Donald Trump’s clear victory in last Tuesday’s presidential election sent shock waves across the country. It was a political quake that would have maxed out the Richter scale if such distress could be measured.
How could a man with an offensive tongue and short temper, who has never served in public office and who did not have the full backing of his own political party, become president of the United States?
There were a variety of factors at play, but one of the main reasons is this: He listened.
Trump listened to the people who felt dismissed by their government. He listened to the blue-collar workers struggling after losing their factory jobs. He listened to small business owners whose shops are on the brink of closing because their communities are dying.
He listened to those who felt ignored by the political elite and he told them he understood.
When Trump focused his campaign on the Rust Belt, he knew exactly what he was doing. States like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania all used to thrive on coal, steel and manufacturing.
Those industries have hit hard times, and so have the people who used to work in them.
Because the working class traditionally votes for Democrats, Hillary Clinton’s campaign took voters in these states for granted. But Trump went in with force and told them what they wanted to hear.
So in the end, these stalwart blue-voting Americans who had been seeing red decided to vote that way when it came time to mark their ballots.
Despite Trump’s erratic temperament, and his reputation as a bigot and a misogynist, millions of Americans overlooked his distasteful behavior because they were in despair — and because they believed he would make their lives better.
Now with a backward glance, most analysts agree it was the working-class vote that put Trump over the top. In his acceptance speech, Trump said, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
Electing Trump also is a signal that people are tired of political infighting and want a president who can cut through the Republican-Democrat power struggle that dominates the national agenda.
They believe electing a political outsider is the only way to make that happen.
In response to that, Republicans should not see Trump’s election and their dominance in the U.S. House and Senate as a mandate. Clinton won the popular vote and her supporters should not be disregarded.
Democrats, meanwhile, should avoid being obstructionists.
True, Republicans spent the past eight years obstructing President Obama almost every chance they could. But that does not mean it is now the Democrats' turn.
At some point we have to get past vengeance and focus on progress.
In that same vein, Trump’s triumph should not be treated with violent protest.
We understand the fear and anger his election induces. But now that he is the president-elect, we must honor the system that put him there.
Clinton, in her gracious conciliatory speech, asked her supporters to accept Trump as president, keep an open mind and give him a chance.
She is right.
It would help, certainly, if people broke away once in a while from the television networks, the radio programs and the social media sites that only reinforce their opinions and stoke their fury.
We need to get back to civil discourse and try to understand those who disagree with us, instead of vilifying them. This is important if the country is to heal.
We need to do what Trump did to get elected.
We need to listen.