Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that her crushing loss to Donald Trump exposed the nation’s deep and difficult divisions, but she urged her backers to give him “a chance to lead.”
In her first public statements since the stunning election results, Clinton also called on other women to take up where she left off and continue the push for the White House, suggesting she may not make another run in four years.
“We need you to keep up these fights,” Clinton said in New York, making special mention of the many women who hoped the former secretary of state was on her way to become the first female president.
“I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it, too,” said Clinton, less than 24 hours after calling the president-elect to concede after his history-shaping run that defied pollsters and galvanized legions of aggrieved voters in a loud repudiation of the status quo. “This is painful, and it will be for a long time.”
She said the long and bitter campaign against Trump showed that “our nation is more deeply divided that we thought.”
But she told her backers: “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”
Clinton and her allies are now left to sort out how Trump upended her once-clear path to become America’s first female president. Clinton called Trump to concede as the results were clear.
Trump – who had used social media as a tool to court support and mock foes during the campaign – sent a tweet at 6:30 a.m.: “Such a beautiful and important evening! The forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again. We will all come together as never before”.
His Twitter bio now reads, “President-elect of the United States” – capping a once-unimaginable rise that was carried by voters fed up with the political system and mistrustful of Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state.
But protests flared as dismay among Clinton supporters turned to anger. In Los Angeles, about 500 people chanted, “Not my president.” In Oregon, anti-Trump demonstrators blocked traffic and rail lines.
President Barack Obama called Trump “to congratulate him on his victory early this morning,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, adding that Obama also invited Trump to come meet with him at the White House on Thursday.
“The president will make a statement on Wednesday at the White House to discuss the election results and what steps we can take as a country to come together after this hard-fought election season,” Earnest said.
Obama also called Clinton and “expressed admiration for the strong campaign she waged throughout the country,” Earnest added.
After running a divisive campaign, Trump sounded a magnanimous note of reconciliation as he claimed victory shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday.
“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,” Trump said, minutes after Clinton called him to concede. “I mean that very sincerely. Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division. We have to get together. To all Republicans, Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
He had portrayed his opponent as the embodiment of a rigged system that had failed the everyday American. Her credentials through a quarter-century on the national stage, which in another electoral climate would have been an asset, pegged her in his supporters’ view as the ultimate establishment insider.
Trump said that under his administration, “America will no longer settle for anything less than the best.” And he promised foreign countries that “while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone,” adding: “We will seek common ground, not hostility.”
The real estate developer thanked his wife, Melania, and his children for their patience, saying: “This was tough. This was tough. This political stuff is nasty and it’s tough.”
Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Trump and Clinton “had a very gracious exchange” when she conceded the race.
Asked whether Trump would consider appointing a special prosecutor to probe Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state and her ties to the Clinton Foundation, Conway said: “We have not discussed that at all, and he certainly did not discuss that with Secretary Clinton on that call.”
With Trump’s ascension to the White House, the nationalist wave that has swept capitals around the world – including in Britain, which voted to break from the European Union this year – came crashing onto U.S. shores.
The prospect of an impulsive authoritarian in the Oval Office rattled investors around the world. But on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was only slightly lower in early trading after having hours to absorb the outcome. At one point late Tuesday, all three major U.S. stock index futures were down more than 3 percent.
Japan’s Nikkei index plunged 5.4 percent; Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell by more than 2 percent. The Mexican peso – which had fallen when the Republican nominee rose in the polls during his campaign – nosedived to an eight-year low, according to Bloomberg.
Across Europe, major markets all pointed downward.
World leaders congratulated Trump even as they grappled with the repercussions of his win. Britain, Germany and other U.S. allies stressed their close bonds with Washington. Russia, meanwhile, was quick to make overtures for better ties – something Trump encouraged as he campaigned.
In Mexico, the nation’s currency plunged and leaders weighed how to deal with a president-elect who has vowed to build a border wall and drive out undocumented workers.
The general election, which riveted the nation and produced a record television audience for a presidential debate, turned on the question of national identity.
While Clinton assembled a diverse coalition that she said reflected the nation’s future, it was no match for the powerful and impassioned movement built by fanning resentments over gender, race and religion.
Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again” inspired millions of Americans alienated by the forces of globalization and multiculturalism and deeply frustrated with the inability of Washington to address their needs.
Voters anxious about the economy, convinced that the system was stacked against them, fearful of terrorism and angry about the rising gap between rich and poor, gravitated toward Trump. In him, they saw a fearless champion who would re-create what they recalled as an America unchallenged in the world, unthreatened at home and unfettered by the elitist forces of “political correctness.”
“It’s a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will,” Trump said in his victory speech.
He vowed: “Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
The presumption held by both campaigns, right up to the hours when polls began closing, was that Trump had a far narrower path to victory than Clinton. But he capitalized on nearly every opportunity across the electoral map.
One by one on Tuesday night, electoral prizes that for hours had been too close to call deep into the night fell into Trump’s win column. First, Florida and Ohio. Then North Carolina. And then Pennsylvania and, at 2:30 a.m., Wisconsin.
Clinton had so taken for granted a region thought of as her “blue wall” that she did not hold a single event in Wisconsin during the general-election campaign.
Online, the distress of some of some of Clinton’s top advisers was palpable. David Plouffe, who had served as Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and helped guide Clinton’s campaign, had predicted in late September that the Democratic nominee had a 100 percent chance of winning the election.
