He won; now let’s get back in the arena

Is the American experiment in democracy equipped to survive a Trump presidency? Our E-day-plus-one answer is, “Of course it will.” And it is the responsibility of our leaders, especially the vanquished Democratic ticket, to re-affirm this bedrock belief.

Our republic has weathered numerous constitutional crises, including a secessionist movement leading to a four-year-long armed conflict to restore the Union; invasion by a foreign army; obscene acts of terrorism both homegrown and imported, including chattel slavery; and economic depressions so grave that they many times threatened to engulf much of the nation in abject poverty.

This was not a crisis, it was an election. The winner, Mr. Trump, earned his title of president-elect on Wednesday morning and, in proper sequence, Hillary Clinton and President Obama spoke eloquently and with dignity about what we— as loyal Americans, even those of us dismayed by the outcome—must do next.

“That’s the way politics works some times,” observed the president, who noted that he’s been on the losing end of elections before. “If we lose, we learn from our mistakes, we do some reflections, we lick our wounds, we get back in the arena.”

Suck it up, we’re told. Choose to engage with our political foes, not as one would with a bitter adversary but as a competitor in an “intramural scrimmage,” as the president put it on Wednesday.

That’s tough medicine for those of us — including this writer — who are horrified by the reality of a once-unlikely Trump presidency. It’s particularly disheartening in the context of the eight years that preceded this moment. It seems incomprehensible that the same electorate that brought us the Obama family now offers us the Trumps.

It’s a bitter reminder that the ebb and flow of our federation rarely allows for the sustained empowerment of any one side— progressive or conservative— beyond two terms. The instinct of the voting populace is predictable only in that they will regularly choose to disrupt the control of any one party after a certain amount of time.

It is a shame that the beneficiary of this wave of change is a candidate who has engendered such divisiveness in his remarks and their tone, who seems hard-wired to insult and demean; and whose personal behavior — as revealed on tape and by accusers— is revolting and dishonorable.

The American experiment in democracy will be tested, perhaps to its limits, in the comings weeks and months. But we must resolve that no one individual or administration— however distasteful—can compromise its future. Our republic is built of far sturdier stuff than that.

To friends and neighbors given to despair in the aftermath of this election, find a way to make peace with it on your own terms.

Andre Kearns, a friend who dedicates much of his time to the study of his family’s African-American ancestral roots, put it this way in a note online that also admonished friends contemplating an escape from the United States after the Trump win:

“My ancestors have lived in this country since 1619 when the first ‘twenty and odd Negroes’ arrived in Jamestown on slave ships and since before then as indigenous peoples. For the last 400 years they lived through times much more difficult than these and through their lives they’ve helped to bend the arc of the moral universe in America a little bit closer to justice for all. My commitment to them is to do the same, no matter who sits in the Oval Office,” he wrote.

He’s right. We must follow President Obama’s counsel to adhere to the “presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens…a respect for our institutions, our way of life, of the rule of law.”