Hillary’s Painful Defeat
As I turned on the TV last Tuesday evening, I thought to myself, “This is going to be a long night.” I wholeheartedly believed that Hillary had this election won, and that the next day we would all wake up to the reality of President-Elect Hillary Rodham Clinton. I did not think, and I don’t even think Trump thought, that he was going to win the election. But the night started out with Trump ahead by a few electoral votes and my stomach was feeling quite uneasy: was this the pattern that would follow throughout the rest of the night? If so, then Hillary’s chance at the Presidency would elude her once again. Then, Florida became more and more ominously red, then North Carolina, then Ohio, Pennsylvania, and of course, Michigan and Wisconsin. Who would have believed that the working class workers that had long been the bastion of the Democratic party, the part of the electorate that had helped Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to the White House, would elude Hillary and vote for Trump? Certainly, Trump’s messages of intolerance, misogyny, racism, and bigotry along with his own propensity for denigrating women would preclude him from the nation’s highest office. And Hillary ran a flawless, well-organized campaign. Her messages of unity, respect for women, minorities and LGBT rights seemed certain to hold together the Obama Coalition which would propel her to the White House. Not so much. The working class in the Midwest and in the Rust Belt who felt betrayed by the Democratic party and who felt that they didn’t have a place within contemporary political policy voted against Clinton and for Trump. Trump’s “deplorables” came out in droves and sent him to the White House….at least through the Electoral College. It appears that Hillary will win the popular vote by a substantial margin, and while that is enlightening and provides hope, it will not get her to the White House.
The Electoral College, its Limitations and Bias
So, this is the second time since 2000 that the Democrats have been stung by the Electoral College. The disaster of the Gore/Bush election, where Florida was a hotbed of contention and then later a Supreme Court ruling that seemed to decide the election, and now again, in 2016, with Hillary’s electoral college defeat by Trump. I know that the Founding Fathers envisioned the Electoral College as a buffer to protect the nation against a tyrannical despot who may potentially sway most of the American population with extreme, prejudicial ideas or inflammatory rhetoric. It seems, however, that in a twist of irony, the Electoral College is now bound to elect the type of candidate that the Founding Fathers so ardently wanted to protect from the nation! I sincerely believe that we should abolish the Electoral College and go with the Popular Vote. Perhaps a compromise should be put in place to ensure that candidates will not “ignore” the smaller states. But twice within 20 years the Presidency will not go to the candidate with the plurality of the popular vote – and that, in my opinion, is a political tragedy.
It is also a tragedy that Hillary and the Democratic Party got it wrong with the Caucasian, working class electorate. After all, this is the portion of the electorate that had always been good to Bill during his years of the Presidency. Why was Bill’s advice ignored? Why didn’t the campaign, with its numerous resources and messages of unity and inclusion, reach out to this portion of the population to ensure victory? Is this a case of the campaign just not “getting it” or is it “hindsight is 20-20?” Instead of viewing this portion of the electorate as “Deplorables”, they should have listened to their needs and unheard voices. If the Democrats had done so, then Hillary would be President-Elect and not Trump. I think a lot of the miscalculation was in the campaign’s belief that Hillary could hold on to the Obama Coalition 100%. We see from some of the numbers that Hillary did not hold on to all the electorate that voted for Obama and we certainly see that the Caucasian, rural working class voters propelled Trump to victory. Why did these voters see Trump as their savior? How could these individuals vote for someone who has admittedly stiffed the working class even in his own business dealings. How would someone who was born into privilege and who has built a gaudy empire on casinos, hotels and the disastrous Trump University suddenly become the spokesman for the common man? The fact that Hillary did not tap into the needs of these voters is the greatest miscalculation that, unfortunately, cost her the election.
Transitioning to a Trump Presidency
Now there are fears that Trump’s messages of hatred, intolerance, racism, bigotry and misogyny will inform the next four years of politics. I certainly hope not. My hope is that Trump will stop the rhetoric in which he engaged and inflamed the voters during the debates and election and will become much more moderate and inclusive as President. The protests are growing louder and louder each day with many of the masses exclaiming “NOT MY PRESIDENT”, and so he would be wise to continually have an open ear to both sides in order to compromise. I know this is a far-fetched idea, but I think it would create an atmosphere of unity and cooperation if Trump offered Hillary a position within the newly formed administration to help bridge the differences between the two parties. Is this likely to happen? Probably not. But not many people knew that Obama would offer Hillary, his one-time foe, the position of Secretary of State. Many times, in politics, foes become allies to heal the country and to bridge the divide. Trump would be wise to halt the train wreck of attempting to overturn much of Obama’s legacy, as he will face extraordinary resistance and this will create much more division in an already divided nation. Trump should work together with his advisers to formulate strategies and initiatives that will truly keep the nation at the forefront of the developed world, vs. pandering to the prejudicial wishes of a portion of the electorate that helped him get to the Oval Office. I think we can all tell that Trump is realizing just how far over his depth and capabilities he has placed himself. He cannot overturn Obama’s legacy of eight years within his first 100 days without substantial resistance, even from members of his own party. He must form a government not on rash decisions based on electoral promises but on initiatives that are truly for the greater good of this country. This is not an easy task and he has his work cut out for him.
