IT WAS THE spring of 2015, way too early for anyone except the political class to be talking about the presidential election, yet that was the topic of conversation at a church social gathering, where one woman had just declared of Hillary Clinton: “Well, if she’s elected she won’t be my president.” Then she looked straight at me, and said, “Will she be your president, Cindi?”
I don’t usually participate in conversations about federal matters, because I don’t believe my knowledge is sufficient to form opinions I can defend, but this one was easy. “Of course so,” I said. “Whoever is elected will be my president.”
The way I felt when Donald Trump won the election last week was far more intense but similar to the feeling of dread and worry I had experienced twice before: when Jim Hodges was elected governor, and when Nikki Haley was first elected governor.
I would be exponentially more comfortable with either one of them in the White House than Mr. Trump. But of course Donald Trump will be my president. And I pray that he will be a good president.
And I pray that all those people who are holding angry protests declaring he is not their president will get past the emotion and calm down as the days and weeks pass. But I don’t hold out a lot of hope.
After all, how many people who are the most excited about Mr. Trump’s victory ever got over their anger about Barack Obama? How many of them ever accepted that he was their president? And before them were the Bush haters. And before them the Clinton haters. And before them the Reagan haters. And every time, the anger becomes more visceral, the refusal to accept the legitimacy of the new president more intense. And that makes it more difficult to govern not just in Washington but here in South Carolina, and across the country.
Accepting someone you opposed — as your president or your governor or your legislator or your mayor — doesn’t mean you accept that person’s agenda. It means you accept the fact that we are a nation of laws, not of men, and that, from the very beginning, we have agreed that we will abide by the results of our elections. This is why there has never been a serious doubt that the person elected president will be the next president.
This might be the biggest thing that makes America great. One of the best ways we can make America greater is for every one of us to really commit to this principle — not just when we win, but when we lose.
A good way to start would be by committing to the Golden Rule — to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
One of the biggest gripes those on the left had for the past eight years was the declaration by Republican leaders that their priority was to make Mr. Obama a one-term president, to block anything he proposed. Now that the roles are reversed, too many of those same people on the left are saying that turnabout is fair play. Perhaps it is in sports, but not in anything important. Certainly not in anything so vital as the government of the most powerful and important nation on earth.
People on the left — elected officials and ordinary citizens — need to vow not to become what made them so angry.
On the right, people complained that Mr. Obama was never interested in working with them, but even more, they believed that their values were ignored, belittled and undermined. Now that the roles are reversed, those who are excited about a Trump presidency need to remember that feeling, and resist their own temptation to repay in kind.
Trump supporters, Trump haters, Clinton supporters and Clinton haters all need to remember — or perhaps learn — the value of compromise.
Compromise doesn’t mean that the majority abandons its values and priorities and gives in to the minority; the majority has an obligation to the voters to govern in accordance with its principles. What it means is that both sides acknowledge that our general goals are the same, even if we differ markedly on how to achieve them, and we work together to achieve them.
It means that those in the minority spell out specifically what they see as problems with the majority’s proposals, and offer ways to mitigate those problems, while respecting the fact that the majority is … the majority. Their goal should be to make what they consider bad policies less bad.
Compromise means that those in the majority are open to those suggestions, realizing that nobody has a lock on good ideas. Their goal should be to get enough buy-in from the other side that when the political winds change again, as they inevitably will, their policies will not automatically be reversed (see Obamacare).
The reason our audacious experiment in self-government has survived so long is that, at least traditionally, those who won elections respected the views of those who lost. And those who lost respected the views of those who won — along with the fact that they did win.
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.