Hillary Clinton delivered a killer stump speech this morning, after she lost the election. It was her concession speech. Listen to it. You won’t hear any personal attacks, or talking down to “deplorable” Trump voters, or any hint of arrogance or blatant hunger for power.
Instead, we see a sober Hillary Clinton, humbled by defeat, seeking to unify a country she loves.
“Last night I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country,” she said to a group of disheartened supporters.
She spoke lovingly of “an America that is hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted” with an economy that “work[s] for everyone, not just those at the top.”
Those simple words of empathy for all Americans could have formed the basis for a winning campaign. All of her policies could have flowed from this unifying ideal.
Alas, we rarely got to see this unifying Hillary on the campaign trail. At a time when so much of the country was disillusioned with politicians, she offered the country a politician on steroids. What do politicians crave? They crave power, and they will do or say anything to get it, even lie. That was already Hillary’s image before she started running, and her campaign only reinforced it.
The morning after her loss, however, when power was no longer on the table, Hillary was serene and relaxed. Her body language had none of the hysterical phoniness of the power seeker. She could stop being a politician and become human again.
“Donald Trump is going to be our president,” she quietly told her followers. “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”
Had Hillary’s campaign showed more of an “open mind” to the genuine grievances of many Trump voters, she might have reached more voters repelled by Trump’s coarse divisiveness. She could have been the unifier to Trump’s divider. She could have motivated her supporters to also open their minds.
Instead, too many of Hillary’s supporters allowed their contempt for Trump to translate to his voters. Their thinking was: If you vote for Trump, you must be a bigot or out of your mind, and I will shame you. There was no room for empathy.
I have no doubt that Trump had his share of bigoted fans. But by stereotyping so many Trump voters as “deplorables” and leaving it at that, Hillary’s campaign missed an opportunity to create a unifying message and broaden her appeal.
“We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought,” she said at her concession speech. Well, that’s for sure. I only wish she would have figured that out sooner and acted on it.
After all, what is a great leader for, if not to unify a divided nation?
Voters don’t unify, leaders do. Most Hillary voters stayed smugly in their silos and viewed all Trump voters with contempt. They had little interest in learning more about people they saw as living in another ideological planet. That’s what voters like to do– hang out with like-minded people.
I expect more from our leaders. A Hillary campaign to unify a divided nation would have been extraordinary. It would have opened minds and hearts. It would have brought out the best in our country and in our people. It would have done what Trump couldn’t do.
Maybe, in the end, Hillary just didn’t have it in her. After so many years of playing in the political swamps, she couldn’t see the forest above her. She couldn’t see the Americans who had given up and were acting out. She assumed she could win without them.
Trump saw all those frustrated Americans, and he pounced. He was the wrong man for the right job. Now, we have to live with the uncertain consequences. As I see people across the country demonstrating against the result of the election, and blaming “the wrong America” for Trump’s victory, all I can see is a future full of greater and greater divisions.
But here’s a silver lining: If Hillary is serious about continuing to fight for her country, I have an idea for her next job. Barnstorm the nation continuously over the next four years and try to bridge our differences. Use the same message and the same winning and hopeful tone you used in your concession speech.
Just don’t ask for speaking fees.