Tuesday’s orange wave has left millions across the United States and the world with a sense of drowning in disbelief. This wasn’t what was predicted. The consensus was that Republican nominee Donald Trump had a path to winning the electoral college math as narrow as some of the views he expressed while campaigning.
However, there’s an even divide in America. Many among the over 50 million voters that supported Trump in his bid to occupy the Oval Office are recalling the late President Ronald Reagan’s Morning in America slogan, while a news website changed that to Mourning in its headline, reflecting another take.
However, President-elect Trump, the New York billionaire, is certainly entitled to a grace period, thanks to a mandate that’s pretty clear, despite Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead. There’s certainly an example that was set by incumbent President Barack Obama, as he explained that despite “pretty significant differences” with his predecessor, George W Bush, the latter’s team “could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running.” Civility of process was displayed at the White House on Thursday as Obama welcomed Trump, contrasting with the chaos of protests in multiple cities the evening before.
Trump’s defeated opponent Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech: “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” Trump himself packed away the bombast in his victory speech and after meeting Obama.
Both Obama and Clinton had enough reason to be churlish. Trump ran on a platform that attacked Obama’s signature initiatives including the Affordable Care Act and the Paris climate change agreement, to mention just two, and to ignore the unmentionables lobbed at the President. Clinton, meanwhile, was described as crooked, a criminal, as Trump used insults liberally.
Not that Clinton did herself any favours. For those fortunate enough to have covered the 2008 Presidential race, there was an elevated level of inspiration around Obama that she wasn’t able to capture eight years later, despite the historic nature of her candidacy. More than sexism, the problem was Clintonism, for the simple reason that the Clintons carry more baggage than a Dreamliner’s hold. Still, her supporters are devastated, and that’s understandable.
But in going off the ledge you will head in the exact opposite direction required to shatter the glass ceiling. It may be time to develop some 2020 vision. Just in case no one noticed, there’s a rich slate that’s emerging. Among them are four leaders who could be powerful factors in the years ahead, even without gender driving the agenda. And curiously enough, each has an Indian connection. In California, Kamala Harris, daughter of a Tamilian mother and African-American father was elected to the United States Senate. Anyone who has met her (and I’ve been lucky in that regard) has been impressed and this is just the beginning of her national journey. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu ever elected to the US House of Representatives, was re-elected from Hawaii and is not just rising within Democratic ranks but is also an unabashed India booster. Meanwhile, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley remains a strong contender for a larger role within the GOP of the future. Finally, there’s Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, often tipped as a 2016 candidate but who passed this time. Warren’s son-in-law is Indian-American and her links to the state’s community are strong.
Finding grace in defeat can be amazing and it doesn’t have to be abnormal as it seems in these times of schism.
It’s probably better to barter the anger and anxiety for anticipation of brighter days ahead. As Obama said on election morning, “Regardless of which side you were on in the election, regardless of whether your candidate won or lost, the sun will come up in the morning.” And even the force of a political tsunami dissipates, and as the waters recede, there’s always the opportunity to return to firm ground. The present, though, has to be a time of acceptance rather than acrimony.
Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs
The views expressed are personal