Critic's Notebook: After America Goes Low, Hillary Clinton Goes High in Moving Concession Speech
The would-be first woman president delivered an emotional, uplifting speech that illustrated what a missed opportunity the nation has suffered.
And that, Donald, is how it's done.
The morning after her devastating election loss, Hillary Clinton demonstrated the real meaning of class and patriotism as she delivered a concession speech to her political opponent who threatened to put her in jail. Gracious, thoughtful, passionate and unbowed, the brief address was a true demonstration of the concept of a peaceful transfer of power for which Trump has no respect.
Had their roles been reversed, you can bet that Trump would have been standing behind a podium in some arena denying the election results and exhorting his followers to start a revolution.
After announcing that she had called Trump the night before to congratulate him and offer to work with him, Hillary proceeded to do something Trump has literally never done in his life: apologize.
"I'm sorry we did not win this election, for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country," she told her cheering supporters. "I know how disappointed you feel, because I feel it, too," she went on, her voice on the verge of cracking. "And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. This is painful, and it will be for a long time."
Truer words were never spoken, as Hillary's supporters had barely begun the healing process, still reeling from the shock of losing an election that virtually every pundit and pollster had called for her. And it was clear that Hillary was as shocked as anyone.
"We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought," she commented, and considering the heated, inflammatory rhetoric of the campaign, that's saying something. She then proceeded to make an effort to unify the country in a way diametrically opposite to what Trump has been doing since the race began.
"Donald Trump is going to be our president," she told the crowd. "We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power."
She paid warm tribute to her running mate: "It gives me great hope and comfort to know that Tim will remain on the front lines of our democracy representing Virginia in the Senate."
There was sadness, but no rancor or bitterness in her brief speech, for which she was flanked onstage by husband Bill, daughter Chelsea and her husband Marc, and Kaine and his wife Anne. Hillary spoke directly to the female supporters who had desperately hoped to make her the first woman president.
"I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion," she told them. "I know that we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now! And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."
The occasion was deeply sad for the millions of people who have a very different definition of "change" than the Trump supporters who believe it means regressing to a mythical, 1950s America.
But it was also hopeful and uplifting, and exactly the message that Hillary needed to deliver, both to her supporters and a nation seemingly hopelessly divided. No one has any illusions that the healing will begin anytime soon. But in the meantime, progressives can take comfort from Tim Kaine's quoting of William Faulkner in his introduction to Hillary's address: "They kilt us, but they ain't whipped us yet."