Around 2 a.m. Central time, Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump and conceded.
Trump appeared before the cameras and gave the remarks below:
Hardly Churchillian, but it was about as gracious as we’ve seen from him in a long while, which isn’t saying a great deal but is a hopeful note. He said nothing untoward and pledged to be president of all Americans.
About 10:30 a.m. today, Hillary Clinton faced the cameras and a roomful of her shocked and grieving supporters. “Donald Trump is going to be our president,” she said. “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead ….
“Please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it,” she said.
Soon after she concluded, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden appeared together in the Rose Garden. Obama said he had congratulated Trump, invited him to come to the White House soon and talk about how to ensure a smooth transition. His pep talk to the nation, and presumably especially to Democrats (since most Republicans didn’t feel the need for a pep talk) included this:
“Everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But we have to remember the day after that we’re all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re Americans first. We’re all patriots first. …”
He appealed for “unity, inclusion, respect for our institutions, our way of life, the rule of law, and respect for each,” and urged young people not to get cynical, saying last night’s disappointment for Clinton supporters is “the way politics works sometimes. We try really hard to persuade people that we’re right. And then people vote. And then, if we lose, we learn from our mistakes, we do to some reflection, we lick our wounds, we brush ourselves off, and we get back in the arena. We go at it. We try harder the next time. The point is that we all go forward with faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy. That’s how this country has moved forward for 240 years.”
A couple of thoughts on two recurring themes, in this space. The Electoral College system is a weird way to run an election. Although most of the democracies in the world came on line after the framing of the U.S. Constitution, none has seen fit to adopt this strange method of choosing a chief executive officer. One of its quirks is that it makes possible the election of a candidate for president who got fewer votes than his opponent. It’s happened several times in U.S. history and, based on the latest count of total popular vote, it appears to have happened again yesterday, and for the second time out of the last five elections.
Second, in my musings about the strange quirks of our system compared with others around the world, I’ve often noted that our system is built for gridlock. There are four major power centers in our federal government — the presidency, the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court — and any one of them can block action. As a result, until fairly recently, our system relied heavily on bipartisan compromise.
A decade or two ago, the Republican Party adopted a strategy of, essentially, no compromise, perhaps believing that the best way to get control of all of the levers of power was to deny the Democrats any accomplishments on which they could run in the next election. Perhaps last night was, in part, a payoff on that strategy.
You won’t want to miss this post-election discussion with Sen. Al Franken and political scientist Norm Ornstein. Get tickets today!
Anyway, in January, the Republicans will control the White House and both houses of Congress. As soon as Trump and the Republican Senate can agree on a nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court will have a majority of Republican-appointed, relatively conservative justices (Justice Anthony Kennedy is not reliably conservative, and we don’t know who the newest justice will be).
We will have what you might call a parliamentary moment, by which I mean a moment, as in parliamentary systems, where the majority party can pass any bills it wants. In the past, I have generally favored such systems over ours. It makes sense to me that the winning party or coalition should be able to translate its mandate into action, and the public can subsequently decide whether to keep or change that government. Now, as a liberal, I’m pretty worried about that.
I do assume that, for example, the Affordable Care Act will be repealed. I note that there is not a coherent replacement for it on which Republicans are agreed. Trump’s ideas about a replacement plan have been incoherent. Speaker Paul Ryan has claimed to have a replacement plan, but it is lacking in important details and Trump has never endorsed it. I have never seen Republicans specify whether they will be willing to throw millions of Americans, who have insurance as a result of the ACA, off those plans without any guarantee on how they will regain coverage.
The same could be said about other issue areas. So we’ll see happens. I’m pretty worried.
I’ll close with a quote from novelist William Faulkner, which I have never heard before but which I gather comes from “Absalom, Absalom.” But Sen. (and Clinton running mate) Tim Kaine used it in his remarks this morning introducing her. It goes:
“They kilt us, but they ain’t whipped us yet.”