A triumphant Donald Trump heads to the White House Thursday for talks with President Barack Obama on securing a smooth transition of power and steading nerves after an election that shocked the world.
Anger over the Trump win spilled out on the streets of cities from New York to Los Angeles late Wednesday as chanting protesters lit bonfires and snarled traffic. In one case an orange-headed Trump head was burned in effigy.
Forty-eight hours after Trump’s upset win, the 70-year-old president-elect and Obama will meet in the Oval Office for what could be an awkward meeting as the president-elect looks ahead to the January 20 inauguration.
Trump has questioned whether Obama was born in the United States — a suggestion laden with deep racial overtones — and the Democratic commander-in-chief has described the celebrity businessman as “uniquely unqualified” to be president.
But the last day has seen efforts to bring this deeply divided country together after a brutal two-year battle for the White House that at times appeared more tribal than partisan.
Vanquished Democratic rival Hillary Clinton fought back the bitter disappointment of not becoming America’s first female president to urge Americans to give Trump a chance, at least from the outset.
We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead,” she said in a concession speech.
Obama, addressing disconsolate staff in the White House Rose Garden, played down the extraordinary Trump win, painting it as democracy being its messy self.
“Sometimes you lose an argument,” he said, adding that all Americans would now be “rooting” for Trump’s success.
“We are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country,” Obama said as staff wiped away tears and pondered whether his administration’s eight years of toil had come to naught.
In the battle for the soul of America, those who helped elect America’s first black president now appear to be in retreat.
Both Obama and Clinton issued a faint but definite warning that Trump must respect institutions and the rule of law if a modicum of goodwill is to hold.
In remarks that would once have seemed unthinkable, the president of the world’s foremost democracy and military power subtly urged his successor to respect the 240-year-old system of governance and its institutions.
The country,” Obama said “needs a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law, and a respect for each other.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest demurred when asked whether Trump would respect the rule of law.
His tone “would seem to suggest that certain basic principles of our democracy are likely to be upheld.”