“In God We Trust.” So it says on our monetary legal tender as a representation of the foundational belief of one country under God, with liberty and justice for all.
So why, in the wake of the election of Donald Trump as the 39th president-elect, in the context of this great country’s history, have a great number of its citizens seemingly forgotten who we are as a great and resilient democratic society?
(Just for the sake of historical accuracy, while Mr. Trump will assume the nation’s most prominent elected office as the 45th president in our history, five presidents — John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur and Gerald Ford — were unelected, ascending to become the chief executive of the U.S. after the unexpected death or resignation of their predecessors. They therefore were never a president-elect. Calvin Coolidge — who became the Commander-in-Chief after the 1923 death of William Harding — was already president from that succession when he was elected in 1924 to his first-and-only full term and avoided the president-elect title.)
I was just as stunned and bewildered as anyone by the final election tally I awoke to on Nov. 9. Waiving the purpose of the voting booth privacy curtain, I readily reveal that Mr. Trump did not get my vote. However, true to our democratic principles, the votes of those who punched an “X” next to the Republican presidential candidate’s name are just as valid as my election choice and those who voted against him. As such, the votes of the victor should be respected as such.
The nastiness of this year’s campaign season notwithstanding, say what you will, but Donald Trump managed somehow to get more Electoral College votes than Hillary Clinton. In the context of our democratic system of government, although Clinton amassed more popular votes, Trump won — fair and square.
That doesn’t mean one must be happy about it, but it would seem that the biggest priority is to come together as a nation, allow a peaceful transition of power, and move on to deal with the important issues that face the U.S. nationally and internationally.
The historic 2008 election of the first African-American president and his subsequent re-election were not met — thankfully — with protests, rioting and clamoring about the futile refusal of the expressive discontent to accept the election results. Had that happened, many would have been mortified and appalled. Those challenging the election of Barack Obama would have been lambasted as racists, and the United States populace would have been seen by the rest of the world as being pitifully not on the same page concerning our own democratic electoral laws.
That did not take place in 2008 or in 2012. But it is taking place now.
You would have to go back 156 years to the first election of Abraham Lincoln to find such a comparable expression of immediate post-election outrage (I do not equate the current outrage with those protests and demonstrations in the aftermath of the 2000 contested George W. Bush election victory over Al Gore — those demonstrations were directed over the Florida political process of processing and counting ballots and only indirectly about the man who became the 43th U.S. president).
In the days following the Nov. 8 election, national news media outlets reported about 25 protests in major U.S cities — some riotous — in the wake of Mr. Trump’s election. These and other protests that have taken place since have had no achievable end, outside of frustration over the presidential election results.
The 1860 election of Mr. Lincoln prompted the succession of seven slaveholding states, the establishment of the Confederacy and split the U.S. into a civil war-divided country over the ensuing five years.
The election of President-elect Trump simply is not that serious. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
To be sure, some of his campaign pledges concerning immigration, the current health care system and world affairs, give many sober pause and serious concerns. But so have the campaign pledges of virtually every other president-elect in the history of this country.
That said, because Mr. Trump has been lawfully elected, he should be extended the same opportunity that previous presidents-elect have had to come up to speed on the realities of the office, to digest the covert intelligence that he will now regularly receive, and hopefully, to appoint and surround himself with the sage expertise of military, domestic and foreign affairs advisers.
What I truly find sadder than his election is the dismal pessimism that has pervaded a large portion of the national populace. It has made many of them forget that the U.S. is arguably the greatest country in the world. What should be an adamant confidence that the U.S. has what it takes to get through the next presidential term, come what may, has, in the minds of too many people, taken a back seat to dire predictions of the country’s demise as the perceived result of Mr. Trump’s election.
I choose to instead think in terms of “In God We Trust”; He has gotten the country through far bigger challenges over the course of our 240-year history. If I were God, I would be taking grave issue with the lack of faith in Him currently being exhibited. I also believe in the ability of our imperfect nation and its people to hold its leaders — including the U.S. president — accountable. If one is agnostic or atheist, the long-term track record of this country’s tenacity and perseverance should provide enough information to at least believe in the latter.
Instead of wasting precious time whining about the presidential election outcome and engaging in country-dividing actions and counterproductive negative mindsets, we should invest better-spent time in preparing to become expertly knowledgeable about the issues of the coming days, months and years.
We should work diligently to ensure that our perspectives on what the will of the country should be are not lost on our local, state and national leaders. We should also become intimately acquainted with what are the take-away lessons of the 2016 campaign in terms of what it says about our political parties and what it says about our country. The next presidential election is only four years away, and the preceding campaign will begin in earnest in 2019.
Moreover, we should move on from the election and come back together around the principles that define the United States as a democratic system of freely elected leaders. If you have forgotten what that means, take a trip abroad to some of the countries where such a system is nonexistent.
If the U.S. fails to reunite that in the coming days and weeks, then, we can only blame ourselves as a nation for the consequences that will come as a result.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Carlos Holmes is a resident of Bowers.