Donald Trump hinted at his plans to become president as early as 2012, but the phenomenon of his candidacy was still one that took everyone by surprise. Though scores of voters who felt ignored by politicians rallied around the Washington outsider's cause, every grassroots victory seemed to come with further controversy. He was, for many, as polarizing as he was promising.
Supporters lauded his commitment to "draining the swamp" and moving money out of Washington. They loved his perfectly coiffed authenticity and his candor. His vow to respond to hard times by taking hard lines on immigration and foreign policy resonated with many. He wasn't — and isn't — like anything this country has ever seen.
In the early stages of the campaign, critics pointed to his brashness as a potential weakness, and noted with growing alarm his tendencies to posit people as problems. During his campaign announcement speech, he described Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug carriers. Journalists would later unearth further concerns: critics deem it unlikely that the billionaire businessman has paid regular income taxes. They deem it more likely, pointing to his own words and those of 12 women as evidence, that the president-elect has committed sexual assault.
The votes have been tallied, and his supporters, a contingent of Americans who have too often found themselves silenced by American politics, have made themselves heard. Donald Trump has been elected president.
"Now it's time for America to bind the wounds of division," Trump said at his election night party, according to The Guardian. "I say it is time for us to come together as one united people."
"Defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal. We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become," he told supporters during a 23-minute live stream from Burlington, his hometown. "We have begun the long and arduous process of transforming America, a fight that will continue tomorrow, next week, next year and into the future."
If this contentious election has taught us anything, it's that Americans are fighters. That they're dogged in their resilience. That when pundits go low, they go high.
In a video released Tuesday night by Buzzfeed, President Barack Obama emphasized that America has always come out stronger after divisive elections:
"That's what makes America special. The idea that while progress isn't guaranteed, each of us has the power to choose our path. Not just on nights like this, but every day in between. So whether your chosen candidates win or lose tonight, let's all agree not only to stay engaged, but to push ourselves to do even better."
As Obama observed, unlike primetime newscasts, democracy does not come to a stop once the ballots are tallied. Democracy continues every day in public squares and door-to-door campaigns and Twitter trends. Democracy is found in neighborhoods as commonly as it is in legislatures.
And we have faith that Americans will find ways to reach across the aisle, regardless of their chosen candidate.