The Politics of US series: National reconciliation


Part 10 in a 10-part weekly series. The Politics of US looks at polarizing topics to help deepen understanding of the issues – and respect for those with differing views. This final installment looks at the opportunity for national reconciliation and the challenges to be overcome.

By Staff NOVEMBER 9, 2016 

After Trump’s remarkable win, can national reconciliation follow?

By Linda Feldmann, Staff writer

On the eve of Election 2016, the signs of discord were everywhere.

Clinton supporters frantically warned of an American democracy in peril if Donald Trump won. Trump supporters warned against electing “Crooked Hillary,” shouts of “Lock her up!” ringing out at every rally.

Lawn signs were defaced or stolen. Friends were “unfriended.” Couples in “mixed marriages” had to negotiate truces.

And yet Americans are by nature a hopeful people, and for some, the epic election of 2016 has presented an opportunity for learning and growth.

“It’s given us a lens into how differently friends and neighbors see the nation and the issues we’re facing,” says Parisa Parsa, executive director of Essential Partners, a dialogue group based in Cambridge, Mass. “The opportunity in that is to come together, and ask what that means.”

Not that the Clinton and Trump camps will be ready to link arms and sing Kumbaya anytime soon. Or ever. Republicans and Democrats, too, face divisions within their own parties – especially the Republicans. Coming to national consensus on any big topics  may be a bridge too far for some time to come.

But the journey can be meaningful. Hashing out policy differences is what governing is all about.  All Americans ask for is civility.

Trump’s first step to effectiveness: uniting with GOP Congress

By Francine Kiefer, Staff writer

WASHINGTON — For years, Americans have railed against dysfunction in Washington. Now that Republicans have stunned the nation and the world with a clean sweep of the White House and both chambers of Congress, the conventional wisdom is that this will help grease the gears and lead to a more smoothly running government.

“The best thing about Trump is, he’s likely to sign the bills that Congress passes,” says GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, speaking about a GOP victory in advance of the election.

But the question remains as to whether this celebrity president-elect can unite his own famously fractured party. In his campaign, he flung flaming arrows at the “establishment” Republican leaders in the House and Senate, much to the delight of voters. Many of his ideas – about the border, trade, and preserving Social Security – are at odds with Republican positions in Congress, especially when it comes to spending.

“He’s neither tea party, nor is he establishment, and I think that’s really quite telling,” says Ronald Rapoport, at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. “He’s his own kind of guy and that’s really a challenge for the Republican Party.”

•  •  •


The 2016 presidential election results according to The New York Times. Red and blue states represent Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton votes, respectively. 

States where the winning margin was 5% or less:

STATE                     Hillary CLINTON    Donald TRUMP   
Arizona 45.4% 49.6%
Colorado 46.9% 44.8%
Florida 47.8% 49.1%
Maine 48.1% 44.9%
Michigan 47.3% 47.6%
Minnesota 46.8% 45.4%
Nevada 47.9% 45.5%
New Hampshire 47.5% 47.3%
North Carolina 46.7% 50.5%
Pennsylvania 47.7% 48.8%
Virginia 49.7% 45.0%
Wisconsin 46.9% 47.9%

•  •  • 

Dealt a surprise Trump card, the world tries to figure out a changed game

By Peter Ford, Staff writer

PARIS — Suddenly, the world is flying blind.

Donald Trump’s election victory, after a campaign that offered only vague and often contradictory clues about his foreign policy, has left leaders around the globe in the dark about his intentions.

Much about them is indeed unclear. But enough of Mr. Trump’s priorities have emerged to spark sharply differing international reactions.

Among America’s friends, neighbors, and global allies, the mood is one of gloom and alarm. In Washington’s rivals and enemies, from China to Russia to Al Qaeda, there is remarkable jubilation.

“We have always worked with the United States as a partner,” says a senior government official in Jordan, a key Mideast ally which relies on more than $1 billion a year in US aid. “Now we no longer know who we are working with, and all our plans are on stand-by.”

