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How to Cope With a Trump Presidency

Suggestions from Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s former deputy chief of staff

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Getty Images

On the latest Keepin’ It 1600, Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer spoke with Alyssa Mastromonaco. The current COO of Vice wrote a letter to young women to help them process their responses to Hillary Clinton’s loss. Mastromonaco joined the podcast to explain why she wrote it, what to do now, and the role of Obama now.

You can listen to the full episode here. The portion below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

“Wait Till You See My Feminism Under Trump.”

Alyssa Mastromonaco: The thing that made me write the letter is that one of my very best friends has a daughter who is just a wee little thing. She [the daughter] and her younger brother were so excited. They loved Barack Obama. They got to meet Barack Obama. Her daughter was so excited to go vote for Hillary Clinton, and [my friend] was like, “Alys, I would rather tell her that Santa Claus isn’t real than that Donald Trump just won.”

She’s going to be so devastated. I thought that all of us couldn’t go around looking like these depressed, defeated people because what does that say to all of the really young women who need us? … That’s why I wanted to write it, because I felt like we needed to rally.

There’s this [sentiment] going around on all these [online women’s groups]: If you didn’t like my feminism under Obama, wait until you see my feminism under Trump. And I was like, “Let’s do that.”

What to Do Now: Donate and Act

Jon Favreau: I like that … We’ve been talking a little bit about what to do, because I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who I’ve never met before who have emailed and tweeted at us and said, “I want to be involved now. I want to do something. I feel like I want to be part of the fight.” And I haven’t quite honestly figured out exactly what to tell people yet. Do you have good ideas? Do you have suggestions?

A.M.: Well first, we need to fix the DNC. One. And then, it sounds really small, but the first thing I did was give to Planned Parenthood. I’m 40 years old. I don’t really need to worry about access to an abortion, but for all of these young women, this is a real thing. Obamacare being repealed is a real thing.

Right now, for the next week or two, people need to get their grief out. There were the protests in front of Trump Tower. All of these women at work came up to me [saying], “Can you send an email out telling us that it’s OK for us to go?” And I’m like, “I can’t do that. But just go. I’m not looking.” Because I think that people needed to really — they need to be able to just scream. And then you see POTUS. He’s just like, “Rise above it.” Welcome to the White House. Sit in the Oval Office. Be just the very best version of the POTUS that we know. And then, say we hear that Corey Lewandowski had quit CNN so he could go work for Trump … I thought it might be OK, but it’s not.

By inauguration, our leaders need to step up — whether it’s Elizabeth Warren or Bernie [Sanders] — we just need someone who’s going to [say], “Here’s where we’re going,” so that people can harness the energy. I think that this is the moment before people just get deflated again. [At] the inauguration, there’s going to be a parade of white dudes who don’t understand that their policies toward women actually affect their daughters.

I think that it could go to a really dark place, and I think we have to harness it and take it to a good place where we destroy the midterm [elections].

Dan Pfeiffer: The only idea I’ve come up with that would give me personal satisfaction — and it’s going to take a year to implement — will be at the congressional holiday party in 2017 when all the Republican members of Congress who said they cannot look their wives and daughters in the eye and support Donald Trump take photos with him with their wives and daughters. I want to take those and run ads in all of their districts.

J.F.: I like that, Dan. That’s very specific.

What Obama Needs to Do

J.F.: You mentioned POTUS. I’ve been thinking a lot about him. I think it had to have been really hard to do what he decided to do, which was to be above it all and to welcome [Trump] to the White House and to focus on the peaceful transition of power. He doesn’t believe [Trump’s] qualified in any way for the job. He believes he’s unfit. I think he believes he’s a threat to democracy. Yet, he has to sit there with him in the Oval. What did you think, watching that?

A.M.: First, watching Donald Trump sit in the Oval, you know what I started wondering? Has there ever been a person elected to the office of president that had never actually gone to an inauguration before? Or had never been to a State of the Union? He just looked so out of place in those settings.

But I looked at it, and [I thought], “There goes POTUS. Total patriot.” Actually, because he thinks [Trump] is so unfit, [Obama’s] going to help him as much as he can. Because it’s not about Democrats being pissed.

You know who I thought of? I thought of that little kid that rubbed POTUS’s head. That picture of him wanting to touch POTUS’s hair. POTUS is doing it for that kid. POTUS is going to be fine.

The rest of us, however, and the people who really need a leader, the only way they’re going to be OK is if POTUS rallies the country around him. If Donald Trump should squander the goodwill, the Republicans can squander the goodwill. Mitch McConnell can get up looking like that caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland and just rebel in trying to destroy everybody. But Donald Trump has the chance now. POTUS has given him everything he could possibly give him, and it’s his chance now to show that he can rise to the occasion. Or that he is going to just be this grotesquely divisive person.

D.P.: I’m going to bet on that. POTUS did the right thing. He is the most centered human being I’ve ever met to be able to handle this, and he has to do it. It’s his responsibility. Not just to the country but also to be the one who keeps the White House staff operating and moving … But I’m not betting. I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on Trump not being an asshole.

J.F.: No. I hope not. I hope we’re wrong. But I just don’t believe it.

D.P.: Yeah. He’s not going to become a new person.