In the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 9, there were pockets of tears of despair, pockets of tears of happiness, and a bucket of suspension of disbelief through the country.
Donald J. Trump won the presidency of the United States. He not only won it but won it going away, as they say at the racetrack.
Personally, I adhere to this principle: If you have to eat crow, do it fast and in big bites.
I knew the polls were wrong but I misjudged where they erred. I believed – and predicted – that Hillary Clinton would crush Trump.
The only consolation in my foolishness is I am not a lonely fool. Lots of folks got it wrong.
There is one big takeaway here and I am not getting mushy or rationalizing. We have a government of checks and balances and they work. I have great faith in the American electorate, even when I disagree with an election result.
What does this historic upset tell us? Some big-picture wisdom will surely become evident over time. But a few down-and-dirty lessons are readily apparent:
• Americans are tired of Washington, old hack politicians and the politics of gridlock.
• Americans are tired of no changes in overall pay for a day’s work.
• The Bill and Hillary Clinton political dynasty has ended, at least in part because approximately half the population dislikes them intensely – particularly Hillary.
• Barack Obama’s monumental achievement of becoming the first African-American president will stand as a worthy and lasting legacy – but it will be his only legacy. Although Obama remains a personally popular figure in the U.S. and around the world, Trump’s victory in the face of Obama’s relentless and vituperative opposition represents an emphatic rejection of the president’s policies.
• Third-party and independent voters who have been significant in local and state elections are becoming a force for change throughout the country.
• Newspapers, particularly renowned bastions of the press such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, should be truth-tellers and keepers of written history in this country. In this election, they were guilty not only of the liberal bias they’ve long been accused of, but even worse they demonstrated an anti-Trump bias so obvious and outrageous as to violate every traditional standard of journalistic fairness and integrity.
• Pollsters and television news commentators know less about the mood of the country than the rest of us. They just babble and babble. And we listen to them, which is the real crime.
There is no disputing that the 2016 presidential campaign was one of the most divisive and bitterly contested in American history. And there is no question that it will be difficult to heal the wounds inflicted on and by both sides. Rarely have we seen candidates and their supporters go at each other as viciously as they did in this election.
But that’s all behind us now and the country has no choice but to accept the results of the election and move on. Trump took an important step in that direction with a conciliatory, statesmanlike victory speech shortly after Clinton called him to concede defeat and offer congratulations.
“I say it is time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump said. Speaking directly to “those who have chosen not to support me in the past,” Trump added, “I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can work together and unify our great country.”
It was the right message and the right tone for the winner to strike after such an ugly campaign.
Clinton waited until Wednesday morning to concede publicly – a wise decision, considering how disappointed and perhaps angry she must have been Tuesday night – and she delivered one of the most gracious and magnanimous speeches of her entire career, much less the 2016 campaign.
The former first lady and secretary of state admitted that losing was painful but urged her supporters to accept Trump’s victory.
“We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead,” she said.
The willingness of two bare-knuckled combatants to bury the hatchet in the wake of such a ferocious battle spoke to the everlasting resilience of the greatest nation on earth.
Our voters and fellow citizens have called for change. It’s really that simple. Let’s hope and pray that change is delivered in ways that make our economy stronger, our world safer, and our people more prosperous.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org