The Great American Mistake

The 62 million Americans who went with Donald Trump on November 8, 2016 know they made a mistake.

If we knew then what we know now, eh?

Two years ago tonight—and damn it if it doesn’t seem like a lifetime ago—Hillary Clinton delivered a powerful and historic speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for President. It should have marked the start of trailblazing gender progress and a turning point in the move towards a more progressive country. Instead, it will be remembered as the biggest lost opportunity on the part of the American people in modern American history.

Two years later, I can’t hold back my anger as I read Clinton’s majestic speech. The 62 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump just over three months later didn’t give a damn about the truths Clinton spoke, the values she espoused, the faith in America she demonstrated. All they saw and heard—if they bothered to watch, that is—was someone they had been indoctrinated to loathe.

Of course, Trumpistas weren’t the only ones indoctrinated to loathe Clinton. Plenty of Bernie Sanders supporters harbored deep contempt for the former Secretary of State, and Clinton tried her very best to reach out to them:

And… I want to thank Bernie Sanders.

Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary.

You’ve put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong.

And to all of your supporters here and around the country:

I want you to know, I’ve heard you.

Your cause is our cause.

Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion.

That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.

We wrote it together – now let’s go out there and make it happen together.

Clinton so eloquently reminded viewers of the existential threat Donald Trump posed to our democracy:

He wants to divide us – from the rest of the world, and from each other.

He’s betting that the perils of today’s world will blind us to its unlimited promise.

He’s taken the Republican Party a long way…

from “Morning in America” to “Midnight in America.”

He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.

Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Now we are clear-eyed about what our country is up against.

But we are not afraid.

We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have.

We will not build a wall.

Instead, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a good paying job can get one.

And we’ll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are already contributing to our economy!

We will not ban a religion.

We will work with all Americans and our allies to fight terrorism…

[D]on’t let anyone tell you that our country is weak.

We’re not.

Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes.

We do.

And most of all, don’t believe anyone who says: “I alone can fix it.”

Those were actually Donald Trump’s words in Cleveland.

And they should set off alarm bells for all of us.

Imagine the horror this country would have been spared if enough Americans realized that Clinton was correct that night. Imagine how much suffering would have been avoided if enough Americans had set aside their grievances with Clinton. Imagine how much progress this country could have made if Clinton had not been rejected out of sexism and spite.

Perhaps Clinton told too much truth that night. Perhaps too many Americans couldn’t look in the mirror and realize that they had been sold a bill of goods by the right over the decades, that “rugged individualism” was a myth:

20 years ago I wrote a book called “It Takes a Village.” A lot of people looked at the title and asked, what the heck do you mean by that?

This is what I mean.

None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community or lift a country totally alone.

America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger.

I believe that with all my heart.

That’s why “Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history.

It’s not just a slogan for our campaign.

It’s a guiding principle for the country we’ve always been and the future we’re going to build.

A country where the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top.

Where you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school, no matter what zip code you live in.

A country where all our children can dream, and those dreams are within reach.

Where families are strong… communities are safe…

And yes, love trumps hate.

That’s the country we’re fighting for.

That’s the country 62 million Americans who loved Trump’s hate were fighting against, because that country would have been more diverse and more progressive. That’s the country whose values would have made America greater than she had ever been before.

Speaking of “she,” reading these words again makes the outcome of the 2016 election all the more infuriating:

Tonight, we’ve reached a milestone in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for President.

Standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come.

Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between.

Happy for boys and men, too – because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.

So let’s keep going, until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves.

Later, Clinton highlighted the extent to which Trump was unsuited for the White House:

Ask yourself: Does Donald Trump have the temperament to be Commander-in-Chief?

Donald Trump can’t even handle the rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign.

He loses his cool at the slightest provocation. When he’s gotten a tough question from a reporter. When he’s challenged in a debate. When he sees a protestor at a rally.

Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.

I can’t put it any better than Jackie Kennedy did after the Cuban Missile Crisis. She said that what worried President Kennedy during that very dangerous time was that a war might be started – not by big men with self-control and restraint, but by little men – the ones moved by fear and pride.

America’s strength doesn’t come from lashing out.

Strength relies on smarts, judgment, cool resolve, and the precise and strategic application of power.

That’s the kind of Commander-in-Chief I pledge to be.

The 62 million Americans who went with Donald Trump on November 8, 2016 know they made a mistake. They have to know it deep down, even if they deny it to themselves. Had Clinton won, we would have indeed been stronger together. Now, we’re more divided than ever.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.