From Beijing, the view is different. “If Hillary had won, China would have faced a tougher situation,” commented one user of the Weibo social media site, echoing a widely held opinion among Chinese nationalists. “Trump is better. The US will decline faster under his leadership. China will dominate the world.”

At stake is nothing less than the liberal international order that the United States has underpinned since World War II. Trump’s campaign threats to stop paying to defend allies such as European NATO partners; his promises to renege on international trade deals; and his “America First” approach to the world risk turning international diplomacy on its head.

Trump rides rural rebellion to a stunning victory

By Peter Grier, Staff writer

Rural white America has staged a political rebellion unprecedented in recent American history, propelling billionaire developer Donald Trump to an astounding presidential victory.

The result is essentially a repudiation of Washington and overthrows a pundit class that, as late as Tuesday afternoon, thought Hillary Clinton was poised for a tight but clear victory. A Republican surge undetected by virtually all polling kept the party in solid control of the House and Senate as well.

“The polls underestimated two forces – one was voter discontent and the other was Republicans’ loyalty to their party’s nominee despite the ambivalence about Trump expressed by GOP leaders,” says Columbia University political science professor Donald P. Green in an email.

The result will be at least four years of a Washington unified under the direction of one party, holding out the prospect of a sharp swerve in the nation’s direction on such core issues as foreign policy, trade, immigration, health care, and the environment.

More broadly for the nation, Trump’s victory reverses the narrative of the past few years. Many conservative white voters have despaired at what they saw as America’s decline economically, militarily, and culturally, feeling the country was slipping away. Now they have emphatically turned the table on Democratic voters.

  1. “I will be president for all Americans,”  Donald Trump’s victory speech

I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us. It’s about us. On our victory, and 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. 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.

It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. 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.

  1. “We owe Trump an open mind and the chance to lead,”  Hillary Clinton’s concession speech

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. But I want you to remember this.

Our campaign was never about one person, or even one election. It was about the country we love and building an America that is hopeful, inclusive, and big-hearted. We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America, and I always will. And 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.

  1. “We go forward with good faith in our fellow citizens,”  President Barack Obama’s speech on Donald Trump’s election

I’ve lost elections before…. That’s the way politics works sometimes. We try really hard to persuade people that we’re right and then people vote. And then if we lose, we learn from our mistakes, we do some reflection, we lick our wounds, we brush ourselves off, we get back in the arena, we go at it. We try even harder the next time.

The point though is is that we all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy. That’s how this country has moved forward for 240 years. It’s how we’ve pushed boundaries and promoted freedom around the world. That’s how we’ve expanded the rights of our founding to reach all of our citizens. It’s how we have come this far.

And that’s why I’m confident that this incredible journey that we’re on, as Americans, will go on. And I’m looking forward to doing everything that I can to make sure that the next president is successful in that.

I’ve said before, I think of this job as being a relay runner. You take the baton, you run your best race and hopefully by the time you hand it off, you’re a little further ahead, you’ve made a little progress. And I can say that we’ve done that and I want to make sure that handoff is well executed because ultimately we’re all on the same team.

  1. George H.W. Bush’s letter to incoming President Bill Clinton
  2. Al Gore concedes presidential elections of 2000, CNN video

Now the US Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt: while I strongly disagree with the Court’s decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new president-elect and do everything possible to help bring Americans together…. Our differences must be overcome by our love of country.

  1. Americans Don’t Need Reconciliation – They Need to Get Better at Arguing,” (The Atlantic)

If we listen more and serve more we’ll be ready for the third step: arguing more. More? Most people would say we have such dysfunction today because we already argue too much about too many things. But that’s a misdiagnosis of what ails American politics. We don’t need fewer arguments today; we need less stupid ones. The arguments in American politics today are stupid in many ways: They’re stuck in a decaying two-party institutional framework; they fail to challenge foundational assumptions about capitalism or government; they center on symbolic proxy skirmishes instead of naming the underlying change; they focus excessively on style and surface. Americans can do better.


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