Bill Whalen

The best cure for America’s post-election hangover

Hillary Clinton greets a weeping staffer after publicly conceding the presidential race to Donald Trump on Wednesday in New York. Maybe a monthlong timeout from partisan posturing would be good for the country, Bill Whalen writes.
Hillary Clinton greets a weeping staffer after publicly conceding the presidential race to Donald Trump on Wednesday in New York. Maybe a monthlong timeout from partisan posturing would be good for the country, Bill Whalen writes. The Associated Press

The best decision this week? Hillary Clinton canceled election night victory fireworks over Manhattan.

Maybe she saw this coming. Or she understood the public is in no mood to celebrate.

Why the collective long face?

Donald Trump was the surprise winner despite failing to carry the popular vote. What no pollster captured: an immeasurable number of voters who cast their ballots while holding their noses.

It would be a cliché to say that America has a horrible post-election hangover. Like any bacchanalian excess, there’s a big mess to clean up. What should have been a referendum on jump-starting the economy, protecting the homeland and healing the nation’s social divisions instead was a juvenile tit-for-tat over character flaws real and perceived.

The sadness extends to California. Given one last day to deal with ballot measures near and dear to his political agenda (passing Proposition 57, killing Proposition 53), Gov. Jerry Brown flew to Colorado to stump for Clinton, whose husband he once branded “the prince of sleaze.”

Tradition dictates one month of mourning following a president’s death. After this election, why not a one-month timeout from politicking?

We could use a break from the overreaching talk of a mandate that swept Trump into office and from Clinton’s supporters scapegoating FBI Director James Comey and his late-election machinations.

What to do during the lull? Let the president-elect go about building his administration in peace. He deserves it. And let national Democratic leaders ponder how Trump managed to pierce the vaunted “blue wall” of left-leaning states – ironically, a buffer started by Bill Clinton.

Closer to home, California Republicans dodged a bullet. Trump didn’t drag down the GOP ticket. It’s a short reprieve. Can the party put forward a credible candidate for governor or U.S. Senate?

One indication of just how little we progressed in this election is how easily it connects to the elections of 1824. It’s the only other contest to come on the heels of three consecutive two-term presidencies. It likewise ended with talk of dirty pool. Andrew Jackson’s faction accused John Quincy Adams of a “corrupt bargain” to make Speaker Henry Clay the secretary of state in exchange for the House deciding the election in his favor when neither won enough electoral votes.

Four years later, Jackson and Adams butted heads again. Jackson prevailed in arguably the nastiest race in the nation’s history. The Jacksonians accused Adams of providing American girls to the czar while he served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia. Adams’ side countered that Jackson’s wife was a bigamist, still married to her estranged husband when she wed Jackson.

The smear didn’t cost Jackson the election, but it may have cost him his wife. Rachel Jackson died from a presumed heart attack three days before Christmas.

Tuesday’s surprise: 2016 didn’t play out like 1824. The populist revolution against Washington, D.C., and the ruling class came four years ahead of schedule.

As it was 192 years ago, the nation could be in for four years of festering bitterness. Or Trump could surprise us by being an effective executive. Then again, the last three presidents all promised to change the mood in Washington.

Was this America’s worst presidential election? It just might have been, but at least no one died.

Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow and former speechwriter for Gov. Pete Wilson. Whalen can be reached at whalenoped@gmail.com.

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