When I returned home at 2:30 in the morning from Jacob Javits Center waiting for the election results to come in, I was greeted by a sign written in 6-year-old handwriting that simply read “Hillary” with hearts, taped to my front door. As I crept upstairs so not to awaken that same sleeping girl, who I hoped, that by the time she would wake up, the news would be different. That sleep would somehow bring a different outcome from a long day of hopes dashed and dreams deferred. But alas, it was not meant to be. She awoke at the sound of my footsteps and immediately asked with so much hope in her eyes, “Who won?” As I told her Donald Trump was going to be our next president, she began to sob uncontrollably and said “Mommy, I am scared.”
She is not alone. Children across this country are scared. They are afraid for their futures and for the futures of their parents. One little girl at my daughter’s school asked her father this morning if this means that they will have to leave America. Another asked if we will be okay. Parents hugged and cried, “What is this world coming to? How did we get here? How did hate win?”
It is simple. Donald Trump reached out to a group of people who have never been really reached out to before. They are for the most part the undereducated, blue collar, middle Americans who have been on the fringes of politics. They may not have voted or even been registered before, and that is one reason they were basically ignored in the polls. (Polls look at likely voters, and likely voters are those who have voted before). They are white and they are angry. And Donald Trump got their attention. With a larger than life personality—part PT Barnum and part Don King (one of his supporters)—he created a new base. And that was enough to take him over the top.
So what does that mean for the rest of America? What is clear is that we are divided, and that division is wider than ever. I think Hillary Clinton has said it best in her concession speech:
“Our campaign was never about one person, or even one election. It was about the country we love and building an America that is hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted. We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power.
We don’t just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.”
Clinton’s speech was heartfelt and painful but courageous. I just can’t help but to think about what if the tables had been turned. Would Trump been able to concede? Would he have been able to say any words of healing? Unfortunately, I think not.