At the time of writing and submitting this column, I do not yet know who won the Presidential election of 2016. No matter. America will survive regardless.
And it will flourish.
Our nation is larger than any candidate, it is grander than any personality. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton can do lasting damage to this resplendent Republic.
For all of the hyperbole offered in this most rancid of Presidential races, there is no Armageddon looming if either of the candidates win. To say otherwise is to believe that America is nothing but a house of cards waiting for someone to give it a slight push.
I reject this idea utterly.
Yes, this was a hard-found campaign on both sides. The issues were serious. How to respond to terrorism. How women should be treated. What of the sanctity of marriage? Will our economy be stifled or stimulated through enhanced or lowered taxation? How to respond to the mass slaughter of innocents in Syria? Should we work with the dictator Vladimir Putin to fight ISIS or should we reject him for the thug he is? Should America proceed with the catastrophic Iran deal or repeal it? And should we welcome or shun immigrants in a time of declining economic growth and growing terrorism, or reaffirm America as a haven for the oppressed?
True, it was sad, tragic even, that the campaign became so personal, so insulting, so demeaning, both with the candidates to one another and ultimately, by extension, from the candidates to the American people.
Perhaps the nastiness was inevitable. People are angry. Really angry. On both sides of the aisle.
But for all the lowly, brutal, and disgusting personal assaults, there was no mass violence. Not a single newspaper was shut down. Television pundits did not begin clubbing each other with baseball bats on live air. And Republicans and Democrats did not assail each other in the streets. Hillary and Donald refused to shake hands at the debates. That was a new low. But they didn’t get into a fist fight on live TV either.
America is a robust country, its founding principles stronger than we can ever imagine. And it has withstood the test of time for one vital reason: America believes in its people.
Ours is a nation that does not trust politicians of either party. We are not a nation of nobles or elites. Rather, we trust the people who give the politicians power. And the decency of the American people will always, ultimately, win out.
I reject utterly the disgusting comparisons between the election of 2016 and Nazi Germany of the 1930’s. Ours is not a nation with a thousand year history of racial hatred, pogroms, massacres as Germany was with the Jews. We are a nation of immigrants where Native Americans alone can claim to be originals.
True, we were guilty of the abomination of slavery, one of history’s greatest evils. But we fought a civil war where 700,000 Americans died to ultimately purge that great evil from our midst.
Racism and bigotry continue to thrive in many pockets of America. But the cacophony of condemnation of that hatred is so much greater.
There can be no question that many things that happened in the election were wrong, perhaps unforgivable. Trump’s questioning of President Obama’s birth was always immoral. Trump’s comments about women were downright revolting. Trump’s desire to ban Muslim immigrants was always unGodly.
Hillary’s condemnation of millions of Americans who dared to defy her as “deplorables” was itself deplorable. Her use of public office to enrich herself – even if claims of pay-to-play were erroneous and the money flowed in only after she left office – was always beneath her. And her dishonesty about her emails, her cavalier handling of the nation’s secrets, and the never-ending swirl of alleged corruption could not possibly inspire.
But all that is behind us now. One of these two mortals is now our President. And it’s a time to heal. As Jesse Jackson of all people once said so movingly, “It’s time to forgive each other, redeem each other, and move on.”
Years ago I ran for Congress. And lost.
My capitulation speech in which I congratulated my opponent was the finest of my campaign. Not because I necessarily admired my opponent but rather because I admired that he had been chosen by the people. Bowing to the majesty of the American democratic process was a privilege. I felt honored to be an American. To be part of a tradition of government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
My father was born in Iran and but for the fact that my grandfather was a Zionist who loved Israel I might have been born there myself (although how my American, Ashkenazi mother would have figured in the equation I cannot say). Could you imagine? Growing up under the tyranny of the Mullahs? Afraid to express an opinion? Afraid to reveal my real thoughts about my government even around close friends? Having religion rammed down my conscience at the barrel of a gun?
We sometimes forget what a blessing it is to be an American. To live in the world’s greatest Republic, with the strongest democratic institutions on earth.
But even being born and growing up in the United States could not prevent me from becoming a child of divorce. And when my parents separated, I consciously remember falling more deeply in love with America. My parents may have divided. But I was part of a country called The United States.
When the Lubavitcher Rebbe sent me to spend 11 years as Rabbi at Oxford in England, I fell more deeply in love with my native country. I loved being the students spiritual leader. But I missed America with all my heart. Any American ritual – from eating Turkey on Thanksgiving to watching the Super Bowl – reached mystical meaning.
My wife felt that passion and, though a proud Australian, became a naturalized citizen and was glowing on the day she became an American.
And so it goes.
An imperfect country. With a somewhat tortured history. Will hills and valleys. That goes through some harmonious elections and through some outright brawls.
But always majestic. Always awe-inspiring. Always one hundred percent American.
Though it was written at a far more serious time in incomparably more tragic circumstances, the words of Abraham Lincoln at his second inaugural serve as a rallying cry for us survivors of campaign 2016 who must now heal the nation and redeem it of its deep divisions: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 31 books, including “The Israel Warrior,” which has just been published. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.