A Troubling Transition
December 15, 2016

Our federal leadership is in a time of transition.
In nearly 50 years of work to advance justice and opportunity, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law has seen nine presidential administrations with nine different political and policy approaches. We have worked to improve lives and chances for upward mobility in all of those environments. The results have varied, depending on the ideas and agenda of the individuals holding office, but those nine administrations all maintained a level of good faith about American diversity and institutions, as well as a sense of responsibility about the impact of political rhetoric on the public.

But we have now entered a new frontier. The ongoing transition has raised real questions about the President-elect's faith in our democracy and interest in a united America. President-elect Trump's campaign deployed disturbing and divisive rhetoric, exploited racial and ethnic stereotypes, promoted policy ideas that would trample basic rights, denigrated women, and aggravated cynicism about the American political system. The question was and is whether this already harmful campaign rhetoric would give way to the good faith and responsibility needed in a governing chief executive.

The answer to that question so far? Post-election statements and related actions have not been promising.
The transition process has done nothing to separate the incoming administration from alarming campaign proposals that, if adopted, would violate the rights of many to move about freely without fear of surveillance, harassment, or harm—including proposals for an aggressive deportation campaign, a countrywide stop-and-frisk policy, and a national Muslim registry. Although these sorts of policies, which appeal to racism, xenophobia, and bigotry, would damage our entire nation, they would do the most harm to the people of color or of minority beliefs that they target.

These proposals would undermine the ability of people to seek employment, housing, healthcare, and education. They would strip mothers and fathers away from their babies and children. They would disrupt entire communities. They would, above all, tear at the very fabric of our country, a fabric that is woven to embrace and endure everyone.

The transition's failure to back away from these campaign proposals and rhetoric has been accompanied by cabinet and other appointments that appear committed to implementing them. Indeed, the President-elect has moved from voicing divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail, to selecting appointees who seem invested in advancing such divisiveness—through rhetoric and other means—in the years to come.

This transition, in short, has not assuaged, but only aggravated, our deepest worries.
In each of the nine previous administrations the Shriver Center has encountered, we have taken an initial course to try to work with public officials to get the best results for the people we serve. This means that we have started with an assumption that the officials are dealing in good faith, that there are ways to bridge differences to meet common goals, and that sometimes the best outcome of a policy disagreement is a compromise.

But we have never compromised on our core values and we will not start now.
We will not acquiesce to policies that violate the rights of people to participate fully in civic and community life, regardless of race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or religion. We will not countenance threats to fundamental procedural and human rights for immigrants or anyone else.

We have weathered many challenges over the past 50 years. But we have never seen a greater threat to justice and opportunity than that posed by the campaign rhetoric and transition activities of this new Administration.

Together with communities across the country and with a wide array of allies, we will fight policies and rhetoric that divide America and threaten opportunity and justice for all.