After the gloating, the hand-wringing, the lamenting and dread, the fact is that "We the People" spoke collectively to the nation on Election Day. The question now is whether we have ears to hear what was being said, and the courage to respond.
Among the people I know, one thing is obvious: this was a deeply divided outcome which reflects a conflicted electorate struggling to choose between two deeply flawed candidates. Beyond a few idealists, demagogues, and partisan hacks, I don't know many people who enthusiastically pulled the lever FOR Secretary Clinton OR President-Elect Trump.
There are at least three narratives about how Trump won. We need to hear them and respond seriously to what each story tells us.
The first story is that Trump's unapologetically narcissistic, misogynistic, racist, and xenophobic bluster and public lifestyle galvanized a bigoted base to turn out en masse to preserve a fading way of life.
The fact that he won now has our most vulnerable neighbors, and the objects of that bluster - immigrants, Muslims, women, Black and Brown Americans, the poor and disenfranchised, people with disabilities - afraid that he will carry out his threats to be Bully-in-chief.
Racists and hate groups did indeed vote for Trump. But they alone could not have brought him victory. They were joined by millions of disaffected voters who generally reject racism, sexism, and sexual assault and voted for him anyway. We need to understand these millions of fellow citizens.
The second narrative: Trump's victory repudiates the self-dealing corruption of Washington, D.C., the Clinton political machine, and smug elites.
Millions of Americans resent the undeserved influence of unaccountable lobbyists and elected officials who lecture them about what's good for the people and, then, fail to deliver on promises. The villains in this story are Teflon politicians who have learned to avoid responsibility for moral failings at the behest of special interests. Too many of Washington, D.C. politicians escape accountability by hiding evidence and conveniently "not recalling" incriminating events under oath.
The believers of this narrative portray Clinton as the worst embodiment of Washington's status quo. Many of them have never forgiven and forgotten the sins of the first Clinton presidency. Neither the prospect of the first woman President nor Trump's noxious record and toxic stump speeches were more important than purging Clinton from the D.C. cesspool.
The third narrative says Trump gave white evangelicals assurances that he would appoint conservative Supreme Court justices who would strike down laws that allow hideous late-term abortions. So, they delivered him the White House with a whopping 81%.
As a group, evangelicals recoil at the fifty-nine million legal U.S. abortions since 1973 and were willing to disregard glaring character defects in the hope that a Trump-appointed Supreme Court majority might curtail abortion-on-demand.
All three stories are right in some ways. Bigots do love Trump. But millions of regular Americans are also tired of business as usual in D.C. And white evangelicals did ignore immorality to embrace Trump as a tool in their decades long anti-abortion fight.
The emotions are raw and the passions run deep. Those who were scorned by Trump now fear reprisals by him or his supporters. America has a four hundred year history of exploiting the poor and marginalized in insidious ways. Less than 24 hours after the election, emboldened race-haters are already vandalizing schools and private property around the country.
Those who resent business as usual in Washington, D.C. must remind Trump and the Republican Congress that America is great when it is great for all Americans, not just the White and privileged. Christians today have to deal with how they compromised long-held values to gain judicial appointees. They are going to need to take steps to reclaim their moral authority on behalf of the most marginalized Americans.
How then Shall We Respond?
Moving forward to unite a profoundly divided country requires uncommon courage in my house and yours, regardless of who occupies the White House. Here are five steps to effective bridge building.
First, rediscover the humanity in those who voted differently than you did. Most aren't jerks. They just see the world differently than you do. And those who act like jerks are still somebody's mother / father / son / daughter. Be kind to them anyway.
Second, talk less and listen more -- especially to protesters. Really, listen. The fear and angst half the country feels right now is real. If you don't feel what they feel, maybe that's because your story is fundamentally different than theirs. Stop trying to argue them out of their experience and their emotions. Find out what caused their pain, and fight for their healing as you did for your victory.
Third, stop arguing with those who disagree with you. You already won (or lost) the election. It's time to lament (or celebrate) with dignity and class. As Michele Obama reminded us throughout the campaign, when "they" go low -- whoever they are -- courageous people go high.
Fourth, love and serve your neighbors well. Find ways to work together to make America truly great, by making America good. At America's best, its people reject political expediency to fight for the vulnerable through sacrificial leadership and humility. Advocate for a more just world and offer your best to make it so.
Today, we celebrate our veterans. Do something to remember their sacrifices so that we can freely vote. Email a veteran among your family, friends or co-workers, say a prayer for protection of our soldiers overseas, or ask that God will make you a veteran healer of the wounds in our body politic.
Finally, stop cloaking political arguments in religious and spiritual mandates. God is not a Democrat or a Republican, nor does he wear any other partisan label. God neither roots for nor is surprised by the outcome of any election. And God's will shall be done regardless of who wins or loses a political contest.
The courage of hope
Our increasingly violent, sexually turbocharged, cynical culture got the Presidential candidates we deserved and the President-Elect for whom millions voted. Now we must live with the consequences of our collective choices -- good, bad, or otherwise.
Hope does not reside on Pennsylvania Avenue. The hope for America resides on Main Street, your street and my street. When the splinters of the electorate rediscover each other’s humanity, the love, compassion, and creative energy that grows in our hearts will provide hope that will not be disappointed.
Jeremy Del Rio, Esq. leads Thrive Collective, which provides arts, mentoring, and other services in 100 NYC public schools; and is a minister at Abounding Grace Ministries in Manhattan's Lower East Side.