Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States after a lengthy, historic, and momentous contest with Hillary Clinton that culminated on Tuesday, November 8. One week after the election and the conclusion of a campaign season which occupied much of the collective American consciousness over the past two years, many Americans are still processing the election’s results. Millions appear reinvigorated by the prospect of a Trump presidency, yet just as many are visibly dejected and emotionally drained by Clinton’s loss. And after a campaign season ripe with fiery rhetoric and plenty of controversy, I can also confidently say that many of Americans are thankful that this particular election is over.
Of course, the objective of any political election is to select a new government, and now begins the process of preparing the Trump administration to assume the White House after the presidential inauguration on Friday, January 20. What is interesting about this process is that, while the United States Constitution requires no particular procedure to be followed, there are a series of norms and expectations that will guide how the Obama administration welcomes the Trump administration into the White House.
What exactly does a smooth presidential transition process entail? Check out this useful Fact Sheet from the White House!
This process began in the early morning hours of November 9 when Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump to concede the election and congratulate him as the winner. Shortly thereafter, Trump delivered an acceptance speech to his supporters in New York City. Clinton addressed the nation with a concession speech on November 9, midday. The notion that two opposing candidates speak to one another and only then diplomatically convey election results to the nation highlights an important tenet of the democratic process in the United States. Elections are won and lost with grace, dignity, and an eye towards uniting the country going forward.
While many of Clinton’s most passionate supporters have lambasted the election’s results and openly protested on city streets over the past few days, Clinton herself conceded the election to Trump and implored liberals to channel their political activism into public service. Many Americans, especially young women, reacted quite strongly to Clinton’s address -- both thanking her for an admirable endeavor to shatter the glass ceiling and bemoaning her inability to do so. Reactions to Trump’s acceptance speech were similarly passionate, as many Americans expressed excitement about the prospect for a return to conservative values and Washington-outsider politics.
The next phase of the transition process occurred on Thursday, November 10 as President Obama and President-elect Trump met at the White House. According to press reports, the two discussed a variety of topics ranging from presidential demeanor to foreign policy to installing a capable staff in the West Wing. This tradition, of the outgoing president meeting with his incoming successor, has a rich history in the United States. In explaining his willingness to meet with Trump, Obama has frequently cited the decorum and grace which former President George W. Bush displayed when he assumed office in January 2009. The spirit of cooperation which defines these meetings - often between leaders of opposing political parties and occasionally between former campaign opponents (though not in this instance) - is hallmark of American democracy and one of the critical facets of the peaceful transition of power.
»The transition of power is not a calm period between two storms -- it is a multimillion dollar endeavor, a highly complex and intensive phase of government art. The biggest and most powerful government of our time is changing direction in full speed, and in the process, changes its entire crew; many, many more posts are redistributed than in Germany. Every remotely important position is now being filled with new personnel. 4,000 members of staff must be selected, mustered (according to the Trump administration's policies), and trained within only a few weeks. This includes policy experts for all parts of the world. In all governmental departments, entire wings have been cleared, making room for preliminary offices for incoming staffers to learn from the more experienced members of staff of the Obama administration.«
Claus Kleber, moderator of the German TV news journal "heute journal" on ZDF
Over the past couple of days, Donald Trump has been assembling his Cabinet and speaking with domestic and world leaders as he seeks to foster relationships that will allow the successful implementation of his policy objectives over the coming years. In this respect, the peaceful transition of power is grounded in United States domestic politics, but its use extends beyond our national borders and influences the deployment of US foreign policy worldwide. In some respects, it seems as though our presidential transition process in the United States is being played out not only here at home, but also on a global stage as world leaders comment on the prospects of a Trump presidency.
To be sure, this peaceful transition of power is characteristic of many democratic political systems across the world, Germany included. Yet, after what has been an admittedly divisive and contentious campaign season, that Americans can rely on a peaceful power transition is all the more welcome today.
This post concludes our blog series for the Elections 2016 project. We hope you all have enjoyed learning about the United States’ political system, and we look forward to resuming our work with the Going Green project in January 2017!
Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.