After the most divisive U.S. presidential election in decades, no one is suggesting the candidates and their supporters are going to ignore fundamental differences on policy, let bygones be bygones and embrace a “Kumbaya” approach moving forward. But for a few days, if we are lucky, we can all think about the post-election words of President-elect Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama and how they demonstrate a commitment to the fundamental premise of peaceful transfer of power in America.
Trump’s stunning electoral college victory over Hillary Clinton, unofficially the fifth U.S. presidential candidate to win the popular vote but still lose the election, has the major players singing a tune of peace and cooperation.
Thankfully, that’s the American way.
Trump, the ultimate outsider who attracted a populist following that sent a message of throw out the Belt Way elitists, won the electoral college with 290 projected electors to Clinton’s 232. Clinton, however, was unofficially taking the popular vote as of late Wednesday by a margin of about 200,000 votes bolstered by margins in states like California and New York.
After what seemed like an endless campaign fueled by invective and vitriol, there was at least a brief respite today.
In his victory speech early Wednesday, Trump said, “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division. … To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. … I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.”
Trump also had some rare nice words for Clinton: “Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.”
Clinton late Wednesday morning gave a classy speech as well.
“Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans,” she said, adding, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”
President Obama addressed the election saying, “Everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first.”
Obama and Trump are expected to meet today at the White House to discuss the transition.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence announced Trump’s victory saying, “I’m deeply grateful to the American people for placing their confidence in this team and giving us this opportunity to serve.”
Clinton running mate, Tim Kaine in introducing her Wednesday, said, “We know that the dreams of empowering families and children remain.”
Even if the positive feelings generated by these uplifting messages are short-lived before political reality takes over, it helps to have some respite from the nasty rhetoric, name-calling and posturing of the campaign trail.
But real challenges lie ahead. There is much work to do not only to repair the battered image of U.S. politics but to address some pressing issues – improving the economy; defeating ISIS and dealing with Middle Eastern instability; protecting our nation from cyber attacks; making health care work; and negotiating both with our allies in NATO and our adversaries – Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
Contrast the efforts by our leaders to seek some semblance of calm with a tweet about the Trump victory by French Ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud: “After Brexit and this election, everything is now possible. A world is collapsing before our eyes. Dizziness.” He later deleted the tweet.
This was a consequential election, and whether you believe America already is a great nation or must be made great again, we clearly need to up our game to meet the many challenges.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.