As I reflect on my re-election last night, I want to thank you for your incredible efforts on my behalf. I am humbled by your help and by your faith in me.
Like each of you, I'm stunned by Hillary Clinton’s loss. We all had a huge emotional investment in seeing her become President. It's hard to think about this moment through the haze of shock and exhaustion we are all feeling, but I want to share a few things that I do know.
No matter what the result and what will come next, we cannot give ourselves over to despair and bitterness. This was a profoundly ugly campaign in which Donald Trump played to the very worst instincts of anxious Americans. We must stand strong against the divisive rhetoric his campaign unleashed, hold true to our pluralistic values, and we must reach out to those who truly fear for their security after a demagogic campaign - communities of immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women, anyone who has felt oppression - to let them know we will fight to defend their rights and their freedoms, and that we value them as fellow Americans.
But despite what feels like a cataclysm, Americans are fundamentally kind, sensible people. If our shared history is any guide, fear and hate-driven rhetoric may stain us, but that mark will fade. Decency always prevails. We – each one of us – have an obligation to ensure that happens.
The most discouraging moment in President Obama’s early Presidency was Mitch McConnell’s statement that his primary goal was to make Obama a one-term President. I will not engage in that cynical abnegation of duty. I will continue to represent and support the people of Connecticut, and help this country in a positive, constructive and decent way. If we and others do that, we all win. It may be trite, but I think that the right way to think of this moment is to (carefully and warily) hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
There is always a difference between how a candidate campaigns and how he governs. The President-elect’s speech last night offered the smallest glimmers of encouragement on reconciliation, economic opportunity, and infrastructure. If he can earnestly pursue these aims, we can work with Trump on all of those areas and perhaps more. On the other hand, if the new President is what he appeared to be during the campaign--a dangerous autocratic threat to the nation--our work is more important than ever. No, we will not be doing the fulfilling work of advancing a progressive agenda with a President Clinton. But we will be engaged in something even more important: defending the basic institutions that define our democracy: Congress, a free press, an independent judiciary and basic decency, to name a few. In that fight, we will be joined by more than a few Republicans. It’s a fight that defines a lifetime and bends history. I am more than up for it, and I hope you are too.
Finally, there will be a lot of “soul searching” in the coming weeks and months. That's good and proper, and while we lost, I think the Republicans have as much or more of a reckoning than we do. At some level, Trump will fail; he cannot possibly deliver a fraction of the many contradictory things he promised. He will blame the Republican leaders who never embraced him. That will get very ugly.
One thing I know for sure. If we dismiss rather than understand the millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump, we will perpetuate the very problem we need to solve. Instead, we can build an optimistic coalition of union members and small businessmen, of blue-collar whites and northeastern black professors, of gay activists and southern Christians, among others. Challenging, yes. Impossible? No.
Thank you for being on our team, and I'm looking to the work we will do and the fights that we will fight together.