When Hillary Clinton and President Obama spoke separately about the election results Wednesday, they each made statements that sounded optimistic — on the surface, at least.
But behind the polite and respectful sheen, the speeches were actually pretty dark — because both Clinton and Obama choose to make statements that in ordinary situations would come off as boilerplate, but in the contest of Trump’s controversial campaign come off as a pointed message to him and his supporters:
For instance, Clinton transitioned from saying that we owe Trump “an open mind and the chance to lead” to restating some fundamental American values that she has long criticized Trump for endangering — “the rule of law,” “the principle we are all equal,” and “freedom of worship and expression”:
Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don't just respect that. We cherish it.
It is enshrined in the rule of law, the principle we are all equal in rights and dignity. Freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.
Clinton later pointedly added: “We spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American dream is big enough for everyone. For people of all races and religions. For men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people and people with disabilities. For everyone.”
And yet later, she said, “And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful.”
None of these statements would ordinarily be in any way controversial, but in the context of Trump’s presidential campaign’s demagoguery about Mexican immigrants and Muslims, plus his personal history of misogyny, they are pretty clearly intended as a deliberate message to Trump and his supporters — a statement that even though Clinton lost, she believes those values are still America’s values.
Later, Obama made similar remarks, pointedly calling for “a sense of inclusion” and “rule of law”:
We’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first, we’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night, that’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly, and I was heartened by that.
That’s what the country needs. A sense of unity. A sense of inclusion. Respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law, and respect for each other. I hope he maintains that spirit...
Again, typically those statements would be boilerplate. But here we are with President-elect Donald Trump. Let’s hope he follows their advice.