So, Hillary Clinton collected more votes, as of now over 200,000 more, in the recent election than Donald Trump. Of course, Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States because he has more electoral votes than Secretary Clinton. I won’t explain that—if you don’t understand it, I’m not the one to help. I’m also not going to call for banning the Electoral College. There are valid arguments for and against our system. What I am going to do is to ask, implore, even beg you not to check out of the process. Stay engaged. Stay involved, but please do it with passion, grace, and respect.
We all have a profound interest in bringing civility to our political dialogue. I don’t want the bad old days when straight, white males succeeded in excluding almost everyone else from the process. I do want respectful disagreement and an acknowledgment that we all love our country.
Right now, that seems like a novel concept.
Many Hillary Clinton voters view Donald Trump voters as unthinking, xenophobic, homophobic, and just plain racist. A whole lot of Donald Trump voters view Hillary Clinton’s voters as violent, godless, lawless, racist, greedy, and downright immoral.
Many Clinton voters think Trump is a misogynist pig; many Trump voters think Clinton is a criminal.
A few Clinton voters think all Trump voters are judgmental Bible thumpers. Some are, and they think the full freedoms America offers are for English-speaking Christians only and that Clinton voters are bringing God’s judgment, in the form of terror attacks and natural disasters—you pick—on America very soon.
I get the impression from these loud voices that Hillary Clinton’s voters think the first amendment is about to be excised from the Constitution, while Donald Trump’s true believers are convinced they just rescued the second amendment from the incinerator.
The truth is, some of us voted for the person we voted for because we thought they were the better of the two choices available. Okay, I understand, some of us chose the one less unqualified as we see it, and Bernie Sanders was somehow a factor. Fine. Secretary Clinton and President-elect Trump are human just like we are.
Most of us found a very clear preference when it came down to it. I know I did.
And, we who weighed the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates or simply knew that they couldn’t keep all their promises? We just want the country to move forward the best it can. We have lots of common ground, lost in all the rancor on the poles of the conversation, and we hope that our government can start doing its part in handling the deep issues of our day: issues of race, religious freedom for everyone, gun violence, terrorism, immigration reform, internet security, privacy, economic inequalities, keeping up with the changing ethnic makeup of our country, and on and on.
And, yes, reasonable voters of both candidates also hope that some of the expansion of freedom we have gained in the last 50 years or so aren’t rolled back.
But, the government can’t make us get along. The Supreme Court can make same-sex marriage legal, but it won’t stop gay bashing and hate speech. Police departments can institute all the reforms they want, but that won’t change the heart of the racist cop.
Societal changes often happen independently of governmental action. Abortion rights were becoming more and more widely accepted before it was legalized in 1973. The same goes for same-sex marriage. A major change in public opinion was already underway, and at the time of the 2015 ruling making marriage equality the law in every state, only 15 states still had bans in place. In 2000, only Vermont allowed same-sex civil unions. Governmental action often follows movements and public opinion sea changes.
So, be who you are. Stand up for what’s right. Be always watchful of everyone’s right to participate in our free society. We sure do need it.
But, maybe even more important than that, assume the best in everyone, including those you disagree with.
President Obama said to us after the election, “This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first.” It’s a nice dream at least. Let’s try to make it real.