The presidential race decided last week highlighted the turbulence in American society. Half the country thinks America is still great; the other half sees it differently.
One candidate was optimistic, emphasizing the economic improvement over the past eight years and planning to build on it. The other candidate tapped into the anger and despair in rural America and built a platform stoking those fears and promising change.
It was a battle of two Americas — an inclusive, tolerant country that welcomes diversity and sees a positive future when we all work together versus a nation where the economic recovery had not benefited the working class and where unity and tolerance took a backseat to blame and demand for drastic action.
Of course, there were many other factors involved in the election, but there are already many pundits and political experts opining on what happened and why.
The race was ugly, nasty, personal and largely devoid of fact or policy. The primary strategy on both sides was to make the opponent less palatable. It worked, as both had extremely high unfavorable numbers.
The battle lines were drawn. Supporters of both candidates dug in. Emotions ran high. Family members argued. Social media became a hateful and sometimes scary outlet for expression. People were unfriended on Facebook and blocked on Twitter.
This race, like none I have ever witnessed, had a devastating effect on relationships. It went on too long and most voters were eager for it to end.
Many people — like me — worried about what would happen after the results had been tallied. Polls and pundits consistently indicated the likelihood that Hillary Clinton would become the 45th president.
Donald Trump hinted that he might challenge the results if he didn’t win and that a concession speech might not be forthcoming. Many of his supporters echoed his charge that the system was rigged and threatened to revolt. Despite all indications to the contrary, his supporters insisted he would win. It turns out they were right.
It was clear that on the morning after the election, half of the country would be anxious, worried and disappointed — maybe even despondent. When we thought that half would be Trump and his supporters, we urged them to accept the results and work to unify the nation.
As I write this — the morning after the election — I’m still in shock and personally disappointed in the outcome. For those who were firmly in the Hillary camp, I understand your feeling of loss, uncertainty, and even fear. It will take time to overcome what seems incomprehensible. It hits hard — harder than maybe it should. Because we didn’t see it coming, we need time to absorb it and a little space to grieve.
Yes, Donald Trump said some very hurtful and rancorous things. It’s difficult to accept someone as president who vilified the current president, who led chants of “lock her up” against his opponent who sought to be the first woman president and who incited anger against the very news media that gave him billions of dollars in free coverage and bestowed legitimacy to his improbable rise.
But when we called on Trump and his supporters to accept the outcome of the election when we thought he would come up short, we did so because we believe that’s how democracy should work.
Well, the voters have spoken. Donald Trump has achieved the required number of electoral votes and will be our next president.
To illustrate how sharply divided our nation is, there are still a few states that are too close to call and Hillary Clinton led by 200,000 in the national popular vote at the time she made her concession speech the morning after. Clinton was gracious and reiterated her belief that we, as a country, are stronger together.
Trump’s bombastic rhetoric was extraordinarily offensive. We can’t pretend it didn’t happen but in the spirit of unity, we should heed the words in Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
We cannot be hypocrites. We wanted Trump and his supporters to accept a Clinton presidency when that seemed inevitable. Now we need to do the same for President-elect Trump.
To all the Trump supporters, I offer congratulations on your election victory. It’s my hope that his presidency will be inclusive and successful for the sake of all Americans.
Paula Dockery (PBDockery@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland.