By Hazel Trice Edney
“I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us…on our victory. And I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard fought campaign. She fought very hard. Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time and we owe her a major debt of gratitude to her service for our country,” Trump said in his victory speech.
Appearing to extend an olive branch directly to his opponents, Trump added, “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division. We have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and Independents across the nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time.”
He continued, “I pledge to every citizen of our lands that I will be the president for the American people. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, for which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can work together and unify our great country.”
The electoral vote of 289-218 won the election for Trump at a magnitude that was least expected by exuberant Democrats who gathered at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for Hillary Clinton’s Victory Party. He only needed 270 to win. As the night grew late and Trump began to win state after state, even the press room grew nearly silent as reporters – anticipating the coverage of a victory party – watched the anticipated story of America’s first woman president dissipate before their eyes.
The loss was clear when Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta informed the hundreds of reporters that there would be no party and no immediate speech from Clinton as “several states are too close to call so we’re not going to have anything more to say tonight”. After the media declared Trump the winner in the early morning hours, Clinton privately called Trump to congratulate him and concede the election, but did not give a public concession speech until mid-morning on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, civil rights leaders have already begun to strategize and ponder how the Black community must react.
“I’m stunned. I’m shocked and it was unexpected,” said National Urban League President Marc Morial. “But beyond that it is really difficult until we really look at the returns and really sit down and evaluate what this means before really saying what the path forward is going to be.”
He said civil rights leaders had already spoken Wednesday morning to begin mapping a direction and reaction. “Obviously we extend our congratulations to the winner, but we haven’t decided what we’re going to do,” said Morial. “It suffices to say that there are numerous discussions going on about what this might mean, what are the issues at hand, how we as a collective will deal with him. There are a lot of issues. The paint’s not dry on this.”
Morial said civil rights leaders are going to be deeply concerned about civil rights enforcement, the future of Black economic challenges.
“You become the president-elect and the meat of it is not really what you say but what you do.”
CNN exit polls reported that Trump received 12 percent of the Black vote. That was much higher than the 2 percent that was anticipated. President Barack Obama, who campaign vigorously for Clinton, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, received more than 90 percent of the Black vote, had criticized Trump as “dangerous.”
Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the National Black Church Initiative is convinced that the unexpected Black vote for Trump – regardless of how small – represents a righteous backlash against some of the Obama Administration’s lead issues such as same-sex marriage.
“The churches in our coalition took this election very seriously. And we tried to send three very clear messages: One, we were extremely disappointed in the Democratic Party and what they did surrounding same-sex marriage and blocking the Black church. Number two, we wanted to declare our political independence from the Black Democratic machine, including the Congressional Black Caucus and particularly Al Sharpton and everybody else.”
Thirdly, Evans said he wanted to be clear that the NBCI did not advocate a vote for Trump or for Clinton. “What we discovered is there is a core of Black religious voters who will follow scripture, who will pray, who will take their time and educate themselves on the issues. They will not listen to the White House. They will not listen to the Democratic Party. They will not listen to the Republican Party. They will listen to their faith.”
Evans said it was not only the same-sex marriage issue, but the lack of strong movement against Blacks being shot by police, lack of support of Black colleges and Black-owned businesses among other issues. “This was the Black faith voters saying we are now declaring our independence,” Evans said, pointing to a Oct. 23 letter he sent to Black pastors imploring them not to allow “the White Press to tell us how to think about this race…We do not have all the answers but what we do have is an understanding that the Black Church can no longer be manipulated and utilized for someone else’s agenda while Black people and Black congregants suffer at such an enormous rate.”
Trump, meanwhile, is already envisioning his next move forward with what he perceives as a mandate, but, given the controversial statements made by him during the campaign, it is unclear what that mandate will look like.
“As I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign but rather an incredible and great movement made up of millions of hardworking American men and women who worked together to make America better for their family,” he said. “It is a movement combined of all races, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs who want and expect to serve the American people and serve the people it will.”