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Saturday, July 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Divided nation awaits leadership

It’s an intentional feature of our democratic republic that we are governed by local, state and federal governments. And it makes the post-election cliche “the will of the people” difficult to discern.

Toss in the Electoral College, and it’s quite a muddle. The presidential candidate with the most votes may not be the winner. Just ask Al Gore and, possibly, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton gave perhaps the finest political speech of her career in conceding the contest to Donald Trump. Not once Wednesday morning did she mention she was leading the popular vote. Not once did she air a grievance. She desperately wanted to make history, but instead watched her opponent pull off an improbable upset. Still, she held her composure and spoke with humility and grace.

“We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead,” she said to her supporters.

Trump, for his part, offered soothing words: “For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

We should follow her advice. We should take him at his word.

The presidential contest mirrored the divide closer to home. The city of Spokane favored Clinton. The county wanted Trump. The West Side wanted Clinton. The East Side wanted Trump.

This division played out in statewide contests and local ones. Countywide offices went to Republicans. Statewide offices trended Democrat. The city was more receptive than the county to STA’s Proposition 1.

The top of the ticket sets the tone on election night, so Republicans were jubilant, though they were handed a minimum wage increase and a shutout in the Supreme Court contests. Gov. Jay Inslee won re-election, and the House remained under Democratic control.

And so here we are: The Spokane County Commission is Republican, and the Spokane City Council is run by Democrats (yes, we know they’re technically nonpartisan). Yet, they must work together.

Meanwhile, the Spokane Valley City Council is conservative, but it wants to introduce a utility tax. The reality of governing – as opposed to complaining – often introduces these seeming contradictions.

President-elect Trump will face his share of reality checks as he moves from rock thrower to leader. How he handles those moments will define his presidency. He cannot go it alone, as he did as a candidate, shredding opponents along the way. Governing isn’t a series of rallies in front of adoring audiences.

He must instead build a governing coalition within his own party, at the very least. At best, he would reach across the aisle. The risible rhetoric should be replaced with a conciliatory tone. The last thing the country needs is a sore winner.

It was a close contest. We are a divided nation.

“The will of the people” doesn’t apply.

To respond to this editorial online, go to and click on “Opinion.”

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