DONALD TRUMP, who rolled to an astonishing victory in the presidential election, laid waste to conventional wisdom, the polling industry, his opponents, the truth, and almost every remaining rule of decency left in American politics. Regrettably, it worked. In the wee hours of the morning Wednesday, he claimed the narrowest of Electoral College victories over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Now all must live with the consequences. The president-elect will immediately face challenges containing the forces that he has unleashed. If, as he vowed, Trump wants to make America great again, his first and most urgent task is to make it civil again.
Trump’s candidacy relied on ethnic scapegoating and fear-mongering to rally blue-collar white voters, who bridled at immigration, foreign trade, and a sense that their country was slipping away from them. Claiming to speak for the everyman, he offered vague, impractical, or impossible promises like forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall in order to stop illegal immigration.
That demogoguery may have won him an election, but for millions of Americans, his tactics reeked of racism and bigotry. The surge in turnout by Hispanic voters, while not enough to stop Trump, was vivid evidence of the impact his rhetoric has had on American society
Yet the nation cannot survive if it remains so polarized, and it falls to the president, above all others, to recognize that challenge. To put it charitably, Trump did nothing during the campaign to suggest he has the skills to heal a divided nation. As our president-elect, he will have to demonstrate a grace that has remained elusive, and make clear that he understands his job from this day on is to overcome divisions, not exacerbate them.
He will also need to do what he never did during the campaign: put together a coherent plan for his government, starting with a Cabinet. He was rightly shunned by most Republicans during the campaign, but now he will need their help to give substance to his vague promises to make everything great.
For the Democrats, who virtually cleared their primary field for Clinton despite her known vulnerabilities, Wednesday must prompt a reckoning. The party appears to be headed into the wilderness, having failed to gain control of either the House or the Senate. In the same way Republicans undertook an autopsy after the 2012 presidential election, Democrats must take a hard look at how they lost former mainstays like Wisconsin.
This outcome is not one that this page welcomes. Trump looks like a disaster in the making; all Americans can do now is pray that he proves his skeptics wrong.