The 2016 Presidential election in the United States is over and Donald Trump has emerged as the winner. As I write this post, the votes are still being counted in some states, but the results will not affect the outcome; Trump will be the 45th President of the United States.
The campaign between Trump and Hillary Clinton was one of the most acrimonious, most brutal ever. I cannot remember a time when the United States was more divided than it is at this moment.
On 9 November 2016, Trump gave his victory speech and Clinton gave her concession speech. Each had the opportunity to start what will be a long, difficult process to bridge the divide and unify the country. My thoughts on each speech are below.
Donald Trump was the first to speak. He was introduced by his running mate, Mike Pence, and was accompanied by his family and some advisors.
Compared to most of his speeches during the campaign, Trump’s victory speech was conciliatory and humble. It was the right tone for a President-Elect. I know that many people doubt Trump’s sincerity but what other kind of victory speech was he supposed to have given? Another tirade? He would have been pilloried had he done so.
I am not a fan of Trump—as you can read in this article and blog post that I wrote—and I am not naïve. But the fact is, for better or worse, Americans have chosen Donald Trump to be their President. If the country is to come together, the country has to support him as he begins his Presidency. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but one of the principles of American democracy is the peaceful transfer of power.
As hashtags such as #NotMyPresident and #TrumpProtest swell the corridors of social media, I am concerned that people are chipping away at a pillar on which their society is built. One Tweet that I read captures the sentiment even better: “I hope Donald Trump is a good president. Wanting him to fail is like wanting the pilot to crash the plane that we are all on. Remember that.”
So Trump began on the right tone. He has a long way to go to win back even a modicum of trust from those whom he has alienated. If he starts saying or doing things as President (or President-Elect) with which people disagree, by all means, have at him. But as Hillary Clinton said in her speech (see below), the country owes Trump the chance to lead. He should be judged by what he says and does going forward.
I was glad that Trump acknowledged Clinton in his remarks:
I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign. I mean, she fought very hard. Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country. I mean that very sincerely.
But I wanted to hear more. I wanted to hear something that signalled a real burying of the hatchet. Don’t forget, Trump promised to investigate and prosecute Clinton if he became President. The chances of that happening still exist and going down that path would drive the wedge even deeper in American society. Trump said:
For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.
It would have been good for him to reach out for Clinton’s guidance, especially when one compares their political experience.
Trump called on all Americans to come together to heal as a nation. Yes, these are only words and it will be his actions that speak loudest. But every new Presidency begins with these words and he used the right ones.
Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division, have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.
He used rhetorical devices:
“… the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world.”
“… an incredible and great movement, made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their family.”
“I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It is time.”
“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
… we will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us.”
No dream is too big, no challenge is too great. Nothing we want for our future is beyond our reach.
We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.
Trump properly thanked his family and closest advisors for their support. The way in which he thanked them was a little chaotic and rambling—Where is Robert? … Where is Jeff? … Who is that? Is that Rudy?—but it was in keeping with his style.
It was smart for Trump to acknowledge, in a special way, Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, especially after their acrimonious relationship over the past year or so. Comparing him to Secretariat was funny, if a bit much. I did think it bizarre for Trump to invite Priebus to speak, given the occasion, but that is part of the Trump persona: unpredictable. To his credit, Priebus kept his remarks short and focused on Trump.
Finally, Trump’s conclusion was terrible. It was terrible because after concluding, and after having thanked more than 20 people, Trump realized that he had not thanked his running mate, Mike Pence.
It’s an amazing evening. It’s been an amazing two-year period and I love this country. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you to Mike Pence.
Ouch! Note to self: Thank running mate first.
You can read the text of Trump’s speech here. The video is below.
Hillary Clinton spoke after Trump on the morning after the election. She was introduced by her running mate, Tim Kaine, and was accompanied by her family.
I was not happy about the timing of Clinton’s speech. The concession speech should come before the victory speech. It is an important moment when the loser in an election can provide words of support for the winner. Clinton only spoke on the morning after the election, several hours after Trump.
Earlier, in the wee hours of the morning, Clinton had sent her campaign chairman, John Podesta, to her election headquarters to tell her supporters that she would not be making a speech at that time because the votes were still being counted. However, by then, it was clear that Trump would win and, indeed, only 30 minutes or so later—while the last votes were still being counted—Clinton called Trump to concede.
Several people have said that she needed time to write her concession speech. I don’t agree. Every candidate must come to election night with two speeches: one if you win; and one if you lose. I have no doubt that the Clinton team was stunned by the results, but you have to be prepared for this possibility.
That said, when Clinton did speak, I thought that she gave an excellent speech. It was heartfelt, emotional, eloquent and gracious. It showed a side of Clinton that had been missing for many people during the campaign.
She was contrite in defeat:
This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for and I’m sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country. … I know how disappointed you feel, because I feel it, too. And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. This is painful and it will be for a long time …
She encouraged her supporters to support Trump. It was critical that she say these words, for all the reasons that I have mentioned above.
… I still believe in America and I always will. 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 and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it.
For me, that 11-word sentence—We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead—was the most important one in the entire speech.
That said, Clinton rightly encouraged her supporters to keep fighting for the issues that they had championed throughout the campaign. Having an open mind now does not preclude vigorous debate and challenge in the future.
So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear. Making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet, and breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams.
… we believe that the American dream is big enough for everyone, for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people and for people with disabilities. For everyone.
She lightened what was undoubtedly a difficult speech for her with a little humour.
And to the millions of volunteers, community leaders, activists and union organizers who knocked on doors, talked to neighbors, posted on Facebook, even in secret private Facebook sites, I want everybody coming out from behind that and make sure your voices are heard going forward.
She used rhetorical devices:
So now, our responsibility as citizens is to keep doing our part to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek, and I know you will.
And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.
And let me add, our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time.
You know, scripture tells us, let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. So, my friends, let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart, for there are more seasons to come, and there is more work to do.
She thanked her family and supporters (beginning with her running mate, Tim Kaine) in a thoughtful and structured manner. And she ended her speech by speaking about the country and sounding a hopeful note.
I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us. Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together, and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that. … I am incredibly honored and grateful to have had this chance to represent all of you in this consequential election. May god bless you, and may god bless the United States of America!
You can read the text of Clinton’s speech here. The video is below.