As I begin to reflect on this presidential election, I wonder how it is that so many predictions could have been so wrong. I expect we will now see those who had it right all along chastising the ones who didn’t for not giving them enough credit at the time. I’m sure that there will be much discussion and criticism in the days and weeks to come that try to explain the errors, and blame will be passed around ad nauseum. Laying blame might be an enticing outlet for anger or planning future campaigns, but it’s of little comfort to me as an American citizen trying to keep the faith in our country. I want instead to understand where I am and how to move forward rather than speculate on how the political machines got us here.
There was much written about how wrong John McCain’s and Mitt Romney’s polling numbers were and how those candidates failed to see the truth before them. I wonder what will be said about Hillary Clinton’s polling and campaign and whether it will be as smug. I wonder if those of us who publicly lauded Barack Obama’s consecutive elections will afford Donald Trump’s supporters the opportunity to do the same.
I can’t help but look at post-presidential election posts from friends that say things like, “He’s not my president” or, “I’m leaving the U.S.” and think back to what McCain and Romney voters were thinking after Barack Obama won the previous two elections. Is it any different? After this divisive campaign–which I think was far worse than recent previous presidential campaigns–I completely understand being upset. I also understand the fear associated with the prospect of living under the administration of political opponents. But is this time really that different?
I truly believe that what makes America great is the peaceful transition of power from one leader to the next. We don’t always have to like it, but we have to do it for our democracy to mean anything at all. If we’re willing to give it all up because our candidate didn’t win this time, are we really that different from those who refused to stand behind the candidate who won last time? Or next time?
Our country has survived this long despite millions of Americans conceding victory to their political opponents after each election. No one has ever claimed that our system of government is easy or perfect, but it’s the best there is and the only one we’ve got. In order for it to work, it takes all of us–from across the political spectrum–to keep the flame alive and pass the torch from one generation to the next, despite whatever disappointment we encounter as the imperfections appear.
There is no path to a brighter future that doesn’t suffer hardship along the way, and we should always expect more setbacks before we get where we want to go. We can never know how history would have been different if the losers had instead won. We can, however, learn from our history and hope to make our future better.
For all the rhetoric and hatred that has been spewed about over the past 18 months, we ended up with the government that we, the people, elected–as we always do. If you think we deserve better, don’t leave or give up: start working on it. That begins with picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and getting back to work. (Certainly it can be done, and Hillary Clinton’s long, difficult path might be the most appropriate example.) When your candidate loses, it means that you didn’t do as much as you needed to, and that the other side did. Let that thought fuel your spirit between now and the next election. If you truly want change, you can’t rely on others to make it for you.
I still believe in Hope, Change, that Love Trumps Hate, and that we are Stronger Together; neither this election nor a new president can change that. I sincerely hope Donald Trump receives more support from Democrats than Barack Obama received from Republicans. I hope that Donald Trump’s supporters are able to remember the disaffection they felt in electing him and avoid causing his detractors the same feeling. I hope that we can find unity and begin growing together rather than farther apart. Above all, I hope that my concerns about a Donald Trump presidency turn out to be unfounded, and that he is able to prove he is qualified to lead our nation and will do so effectively. Nothing from today or yesterday will change the oath I swore to defend the Constitution, however, nor my belief that the strength of our nation is measured by far more than the person who lives in the White House.
Does that star-spangled banner yet wave? Absolutely it does. Over the land of the free–including all of us who will continue to exercise our right to choose our government, and the home of the brave–including those who will not let fear intimidate us from continuing to fight in the face of overwhelming opposition.
Where are we now? As Americans, we are fortunate enough to be in a country that protects us even when we lose elections. When we are able to step back and gain a little more perspective, we will see that America still represents so much to be proud of and thankful for. Should the outcome of one election be enough to make you question that? It certainly isn’t for me.