“I’m sorry everyone,” he tweeted around 1 a.m. Wednesday. “Had to talk to my kids. Wrong and remarkably so. But the idea of our country has always been stronger than an election.”
Control of Congress was on the line as well, with Republicans maintaining their majority in the House and a string of hotly competitive Senate contests going their way as well.
Trump’s feuds with Republican leaders created deep fissures in his party, and his victory has set the GOP on a new path. Whether he can achieve any of his grandiose ideas could hinge on his relationship with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., who had all but abandoned Trump in the campaign’s final weeks. In an early sign of detente, Ryan’s office let it be known that the speaker had placed a congratulatory call to Trump.
Obama campaigned vigorously for his former secretary of state – going so far as to label her opponent temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief – but his resurgent popularity did not rub off.
Trump had pledged to dismantle Obama’s achievements, starting with his signature law, the Affordable Care Act that became known as Obamacare. He also will be in position to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court.
A Trump presidency is certain to produce significant geopolitical repercussions. He has promised to transform U.S. foreign policy and take it in a more unilateralist direction.
He also has promised to build a wall on the border with Mexico and deport immigrants who are in this country illegally. Trump said he would “bomb the (expletive)” out of the Islamic State and claimed he has a secret plan to annihilate the terrorist organization. He has also expressed admiration for strongmen such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he has promised to forge a closer relationship based on mutual respect.
Never one to let go of a grudge, Trump has vowed to send Clinton to prison. At his victory party early Wednesday, his supporters chanted, “Lock her up!”
Trump, a flashy real estate developer who extended his brand with reality television, would be the first person to become president without having previously held elected office or served in the U.S. military. Trump’s vice president will be Michael Pence, 57, the governor of Indiana and previously a longtime member of the House.
Until polls closed on Tuesday, confidence in the Clinton campaign had been high that she would topple a barrier that has stood for nearly a century after women in the United States got the right to vote and be elected president. For her election-night party, she chose a utilitarian convention center in Midtown Manhattan notable for one architectural feature: a glass ceiling.
But Clinton’s historic quest hit head winds early in the evening as key states she had expected to carry easily, such as Virginia, remained in doubt. Though she prevailed there, the contest proved significantly closer than the pre-election polls would have indicated.
Inside the Javits Center, the jovial atmosphere quickly grew dark as the night wore on. Senior Clinton aides, who had been circulating among the press risers, had long since disappeared and stopped answering their phones. By midnight, supporters were streaming out the exits. Many of those who remained were in tears.
“I’m actually speechless right now,” said a dejected Julia Beatty, 38, who left the Javits Center with her Clinton sticker peeling off her leather jacket. “I just want to make it safely uptown so I can sob into a glass of wine.”
Clinton faced the additional burden of running for what would be the third consecutive term for one party in the White House – something that has happened only once since the middle of the 20th century.
After nearly a quarter-century in the nation’s consciousness, Clinton had become a walking paradox, a Rorschach test of what defines character and values. Trump nicknamed her “Crooked Hillary.” And for more than a year, she was hobbled by her use of a personal email server as secretary of state, which flouted protocol and became the subject of an FBI investigation.
FBI Director James B. Comey roiled the campaign 11 days before the election by announcing that a fresh trove of emails had been discovered on the computer of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s estranged husband, former New York congressman Anthony Weiner. On Sunday, Comey said the investigation found no cause for the FBI to reverse its earlier decision against an indictment. Still, the developments took Clinton off her stride in the home stretch and contributed to a tightening of the polls.
Clinton got an early warning of trouble ahead, even before the general election. To win the Democratic nomination that had once been presumed to be a coronation, she had to fend off an unexpectedly potent primary challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vt., a self-identified democratic socialist who sparred with her until the final primaries in June.
Trump proved resilient against an onslaught of negative advertising from Clinton’s campaign and her allied super PAC, Priorities USA, which portrayed him as racist, misogynist and unhinged. Nearly a quarter-billion dollars was spent on ads supporting Clinton, while just $153 million went into spots backing Trump.
Clinton’s sprawling and supposedly superior data-driven organization – which mobilized a broad coalition of Latino, African American, women and young voters – did not deliver the knockout blows it had hoped in critical contests. It appeared that Trump was following through on his promise to remake the political map by igniting a populist rage across among working-class whites in huge swaths of the country.
A razor-thin margin in Florida, which had decided the 2000 presidential election, was a microcosm of the story in many contested states. Clinton and her allies had helped spur record turnout among Democrats and Latino voters in early voting, but Trump rapidly made up ground on Tuesday with record turnout in exurban communities and GOP-leaning counties.
Meanwhile, Trump’s unexpectedly strong performance rippled down the ballot. His army of supporters helped power several endangered Republican senators to reelection, including Marco Rubio in Florida, Rob Portman in Ohio and Richard Burr in North Carolina. And in Indiana, Republican Todd Young defeated former Democratic senator Evan Bayh in a closely watched race for an open seat.
The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip in New York and Robert Costa, David A. Fahrenthold, Philip Rucker, Matea Gold and Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.
Video: Hillary Clinton spoke to supporters, Nov. 9, offering a message of thanks, apology and hope. Here are the key moments from that fervent address. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)