- By Peter FeaverPeter D. Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy and Bass Fellow at Duke University, and director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. He is co-editor of Elephants in the Room.
Donald Trump’s very first steps as president-elect were about the best that could be hoped for. He gave a gracious acceptance speech, one that included praise for Hillary Clinton and even expressed gratitude for her years of service to the nation. He promised to be a president for all Americans, and pointedly avoided mentioning the divisive issues that were prominent in the campaign. He even promised to reach out and consult with people from all parties, particularly those who did not support him.
This is what good political leaders say and this is what good political leaders do.
Of course, these are just the initial steps, but initial steps can set the tone. Trump’s surrogates on the morning shows echoed the same themes. While they manifested pride and confidence in the man they worked so hard to elect, they did not conduct an end zone dance.
The next move in the complicated dance of democracy belonged to the Democrats. Clinton took a while to gather her thoughts — a pause that perhaps reflected the depths of grief she and her team must be visiting as they see a dream they longed for and worked so hard for slip through her fingers.
Her speech was remarkably personal — a glimpse into her interior life that her advisors struggled to make visible on the campaign trail.
She spoke of her pain and of her connection with her supporters. She made the minimal obligatory expressions of support for the opponent that defeated her.
She did not, however, speak of or connect with the tens of millions of Americans who supported Trump, or at least opposed her. She spoke of America’s divisions, but without any apparent understand of how the other side thought and felt.
That may have been too much to ask for in such a moment of political pain. But one is left wondering whether this explains the electoral outcome — a candidate and a campaign that could not fathom how half of America thinks and feels.
And she did not mention what surely every Democrat knows, since it is a mantra the partyhas repeated endlessly for eight years: elections have consequences.
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