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The aftermath of the 2016 presidential election has been fascinating, but it has not always been pleasant. As media outlets scramble to comprehend Donald Trump’s victory, several parts of America have been submerged in anger and unrest at the president-elect. Throes of protesters have taken to the streets in recent days, chanting things like “Not My President” and “Love Trumps Hate.” Some of the protest has even descended into vile territory; one sign photographed at an organized protest read, “Rape Melania,” a reference to the future First Lady.

It would be easy to dismiss this kind of disgusting rhetoric as a rare example of outrage run amok. In a sense, we should dismiss it, and resist the temptation to attribute it to all protestors. But in another sense, the kind of mindless anger that we see from many in media and in protests has become symptomatic of how American culture often responds to politics.

If democracy means anything, it means the possibility of not getting one’s own way.  Whether Donald Trump is a good fit to be president of the United States is debatable, and likely will be debated for years to come. What is not debatable that Mr. Trump won the general election because millions of Americans voted for him. The same would have been true if Hillary Clinton had won last week. The ability to accept, at a basic emotional level, political defeat—even defeat that one fears could be disastrous for the country—is a fundamental part of living in a free society. Inability to cope with the “other side’s” victory is not just immaturity; it’s a sign of deep misunderstanding of what our Republic is and how it functions.

Being personally disappointed, offended, or even outraged at the outcome of a presidential election is understandable. Politics is important because it concerns people, and the well-being and flourishing of our neighbors should always be an issue that impacts us personally. But what we have seen in the week since Mr. Trump’s election indicates that far too many Americans have no imaginative grasp of how their fellow citizens could disagree with them at the voting booth. This is worrisome.

We should feel free to dissent, always, against that which violates our conscience. Freedom will allow nothing less. But we should also be able to accept that the American experiment inherently allows for the triumph of those we believe should not triumph. That is a strength, not a weakness, of our Republic. 


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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center