You had gone through election night, staying up late, switching from channel to channel, learning about the Florida vote, the Ohio vote, seeing the tearful faces of panel members on PBS and finally learning that yes, indeed, Donald Trump had won the election.
It’s a shock with a good side: Hillary Clinton did not win. Then you learn Trump is going to give his victory speech. Heaven help us, you think.
But no, he did not come out and say lock her up. He actually made kind remarks about Clinton, how she had so dutifully served her country, for instance. He called for unity, just as both Clinton and President Barack Obama would the next day. He seemed humble. He seemed pleased but serious. He seemed presidential.
Let’s hope he stays there. He just might if he surrounds himself with brilliant people and listens to them. If he does not, our democratic institutions will likely only let him get away with so much. He does have some good policy ideas that have evolved from earlier simplicities, though you have to worry about trade and the wall and whether he will be prudently wise on foreign policy.
Keep in mind, however, that there were lots of worries with Clinton, too, such as her converting the Supreme Court into a leftist oligarchy. That just won’t happen now. The Constitution lives another day.
Trump’s campaign was a sometimes mean-spirited clown act, but guess what? The campaign of his rival was not that different and we got something disreputable from too much of the press at the same time.
We had all kinds of editorializing in news stories, and equally as bad were too many TV journalists focusing on pollsters whose techniques may have to be abandoned for more effective crystal balls the next time around. Of course, even the best of polls do not see very far ahead, and so why was it that so much time was spent day after day analyzing them while a host of issues important to the nation went barely mentioned?
At the same time, Clinton was avoiding press conferences and forever huddling with fat cat contributors. She focused more on attacking Trump than addressing issues, had her own dalliance with vulgarity in the rappers she invited on stage with her and spent three times as much as Trump on mostly nasty TV ads.
Here is one thing Trump did that counted a lot. He addressed low-education, low-income whites whose desperation is signaled by an increasing death rate that has much to do with drugs, alcohol and suicide. He did not promise them freebies. He promised them jobs of a kind that have not come their way for a long time. These are people who have been ignored by many in Washington and who are clearly disdained by not a few high-and-mighty leftists. They are accustomed to promises, not action. They also happen to vote.
It is not true, however, that Trump got few votes from the college-educated. Without their help, and the help of many women, some millennials and Latinos, he would not have won. He received their help in part because of the corrupt alternative, people sick and tired of the past eight Obama years, and such visitations as Obamacare. What Trump did not do in his campaign was much advertising or much establishment of a ground game. Was it ineptitude, or were we learning that the old way of things is not the successful way of things?
What Trump needs now is self-control and capable aides as well as critics and political opponents who give him a chance to prove he is not Armageddon with golden hair.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at [email protected].