Vice President Joe Biden said it best while gaveling down a bit of theatrical, last-ditch anti-Trumpism by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a freshman congresswoman from Seattle. “It is over,” Biden said, sparking applause during a joint session in the House chambers Friday.
Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States. Some rejoice and some mourn, but few are indifferent.
In his farewell address to the nation Wednesday, President Barack Obama called this peaceful transfer of power “a hallmark of our democracy.”
The world is watching. Emerging democracies and developing countries are watching. Nondemocratic superpowers are watching, as are our NATO allies.
It is why Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush will attend the Jan. 20 inauguration, and why President Bill Clinton and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will sit on the stage as Trump takes office.
These dignitaries are not, as Thomas Paine would say, only “sunshine patriots.” They’re in it for the long game, and their presence at Trump’s swearing-in ceremony is a bulwark against incivility and tyranny.
Trump’s inauguration is not a hostile takeover, though some are treating it as such. When he raises his right hand and swears to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, he does so because he won.
The Russia question is a debate that continues, but at present, Biden has certified the electoral votes in his capacity as president of the U.S. Senate.
It is now the job of citizens, members of the House and Senate and the news media to give the Oval Office and its occupant the respect they deserve, to make sure Trump makes good on his promise to champion the concerns of all Americans, and that he distances himself from the vitriol of the campaign trail.
Of course, to pretend this presidential election was like any other would be disingenuous.
In the great American story, the election of Trump, a man with no military or governing experience, is a plot twist. This businessman and reality TV personality transformed himself from unlikely candidate to president.
Those who oppose Trump have two choices going forward: work with the new president or work around him. What doesn’t work is traveling down what Michelle Obama calls “the low road.”
We saw how degrading it was to the institution of the presidency when Obama’s and Bush’s foes tried to delegitimize them with insults and innuendo. It diverted the focus from what matters: the war on terrorism, global warming, healthcare reform and crumbling American infrastructure.
President Teddy Roosevelt encouraged citizens to criticize the chief executive, saying “to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
This why we need an engaged citizenry and a free press to keep politicians, pundits and pseudo-news outlets honest.
But insults shared on social media should not be mistaken for a Rooseveltian critique. They don’t hold government accountable, replace real conversation or connect with the valid concerns of the 63 million people who voted for Trump.
Our system of government is designed to produce winners and losers, but it works best when there’s communication and compromise.
It’s heartening to read that Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, has already identified a few areas of common ground with the president-elect, including infrastructure investment.
The election is over, and the next phase is about to start. You can mark it with a party or a dirge, but Trump will be your president, our president, Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s president, every American’s president.