NEW YORK — The United States’ highest, hardest glass ceiling remains intact.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee and former secretary of state who strove to break through it to become America’s first woman president, conceded the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump Wednesday morning.
A tired but dogged Clinton, flanked by American flags in the ballroom of a Manhattan hotel, issued a call for unity in a nation still coming to grips with the scope of its political divide.
“This is painful, and it will be for a long time,” she added. “We have seen that this nation is more deeply divided than we thought,” she said, “but I still believe in America.”
Clinton called Trump early Wednesday and “offered to work with him” on behalf of the country, she said during her concession speech. “I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans,” she added.
Clinton stressed that the United States must “cherish” its tradition of the peaceful transfer of power, though, in a jibe at Trump’s divisive rhetoric and vows of vengeance, Clinton emphasized the importance of respecting “the rule of law.”
President Barack Obama, speaking from the White House Rose Garden shortly after Clinton, pledged a smooth transition for President-elect Trump. “We will…work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect,” Obama said. The “peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy and over the next few months we are going to show that to the world,” he added.
Obama said the whole nation should now be “rooting” for Trump to make his presidency successful.
Speaking in Manhattan prior to Obama’s remarks, Clinton also nodded at the symbolism of the glass ceiling that will not break.
“I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think right now,” she said. Clinton also offered a paean to the outgoing president and first lady.
“Our country owes you an enormous debt of gratitude,” she said.
As reporters and staffers waited before Clinton, the Kelly Clarkson song “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” played.
The New York-real-estate-magnate-turned-Republican nominee stunned the world and defied even his own campaign’s expectations, riding an unexpected surge in support across the Midwest and in key battleground states that pushed him to victory in the Electoral College despite likely losing the popular vote.
The 2016 campaign was one of the most toxic in memory. It pitted Clinton, a former New York senator, first lady, and one of the most experienced presidential candidates on foreign policy to ever seek the Oval Office, against Trump, who had never run for public office or served in the military. He is the first U.S. president who was neither a politician or a general.
The adopted Republican seized on an underestimated wave of anger and anxiety over growing economic inequality and a deteriorating global security environment, boosted by an energized base of mostly white, male voters without a college degree. Along the crazy ride, he maligned many of the voters who had boosted President Barack Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012: blacks, Latinos, women and young people. He weathered countless controversies, from his aides’ and family’s murky business ties to Russia to bragging on video about sexual assault. Though “Obama coalition” voters overwhelmingly supported Clinton, but ultimately, it was not enough.
Obama, whose foreign policy doctrine was decried by some as feckless and cheered by others as restrained, will now scramble to cement as much of his legacy as he can before Trump is inaugurated in January.
The former reality-TV show host has upended decades of bipartisan foreign policy consensus and attacked basic tenets of America’s role in the world. He has threatened to pull out of global security alliances such as NATO, encouraged countries to develop their own nuclear weapons, vowing to bring back torture, and praised strongmen such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But without ever articulating a cohesive vision for the United States’ relationship with the world, his neo-isolationist “America First” foreign policy flipped America’s traditional political alignment on foreign policy, with Clinton often sounding a hawkish tone more at home in the old Republican Party.
Clinton framed Trump as dangerous, divisive, and temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief. But in an election that became a battle of personalities between two deeply-disliked candidates, millions of voters opted for the untested, unabashed agent of change that Trump convinced them he’d be. Clinton urged her supporters and the rest of the country to give the president-elect that opportunity.
“We owe [Trump] an open mind and the chance to lead,” she said.
Photo credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
This article has been updated to include President Obama’s remarks.