolic, yet no less hugely important, exercise.

And it did, right on time.

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At 12:54 p.m., barely an hour after the gaveled into session in the ornate chamber of state House of Representatives, Pennsylvania’s 20 electors, all of them Republican, unanimously cast their votes for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

And with that, the Manhattan mogul and his running-mate officially cemented the first GOP presidential victory in Pennsylvania in 28 years. Pennsylvania was supposed to be part of the vaunted blue wall that saved Hillary Clinton on Election Day. It didn’t hold.

Hicks knew the result was coming. She knew it even before she rolled into Pennsylvania’s capital city on a freezing cold December morning And she knew there was nothing she could do to change the result. But she was protesting anyway.

“Showing up is a very important habit to get into,” she said. “We’re not going gently. We know who won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.”

She wasn’t alone.

More than 100 protesters gathered on the Capitol steps to wave banners (a lot of them connecting Trump to a certain Russian strongman), to sing patriotic songs (over and over again), and to officially register their displeasure with the incoming administration.

“Trump is not our president,” they chanted at one point.

Hicks knew full well what Trump’s legions of supporters thought of her and her fellow protesters: She’s a sore loser who should just go home, sit quietly, and let the President-elect get about the business of making … well … you know the rest.

You didn’t have to look any further than Twitter for evidence of that sentiment.

“These people are sad excuses for Americians (sic),” a Twitter user named Toni Maneval wrote in response to the Harrisburg protests. “ … take the loss with dignity & go home to cry the blues. Trump won fair & square … she lost!!!”

Which is rich when you consider that some members of the loyal opposition (aided and abetted by the White House’s next occupant) spent eight years protesting President Barack Obama and questioning his parentage, citizenship and religious beliefs — often in the most vile of terms.

And that went to the fundamental tension in the Pennsylvania capitol – and, likely, in state capitols across the country on Monday:

Can America’s tradition of the peaceful transition of power survive the installation of a president whose critics fear — not without justification — doesn’t respect democratic norms and centuries of engrained political tradition?

From the outside that looked like it just might be the case. A deeper look cast grim doubts.

“Today we’re here to honor a tradition that is at the heart of our democracy … it is a process of peaceful transition,” Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said during a brief speech to electors.

“It is unique around the world, it’s special. We don’t need armies, we don’t need uprisings to change our country’s leadership. We just need 538 people in rooms like this across the country,” he said.

And then there’s this:

“We know one thing is certain no matter what happens today Trump has no mandate for his agenda if he does become president,” Kai Newkirk of Democracy Spring, a group helping to organize of the protests in capitals around the country, said.

Trump’s victory is “illegitimate because he lost by 3 million votes and there’s a movement growing across our country that’s going to defend our democracy and make sure we have an America for all of us, not just the elite Trump represents,” Newkirk said.

I believe it’s their right to be here and state their opinion,” Bob Asher, a GOP elector from Montgomery County, outside Philadelphia, told reporters after the vote.

When he was asked if he believed Trump could get the country to pull together, he said, “I believe we’ll get the job done … This nation seems to have a lot of spunk and resolve.”

“But that’s also going to require a concession from Trump and his camp followers: They need to drop the sore winner act.

“We are really the people that love this country,” Trump said during a stop in Mobile, Ala., last week on his self-aggrandizing ‘thank you’ tour.

That pretty firmly closes the door on cooperation. So maybe it’s understandable that Hicks isn’t about to back down.

“It’s democracy,” she said. “It’s a muscle. If you don’t exercise it, it’ll atrophy.”

Monday changed nothing. It just flipped the script.

John L. Mickek is an award-winning political journalist. He can be reached at kmickek@pennlive.com