Originally Published: November 10, 2016 6 a.m.
The campaign is done. The votes are counted. And America is waking up from one of the strangest, angriest and most divisive presidential campaigns in recent memory.
So I’ll be the first to say it: Congratulations, President-elect Trump. For the good of the nation, I hope you succeed.
We don’t agree on much. Okay, we don’t agree on anything at all. But that’s politics. It’s a competition of ideas. And on Tuesday night, a majority of Americans decided they liked yours better.
The blue-collar billionaire shtick worked -- even with the harsh rhetoric about undocumented immigrants and Muslims and your playboy past and the unacceptable treatment of women that you blithely dismissed as “locker room talk.”
In victory early Wednesday morning, you were something I didn’t expect: gracious and magnanimous. It was a stark contrast to your tone on the stump, which was hectoring and confrontational.
So when you said that it’s “time for us to come together as one, united people,” I’m going to take you at your word.
When you told a crowd in New York City that you “[pledged] to every citizen of our land,” that you will “be a president to all of our citizens,” I’m going to assume you were in earnest and that this wasn’t the beginning of the mother of all bait-and-switches.
And when you asked your opponents for “guidance and help in unifying our great country,” I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you actually want it and that it wasn’t empty rhetoric.
But you have your work cut out for you.
As big as your victory was, there are still tens of millions of people who viscerally disagree with you.
You’re going to have to somehow bring them on your side. And that work will be difficult after 18 months of the sort of fighting that we’ve seen over the course of this campaign.
After all, you can’t say that you’re going to have your Attorney General investigate the competition and claim that she belongs in jail and immediately expect your opponents to come around.
Nor can you say that you plan to begin rounding up and deporting several million people, many of whom have lived in the United States for years and have started families, without expecting serious resistance and withering criticism.
And you can’t talk about women or blacks or Muslims the way that you did and expect that they’ll simply overlook it. That’s not how this works.
There are many Americans who woke up on Wednesday morning fearing that the guy on the stump is the one who’s heading to the White House, not the one your advisers claim you are behind the scenes. That’s serious and it’s real. And you have a lot to prove.
But you’re by no means alone in that soul-searching.
Democrats have their own challenges to confront.
Tuesday’s result was as thorough a repudiation of corporatist Democratic politics as any we’ve ever seen. Party leaders will be sifting through the results and the wreckage to figure out where the message, and its flawed messenger, fell flat.
Similarly, Republican leaders who explicitly repudiated you and your philosophy will have to figure out their place in the political landscape you so sharply redefined on Tuesday night.
Victory, however, tends to be a great unifier – so you have that going for you.
And, yes, the press and pollsters will have to do some soul-searching, too, and come to grips with how we missed the appeal of a message that so clearly touched so many voters and how the polls could have gotten that so utterly wrong.
And then there are your own supporters, to whom you have promised the moon and the stars. Legislative majorities alone won’t be enough – they’ll need to see that famed deal-making skill in action.
But that’s tomorrow.
Today, linger over coffee in your gold-plated penthouse, enjoy the win and the knowledge that you’ve turned the American political establishment on its head.
I still don’t think you’re qualified. And I still think your ideas are bad for the country.
But as I’ve noted so often before, we’re all in this together. And when the shouting is done, we still have to find a way to row in the same direction. I hope that we can.
So congratulations, Mr. Trump. And good luck. You are certainly going to need it.
John L. Micek, an award-winning political journalist, is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at email@example.com.