The nation is awake now. And it’s about to face one of its biggest tests in decades, with a president-elect who channeled a movement that has shaken the country to its core.
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The warning signs morphed into alarm bells, and they now constitute a ringing in Americans’ collective ears — of joy and of fear about a president-elect unlike any other we’ve seen. Everybody has no choice but to listen now.
Donald Trump’s first comments to the American people after he received a concession call from Hillary Clinton were about unity. His tone was remarkable for its absence of just about anything he said throughout the campaign.
“Now it’s time for Americans to bind the wounds of division,” he said. “It is time for us to come together as one united people.”
The Trump wave that materialized Tuesday night was not predicted, but it was no accident. It grew over 18 unlikely months and over decades of frustration with a political system that has resulted in economic frustrations and foreign-policy confusions.
Trump won by appealing to many of the basest, even nastiest, elements of American society. With his border wall and Muslim ban and his coded language around racial and ethnic divisions, he revealed things about the nation that have been hidden from polite conversation in recent decades.
He remade the electoral map by taking on the Clinton dynasty, President Barack Obama, the news media and just about every institution of American governance and elite thought. All this came after he took on virtually the entirety of a political party and then hijacked it and despite his vulgar language and legally dubious past.
He now will test a resilient nation with some of the most consequential leadership decisions imaginable. Trump will have an immediate chance to reshape the Supreme Court, redirect the military and foreign policy and upend the nation’s health care system, just for starters. We’ll also see if he plans to make good on his promise to prosecute his vanquished opponent.
His rise is on all Americans, and he will now seek to lead all Americans. Trump will have key choices to make, many revolving around his new plea for unity, and so will his many detractors.
Trump thrives in the center of the action. That’s where he’ll be for a long while now, with a nation forced to pay attention.