This year, it was a November surprise, and it was a big one. We have elected a new president, some assembly required.
We are a nation stupefied, some with joy, some with horror. If you bought stock in Kleenex, your net worth is up. The rest of the world is watching with apprehension and disbelief as the United States prepares to inaugurate a uniquely unqualified president.
Last Tuesday night, as we awaited the much-anticipated demise of The Donald, there was plenty of talk of a Republican identity crisis, a divided party, a nonexistent ground game. Then, as the numbers poured in and state after state was called for Donald Trump, the soul searching began.
The same pundits who missed the call on the election results by a mile were up early the following morning, ready to explain exactly where the Clinton campaign had gone wrong. She had taken “blue” states for granted. She had failed to connect with the average Joe. She had an “enthusiasm gap.”
Well, apparently there is nothing like losing an election to inspire a little enthusiasm. In cities around the country, the streets filled with protestors chanting “Not my president!” and urging the president-elect to “go away.” Sorry, but he is indeed your president, or is about to be, and having just been elected president, why on earth would he go away?
Had those people been in the streets, fired up on behalf of a Trump alternative, perhaps the election outcome would have been different. But it is a bit late for protest now.
Democrats were scandalized when Trump played coy about whether he would accept the election results. They were scornful of his claims that the election would be “rigged.” Now some are trying to overturn the results simply because they don’t like the outcome. That’s not how it works.
The two biggest questions now are “How scared should we be?” and “What positive changes could we make in our electoral system?” The fear factor is rampant. The worst consequence is that it is filtering down to our children. These little souls are being buffeted by the strident cries and emotional reactions of the adults around them. Get a grip, everybody. Don’t scare the kids.
If you opposed Trump, you are in for a rough ride as he selects a cabinet and begins to develop and implement policy. But let us not anticipate the worst before it happens. And what has happened so far is not cause for undue alarm.
The election itself was conducted as U.S. elections usually are. Complaints of irregularities were few and far between. Long lines at the polls were endured with patience and fortitude. The night of the election, the stock market tanked, but the next day it came roaring back.
The winner laid gracious claim to his victory; the loser gave a dignified exit speech. The outgoing president made a call of congratulations to the victor and extended an invitation to the White House.
And there, in the most powerful office in the world, two men who clearly cannot stand each other sat down together and prepared for a transfer of power in a workmanlike performance marked by civility and professionalism.
There was something else. There was the sense that the meeting marked the moment when an inkling of what a president must know and do began to dawn on Trump.
Within an hour of meeting with President Barack Obama, President-elect Trump had acknowledged that the Affordable Care Act, a program he swore time and again he would repeal “on day one,” wasn’t all bad, and that there were aspects of it he would retain.
The 11 million illegal immigrants he intended to deport became “two million, or maybe three.” The beautiful wall across our southern border became a beautiful fence.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was relieved of his command of the transition, and the post was taken up by Vice President-to-be Mike Pence. Pence has his detractors, but he has a vastly better understanding of Washington than Christie.
As his chief of staff, Trump selected Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, a choice that does not support the promise of candidate Trump to get rid of Washington insiders but adds another layer of stability to the politically inexperienced Trump team.
As the new administration takes shape and then takes control, there is plenty to worry about. We could wring our hands, or we could get to work. We could start by putting some serious thought into this election, this miserable, degrading, costly, uninformative, rancorous election. If there is one thing to like about it, it is that those with their hands on the levers of power got their fingers burned.
It remains to be seen whether we have made a wise decision in our choice of leaders, but make it we did. After years of accepting the growing power of money and influence in our elections, voters have taken a stand. This is progress, as long as we remember that the goal is not winning or losing, but “to form a more perfect union.”