Clinton Concedes, Acknowledging the Pain of Defeat

Clinton Concedes, Acknowledging the Pain of Defeat
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NEW YORK — The most powerful, compelling moment of Hillary Clinton’s campaign came in its closure, when she gave the speech she never wanted to give: publicly conceding to President-elect Donald Trump.

Speaking Wednesday in a ballroom at the New Yorker hotel, three blocks from where she had planned to give an acceptance speech the night before, Clinton publicly wished success to her onetime rival — emphasizing the peaceful transition of power that defines American democracy. 

“We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America, and I always will,” she told a crowd of supporters while flanked by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, both of them wearing purple. “And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”

Clinton acknowledged the pain of defeat, and admitted it would linger for a long time. But in doing so, she also exhibited the graciousness and grit that her supporters have long admired. She campaigned as a fighter, and remained one till the end. “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it,” she said.

The Democrat encouraged Americans to keep the faith despite the loss. “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power,” she said. “We don't just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines 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.”

Without Clinton as the incoming president, Democrats are embarking on a soul-searching journey as they prepare for life in a new Washington, one that will be controlled entirely by Republicans. Questions remain as to what the Democratic Party looks like after Clinton’s failed race, as demographics that once favored her husband this time voted overwhelmingly for Trump, and Obama’s vaunted coalition showed it turns out robustly only for him. But she did establish herself as the elder stateswoman, the first Democratic woman to win the party’s nomination—and the popular vote, a bittersweet data point that has emerged. 

“I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now,” Clinton said. “And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

The Clintons stayed for several minutes, hugging members of the crowd and her staff. And with that, the former secretary of state’s historic bid for the presidency officially ended. Supporters and bystanders gathered in the rain on the sidewalk, iPhone cameras out, hoping to catch one last glimpse. Then they went about their day, umbrellas in tow, yellow taxis whizzing by in the city that never sleeps. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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