Hillary Clinton conceded the presidential election to her bitter rival Donald Trump Wednesday morning, telling supporters gathered at The New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan that the Constitution “enshrines a peaceful transition of power” and offering to work with her opponent on behalf of uniting the country.
Just before noon Clinton emerged publicly for the first time since her election night defeat had become official. She was wearing a black pantsuit with purple lapels—perhaps her own way of demanding that a deeply fractured America of red and blue states come together.
It was a speech that the Clinton camp probably prepared for but never actually anticipated she’d ever have to deliver. In the hours leading up to the election the polls almost unanimously pointed to a Clinton victory—many by large margins, some by more narrow ones. In the end, the majority of these polls were alarmingly wrong, failing to properly grasp the level of discontent among white voters who felt abandoned by the political class.
Standing on stage with her husband, President Bill Clinton, and her running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va), Clinton told an audience that included many of her closest confidantes: “We must accept this result and look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.
“This is not the outcome we wanted or worked so hard for, and I’m sorry that we did not win this election, for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country,” Clinton said, choking back a tear or two.
“You represent the best of America,” she continued, “and being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”
Clinton acknowledged the disappointment felt by millions of supporters, singling out women and young girls who saw her candidacy as the first legitimate opportunity to break the proverbial glass ceiling since the 19th Amendment had granted them the right to vote in 1920.
“We need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives,” Clinton urged them.
“And to all the women, and especially the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” she said. “I know we still have not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, someone will.”
Despite the excruciating loss, Clinton called upon her followers to push forward and fight for causes that matter.
“Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time,” she said. “So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the cause and values we all hold dear: making our economy work for everybody, not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet, and breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams.
“We spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of the country to say with one voice: We believe the American Dream is big enough for everyone.”
The former U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration said she called Trump at around 3 a.m. Wednesday to congratulate him.
President Barack Obama had done the same.
Just after 12 p.m., he stood in the Rose Garden with the sun shining on his face. Joined by Vice President Joe Biden, Obama talked about the importance of a peaceful transition of power and instructed his team to follow the example of his predecessor, George W. Bush, whom he praised.
“The presidency and the vice presidency are bigger than any of us,” he said, adding that a peaceful transition is one of the “hallmarks of our democracy.”
During the election, Obama had talked about his hope that he would be passing the baton to Clinton, who could move his agenda forward. Now he’ll have to hand over the powers of the presidency to the same man who built his political career by challenging the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency. Trump had propagated the falsehood that Obama was not born in this country. Trump continued to question Obama’s birth, even after Obama produced his Hawaii birth certificate.
Obama said he hopes that his Republican successor will follow through on his promise that he’ll be a president for all Americans.
“We all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens,” Obama said.
What’s next for Clinton is unclear. She did not hint at what the future holds for her; instead, she rallied her supporters to carry on.
“Don’t grow weary,” she told them. “There is more work to do.”
(Photo credit: Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America/flickr)