Donald Trump has just been sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I’m sitting at a Bolt Burger in Washington, D.C., watching the inauguration ceremony post-mortem play on several flatscreen TVs. A friend is sitting across from me. Her eyes are wide and wet. We have no words.
Last night I watched Trump signs burn at a protest outside the National Press Club, where leaders of the alt-right, a loose conglomeration of people who seek to make racism, xenophobia, and misogyny cool and current, were attending something called the Deploraball. Several hundred protesters were outside the event waving antifascist signs. One protester, a young white man in a black bandana, elbowed his way past me and said, “It was better when there were less media people here.” He didn’t speak for every protester, but I couldn’t help but think that the people attending the Deploraball might agree with him.
Earlier in the evening, Heidi Groover and I wandered down the National Mall, where Trump supporters were listening to Toby Keith. The walk between the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial was dotted with enormous screens echoing Fox News’ Trumpian propaganda. I stopped to bum a cigarette from a guy who was having an argument about feminism with a protester who was broadcasting the interaction on Facebook Live. This man told me that 70 percent of domestic violence attacks are perpetrated by women against men. I asked him for his source. He showed me something called “Newscastmedia.com,” and I told him that wasn’t credible. When the man asked for my sources on rape and domestic violence, I e-mailed him three reports from the CDC, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the DOJ’s Violence Against Women Survey. He told me he would read them later, then told me that more women are at risk of being raped because they are not strong enough to fight off men.
Later that night I threw on a dress and a blazer and attended a Young Republicans MAGA ball at Ultrabar. Wealthy young people in ball gowns sipped cocktails and rubbed their bodies against one another. The DJ played Beyoncé. An ambitious 21-year-old told me I was cute. I told him I was a reporter. Trump wasn’t his first choice, he said, but he thought America should give him a chance. I went outside to go bum another cigarette. I got one from a young man with a fashy haircut and an interesting pin showing a “Y” inside an inverted triangle. When I Googled this image later, I found out that it was called the “Dragon’s Eye,” an ancient Germanic symbol depicting the battle between good and evil.
Outside the Bolt Burger, I can hear a group of roughly 50 protesters being arrested, one by one, after being kettled into a street corner by dozens upon dozens of officers of the Metropolitan Police Department. Tear gas has been used, and the protest is growing. When I last saw them, they were holding up a sign that read, “Make Racists Afraid Again.”
But the racists are not afraid in DC this week. At Trump’s Tody Keith concert, one man wore a t-shirt reading “Blacks Make Racial Slurs & Commit Hate Crimes Too!!” The misogynists are not afraid, either. They are buying leftover RNC kitsch that reads “Trump That Bitch!” and plowing through crowds of young queer kids protesting outside security checkpoints. These people are the ones in power now.