Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

A Good Start

Donald Trump's very first steps as president-elect were about the best that could be hoped for.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump walks on stage along with his son Barron Trump (C) and his wife Melania Trump to deliver his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump walks on stage along with his son Barron Trump (C) and his wife Melania Trump to deliver his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump walks on stage along with his son Barron Trump (C) and his wife Melania Trump to deliver his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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.

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.

Photo credit: SPENCER PLATT/Getty Images

Peter D. Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, where he directs the Program in American Grand Strategy.

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