Hillary’s Concession Speech
So right before the election and afterwards, I came down with the very worst case of “stomach flu”. Was it anxiety about the election? Anxiety about what the future holds? Or was it food poisoning? Whatever it was, it threw me for a loop, and then with the election results, since I am a true-blue Hillary fan, I was catapulted into a state of bewilderment and a sense of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. When Hillary gave her concession speech the next morning I, along with at least half of the country, felt her pain. I had purposely not involved myself too emotionally in the election because in 2008 I painstakingly watched every move of the primaries between Obama and Hillary. And now, while I am a wholehearted Obama fan, at the time, I was staunchly in favor of Hillary winning the nomination. When she lost the primaries to Obama, it seemed like the loss was entirely unjust. Everyone remembers her historic concession speech in which she lamented that she had not been able to shatter the “highest, hardest glass ceiling”, although after the primaries it had 18 million cracks in it and provided her the impetus to continue her career. There was certainly a great deal of sadness, but we knew Hillary still had a place in politics, and we could rest assured that the momentum from Obama’s campaign would most likely get a Democrat back in office, which we so sorely needed after eight years of the disastrous Bush Presidency. And there was an extraordinary feeling in the air because we knew that if Obama succeeded, he would become the first African American President of the United States, and this was indeed history in the making. We had no idea at the time that Obama would actually deliver on his campaign promises. Obama has undoubtedly earned his place in American politics as one of the very best Presidents of our great nation, because he has initiated legislation that created jobs, improved healthcare and helped promote LGBT equality. The vast accomplishments that his administration has put into place should not be thrown out the door by the next regime that wants to pander to the needs of part of the electorate who feel they have been abandoned because of the progressive movement. Politicians cannot be everything to everyone, so we must be realistic in our expectations of our leaders and the process. But it is frightening to think that Trump may very well initiate legislation that will satisfy some of the deepest prejudices within America. Instead of dividing the country even further, Trump should take the high road and initiate legislation that promotes fairness, creates jobs, improves healthcare and protects the disenfranchised.
So, during the 2008 primaries I was so disappointed in Hillary’s loss to Obama that this sort of jaded me, and I lost interest in politics for a while and held my guard up during the 2016 election. Perhaps I was concerned that all the polls and predictions were somehow inaccurate? Perhaps I had become so cynical of this process that I wanted to remove myself from the agony of defeat should it happen? Such is politics. And we should remember, as Hillary stated during her concession speech, that our causes are not something that we should pay attention to once every four years; we should consistently fight the good fight and they should become part of our everyday lives – as exhausting as that challenge may seem!
Moving Forward from the Election
So, when Hillary took the podium the morning after the election, we knew she had been up all night. We knew that she was crushed emotionally, and that this was the most difficult thing she had to do, to concede the election to a candidate so seemingly unfit for the Presidency. But with grace, class, and unusual heart-felt candor and simplicity, she spoke to the nation and her supporters about unifying the country, giving Trump a chance to lead with an open mind, and assuring her supporters that though this was not the outcome any of us wanted, we still needed to move forward towards a peaceful transition of power, since it is a hallmark of our democracy and a value we all cherish. She reminded us to continue fighting for what we felt was right because it is “worth it.” And most everyone was in tears when she made certain to emphasize that the power of our dreams should not be forgotten and that we should get back out there to fight for the causes that we hold dearly since we are all “valuable” and “powerful”. She mentioned that she also offered to work with the President Elect to help bridge the nation’s differences because the nation is evidently much more divided than we originally thought. All of this she took on with great bravery and class and we all looked up to her even that much more. During much of the speech, her heart was overflowing with sadness and she nearly broke in tears. It is evident that Hillary has worked her entire life to help the marginalized and disenfranchised in this country and in the world. Now was the time for her to hold the very highest office, to break that “highest and hardest” of glass ceilings. As President, Hillary would have enacted legislation to bring about the necessary societal changes that have been the cornerstone of her presidential aspirations and the causes for which she has so ardently fought throughout her life. As Americans, we had the opportunity to elect a leader who truly cares about the unity and strength of this great nation. But that’s not going to happen with this election. Her supporters must recognize that. Unless we can sway the electoral college to break from tradition and vote for Hillary in December, Trump will be our President. And, as she says, we must have an open mind and give him the “chance to lead” so that he can be a President for “all Americans.” Let’s hope that his Presidency is inclusive rather than divisive, that he listens to viewpoints from the other side, and that he truly examines the pertinent issues facing the county not from the perspective of a candidate seeking office or popularity, but as a visionary leader of the Free World committed to the principles our nation holds so dearly within our hearts and in our minds.
Let us All Work Together for a Bright, Peaceful Future
And, of course, it is not just the politicians that will influence our future. Politicians alone cannot solve the nation’s problems; we should work in concert with our leaders to create the national culture and environment that will truly show the world that the United States continues to remain at the forefront of human rights, peace and dignity. We can effect change within our communities and environments by promoting peace, reaching out to the other side, and by recognizing our differences as strengths instead of encumbrances. If you are a leader in a corporation or organization, empower your employees to be the very best by recognizing and utilizing their unique contributions. Let us all remember, as Hillary stated in her concession speech, to continue fighting for the causes that are closest to our hearts; the American political process demands that we continue the fight, allow our voices to be heard, and hold our elected leaders accountable. Let us continue to be a shining example to the rest of the world by uniting as a progressive global leader while initiating change, promoting peace, establishing fair trade practices, improving the world economy, and continuing to make this country the very best that it can be by protecting the disenfranchised and empowering all Americans to contribute in the political and legislative process. The American Dream is still alive, but it is up to each and everyone of us to make our dreams and the dreams of future generations a reality.