November 3, 2008
Tonight is the night before the election, which seems like the longest and most deeply divided in modern history. To even call it an election “season” is a bit imprecise — people were discussing Hillary Clinton and other candidates nearly two years ago. But tomorrow it all comes to an end, and we’ll need to decide what to do afterwards.
Every presidential election is different — new candidates, new voters, new issues on which we all feel passionately. Yet some things always seem to stay the same. Baseless personal attacks. Hype for debates that turn out to be snoozers. Charges of voter fraud and intimidation fired in both directions. Here’s one positive custom we also usually see: at the end of the night, the runner-up for president makes a private concession to his rival, followed by a public congratulations and appeal to his supporters to accept their new leader. It’s an often ignored practice these days, but the message behind it is one we should all consider as we go into Tuesday, before we know which role our candidate will be playing.
This is not a partisan message because its point is equally valid no matter who wins. After tomorrow, the next President of the United States will be chosen (we pray). For half of the voters, it will be a moment for celebration and victory and hope for the future. That shouldn’t be taken away from them. For the other half, the evening will end in defeat, sadness, and even resentment at the other party’s jubilation. Years of work and struggle, bitterer and angrier than I’ve ever seen, will come to a sudden, thundering halt like a car speeding into the side of a concrete building.
We should leave the anger and bitterness there as well.
Americans will not wake up two days from now miraculously changed people. There will still be political and ideological divisions, we’ll still fight for our causes, and that’s okay. Our country was founded with the very notion of disagreement in mind; it’s written into our First Amendment. After tomorrow night, half of the country will be unhappy with the outcome, but it’s what they do the following day that really matters. Swallow the anger, look past the divisions, and accept the man who will be our next President. You can’t change it now. But you can help bring this country back together and face the global and economic challenges as one nation, united.
To the winners, be happy. Celebrate your historic achievement, you’ve earned it. Don’t gloat; you are as instrumental to mending our nation as the other side. Your candidate is now the President-elect, and your tone going forward will set the tone for the whole country. Bipartisanship, reaching across party lines, healing the divide — it all begins with you, and it starts the day after tomorrow.
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