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Edelman: Dems, GOP can learn from voters, protests

The day after, and every day since the Presidential election, protesters took to the streets. Mostly peaceful demonstrations took place across the country, in New York; Baltimore; Miami; Chicago; Austin; Milwaukee; Denver; Los Angeles; Oakland, California; and Portland, Oregon. For the most part, these demonstrations were organized spontaneously with social media — Facebook Twitter, Snapchat — announcing them. In effect, these were unplanned flash mobs — angry, but nonviolent.

Their uniting theme was a reaction to the election's outcome: a disappointingly low number of people cast votes this year. Even with the low percentage of eligible voters going to the polls, a majority of close to 2.5 million people chose Hillary Clinton, only to see Donald Trump enjoy an Electoral College victory. Trump's election left them angry, upset and terrified over the prospect that his inflammatory campaign rhetoric might be enacted into law, supported by radical Supreme Court appointees. Speakers at the protests expressed fear of deportations, restricted access to birth control, reversals of gains in LGBT rights, increases in racially-motivated violence and religious discrimination.

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President-elect Trump tweeted his reactions to people in the streets. Last Thursday night, after what appeared to be a conciliatory meeting with President Obama, Trump's message was "Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!" It is ironic that Trump himself had primed the pump for mass protests with his irresponsible and false claim that the election was being rigged. His "animus-driven" attacks on the election's legitimacy prepared his supporters to take to the streets in case he lost; it should have come as no surprise when his detractors did. By 3 a.m. Friday, his twittering changed to "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!" Also no surprise was Trump straddling two diametrically opposed positions with conflicting messages.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also spoke about and to the protests, "One of our greatest privileges as Americans is the right to free expression. Last night, thousands of Angelenos came together publicly to make their feelings known. I understand that the results of Tuesday's election are painful for many of us, and this kind of engagement can be a meaningful part of the healing we need after such a long and divisive campaign."

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Many of the protesters took up the chant, "Not our President!" But for better or worse, Trump will become the nation's 45th president next January. Whatever reactions the protesters have, they need to face the facts that Clinton's large margin in popular votes didn't translate into an electoral victory. Their protests are mostly "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" more than profound disappointment.

Democratic opposition will be more nuanced. As the minority party, it will try to exact compromises from Republican majorities and look for areas of agreement. One such place where they and Trump agree is on rebuilding our transportation infrastructure, the roads, bridges and airports. But on matters of disagreement, for instance on environmental regulation, there is sure to be deep, persistent resistance to Republican orthodoxy. Also, Democrats must not replace Republicans as the Party of No. Those who voted for Trump want to end six years of stagnation and will not be forgiving of a non-functioning government.

Just as Democrats need to face the fact of Trump's election, Republicans need to realize that a majority of Americans voted for an obviously flawed Democratic candidate. The GOP made a very big deal out of their allegations that President Obama overplayed his hand. If they try to roll back all of the social and economic advances of the past eight years, angry protesters will turn into motivated voters. In 1964, Democrats demolished a weak Republican party; unpopular policies and an unpopular war led to Republicans winning five of the next six Presidential elections.

Now that this wretched election is done, no matter what your politics, let me wish you and your families a happy Thanksgiving.

Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at mjemath@gmail.com

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