This has been perhaps the most divisive national election in history. As I write this column, the election is still three days away. Truthfully, it seems like an eternity. I have never been so eager for a political season to come to an end.
I am proud to be a lifelong Democrat. Not that the Democratic Party has always delivered to the African-American community, frankly, in a manner that is consistent with being able to rely on receiving above eighty percent of our vote in each national election since the early 1960s.
There have been times that I have felt that my party does take my vote for granted. But the fact still remains that the Democratic Party continues to better represent my views and interests far more closely than does the Republican Party.
Honestly, I do not recognize the current GOP. If Trump is successful in winning the White House, he will have done so with a campaign built upon hate, intolerance, distrust and a distain for almost every segment of American society, as we know it. It is no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln.
The GOP of Lincoln would not have nominated Trump, much less elected him as president. Nor would the party of John McCain, Mitt Romney and former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Sadly, if Trump wins the White House, he will have won on the shoulders of the GOP of George Wallace and Barry Goldwater.
Those two sad chapters of the GOP should have remained buried in the history books. Sadly and shockingly, they were not, whether Trump is successful or not. The fact will remain that close to 40 million Americans voted for him.
I proudly cast my vote for President Obama over McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012. I have no regrets. No president is perfect and Obama has not been. However, my differences with those GOP nominees were over policy. I disagreed over the direction in which they wanted to take the country. I never, ever, though thought that either was unqualified to lead our country. Neither man ran their campaigns as Trump did his.
In December 2012, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus announced the Growth and Opportunity Project. The co-chairs of this initiative were charged with making recommendations and assisting in putting together a plan to grow the Party and improve Republican campaigns. A key component of this plan was outreach to minorities and increasing support in future GOP elections at the local, state and national levels.
Just four years later, the GOP demonstrated its commitment to African-Americans by nominating for president someone who rose to political power by challenging the very legitimacy of the first African-American to occupy the Oval Office. Further, it nominated one who has a history of sexually harassing women, publicly mocked the disabled and been shockingly insulting to immigrants and persons practicing the Muslim faith. Clearly, the lessons of the 2012 elections were not learned.
It is my hope and prayer that Hillary Clinton, however flawed, will be elected as our 45th president. Her election as a woman will be historic and long overdue. However, she is also eminently more qualified in knowledge, temperament and experience to lead the United States than is her GOP opponent.
Regardless though of whether Clinton or Trump is elected, our new president will need our prayers and support. Indeed, there is only one president of the United States. The American people spoke on Nov. 8 and the will of the people should and must be respected.
I recognize that for many, especially the millions of Americans who will be on the losing side of this election, that will be easier said then done. It will certainly be for me. However, this disappointment must be overcome by our love of country, recognizing that which united us is greater than that which divides us.
May all Americans, regardless of party affiliation, remember these words spoken in 1858 by Sen. Stephen Douglas to Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency: “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.”
Madame President-elect or Mr. President-elect, America is already great. It has been and always will be. May you have the vision, desire, compassion, fortitude and patience to unite this country after such a divisive election season and to make it even better.
Austin R. Cooper Jr. is president of Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc.