Sen. Peters’ floor remarks on need for unity in wake of divisive election
U.S. Senator Gary Peters spoke on the floor on the U.S. Senate today about the need for unity in the wake of a deeply divisive election. Peters emphasized the need for President-elect Trump to show he is representing all of the American people — both those who voted for him and those who did not – and called on President-elect Trump to reconsider his appointment of Steve Bannon.
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“The United States of America has a number of defining characteristics – our diversity, our commitment to free enterprise, our ingenuity, and our creativity.
“American ingenuity has given us phones, automobiles, airplanes, and the internet. Our creativity has made us the world’s biggest exporter of culture – movies, television, and music ranging from Motown to Nashville and beyond.
“While these characteristics are central to who we are as a nation, I believe that it is our democratic system of republican government that truly defines who we are. The American Experiment began with the casting off of the British Monarchy as American patriots spilled blood for the right to control our own destiny.
“I am proud to be standing here today as a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and that one of my ancestors served with General George Washington at Valley Forge.
“Our ancestors learned firsthand that freedom is not free. And it is not easy. If you survey the systems of government in place across the planet since the advent of democracy in Greece over 2500 years ago, it is clear that democracy is the exception, not the rule.
“We live in a world that in 2016 still has theocracies, monarchies, and autocracies. The creation of a democracy can require revolution – but its preservation requires constant commitment and sacrifice.
“We must hold on to this commitment if we want to keep our democracy healthy.
“As we have worked toward the ‘more perfect union’ envisioned by the framers of the Constitution, we have abolished slavery and expanded the franchise to make sure all Americans can vote and have an equal say in our future.
“We have also welcomed new generations of Americans from every corner of the globe. Just as I am proud to be a Son of the American Revolution, I am proud to be the son of an immigrant.
“My father served in World War II and met my mother in France. She immigrated to the United States, started a family with my father, and found opportunity working as a nurse’s aide and SEIU union steward.
“My parents are part of the Greatest Generation – a generation of Americans who defeated Nazism in Europe; struggled to advance equality here at home during the Civil Rights Movement; and saw women move from the home to the factory floor to the company boardroom.
“Our memories can be short as we can become consumed in recent turmoil, but we cannot forget the challenges and successes of the past.
“We are fortunate to still have living veterans who liberated German concentration camps. Millions of Americans still remember the horrors of Jim Crow laws.
“As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ We have made progress in fits and starts, and we have done so – in significant part – due to our constitutional democracy.
“Every democracy is different, and ours continues to evolve. But successful democracies share two common traits.
“One – they have fair, vigorous, and participatory elections where citizens passionately support candidates of their choosing. And two – when the election is over, all parties accept the outcome and facilitate a peaceful, orderly transition of power.
“As long as these traits persist we will remain a successful democracy. While I am deeply disappointed by the outcome of last week’s presidential election, I accept it. So do President Obama and Secretary Clinton.
“I hope Americans of all political stripes can acknowledge President Obama’s commitment to putting President-elect Trump in a position where he can begin working for the good of the country.
“I also hope that all Americans are able to appreciate Secretary Clinton’s strength and resolve since the election and her acceptance of the Electoral College result – once again showing that the person who receives the most votes does not necessarily win – even though she received well over a million more votes than President-elect Trump nationally.
“The weeks after elections generally are a time for healing. While President Obama and Secretary Clinton have done their part, we remain a very polarized country.
“This has been a particularly contentious, abnormal election. I have never seen anything like it in my lifetime.
“During a campaign season, we need to engage in vigorous debates about the future of our country and vigorously advocate for our preferred candidates. But when it’s all said and done and the election is over, we must come together as country and do what is right for America.
We must seek a common good, especially at a time when the country is near equally divided.
“We need to think about the dreams that unite us, not the nightmares that could tear us apart.
“Michiganders from across the ideological spectrum want the same things: a job that pays a fair wage; the chance to send their children to good schools and live in safe neighborhoods; affordable, quality healthcare; and after they have worked their whole life, the ability to retire with dignity.
“While our economy continues to grow and create jobs, too many families find themselves unable to get ahead. We need to take a step back and ask some serious questions about whether our policies are helping everyone.
“Are American trade deals working? Are we doing enough to support American manufacturing?
While he tapped into some of these legitimate concerns over the past two years, it is no secret that President-elect Trump unfortunately ran a divisive campaign that stoked deep-seated fears and anxieties in many Americans.
“Much of the rhetoric of the Trump campaign far exceeded the acceptable norms of political discourse.
“We cannot have a mainstream political dialogue that demeans women and disabled Americans or that advocates for conversion therapy for LGBT Americans. It is dangerous; it is unacceptable – and it is not normal. And it must never be normal.
“We can never accept or normalize hatred. Trafficking in racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism is dangerous is unacceptable, and it is simply not normal. And it must never be normal.
“That is why appointing a White House Chief Strategist with ties to the White Nationalist movement is dangerous is unacceptable – and it is certainly not normal. And it must never be normal.
“I am deeply alarmed that President-elect Trump has appointed Mr. Bannon to such an important position, and I urge him to reconsider this decision.
“I am proud that Michigan is a diverse state. I have heard from over one thousand Michiganders about Mr. ’s appointment.
“Yes, some are angry, but most are scared. Scared that the America that has welcomed them – that welcomed my mother – is at risk of disappearing.
“I have heard from mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, African Americans, and Latino Americans. They are asking what their place will be in President Trump’s America as our American Experiment enters an unprecedented new era.
“As our nation continues to move forward, I would urge President-elect Trump to look back and consult the namesake of the city in which he will soon be living – President George Washington.
“In a letter written in 1790 to the Newport Hebrew congregation – at the time the largest community of Jewish families in America – President Washington succinctly addressed their fears of religious oppression. He wrote:
‘The Government of the United States – which gives to bigotry no sanction – to persecution no assistance – requires only that they who live under its protection – should demean themselves as good citizens.’
‘Every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’
“Well, President-elect Trump won and people are afraid. It is now his job to bring our nation together. It is his job to give bigotry no sanction and persecution no assistance.
“The appointment of Mr. Bannon is clearly a large step in the wrong direction. If this is indicative of how the President-elect is going to run his administration, he can expect me and my Democratic colleagues to fight him every step of the way.
“On the other hand, if the President-elect is prepared to be a “president for all Americans” and to “bind the wounds of division” – as he pledged in his victory speech just last week – I hope we can find common ground.
“Whether it is making trade policy work for American manufacturers, supporting small businesses, bolstering cybersecurity, establishing meaningful paid and parental leave policies, or investing in infrastructure, if the President elect is ready to roll up his sleeves and do right by American workers and American families, I will work with him.
“We don’t have Democratic bridges or Republican roads; we don’t have Democratic ports and Republican railroad tracks. They are non-partisan.
“Improving out county’s infrastructure is something we can come together on and show Americans we are ready and willing to do the people’s work.
“Mr. President, democracy is a wonderful thing, but history shows us it can also be fragile. We must preserve our democratic institutions and show the people of America that these institutions – and their elected officials – are working for all Americans.
“I intend to spend the next four years working for what is right for our country and what is right for Michig