Editorial: Trump must act to unify the nation

Published: 11/10/2016 6:18:46 PM

The first challenge that President-elect Donald J. Trump faces before he becomes the nation’s 45th president on Jan. 20 is persuading all reasonable Americans that his blueprint for governance will reflect the conciliatory tone of his victory speech in the early morning hours Wednesday, rather than the vitriolic rhetoric of his campaign.

After his upset victory was assured, Trump first commended his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton: “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.”

He went on to say, “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; we have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”

That theme of unity was echoed hours later as first Clinton and then President Barack Obama addressed the nation. “We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America — and I always will,” Clinton said. “And if you do, too, 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.”

Obama a short time later pledged an orderly transition as Trump prepares to take over the presidency:  “Because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world.

“… We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that. That’s what the country needs — a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law, and respect for each other,” the president said.

The nation is divided. While Trump clearly won in the Electoral College, Clinton had a lead of about 200,000 in the national popular vote Wednesday night. Regardless of the margin, Trump’s victory came because he tapped into a deep vein of voter discontent in many parts of the country (if not the Pioneer Valley).

And while naturally there was deep disappointment among Clinton’s vocal supporters, further signs of a nation divided were expressed Wednesday, particularly by Americans who will be affected if Trump follows through on his campaign pledges to repeal the Affordable Care Act, tighten immigration policies and take a harsher approach to policing.

It is difficult to accept that the real Donald Trump is anything more than the shameless megalomaniac whose campaign led many, including this editorial page, to conclude that he was unfit for the presidency. During his campaign, Trump denigrated women, ethnic and racial minorities and disabled people. He played fast and loose with the facts and showed none of the moral fiber required of the leader of the free world.

Those Americans who did not vote for him will now be watching closely for tangible signs that Trump’s pledge to unify the country is more than just words that sounded good in the flush of victory.

Trump must think very carefully about those people whose lives will be disrupted  if he tries to repeal Obamacare, or gut it through changes in regulations. About 20 million people today have health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s a huge number of Americans, including some of the nation’s most vulnerable people, now facing uncertainty over their health care.

As Americans await for the Trump presidency to unfold, they can look in their own communities for ways to support their friends and neighbors who may feel threatened by the words of Trump’s campaign.

Meanwhile, we will be among those watching very closely which Donald Trump emerges as president in 71 days.


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