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U.S. faces a startling new political reality after Trump's victory

Republican President-elect Donald Trump walks on stage with his son Barron, wife Melania and daughter Ivanka during his election night celebration early Wednesday in New York City.
Republican President-elect Donald Trump walks on stage with his son Barron, wife Melania and daughter Ivanka during his election night celebration early Wednesday in New York City.
Published Nov. 10, 2016

The American political establishment was reeling from shock on Wednesday as leaders in both parties began coming to grips with four years of President Donald Trump in the White House, a once-unimaginable scenario that has now plunged the United States and its allies and adversaries into a period of unprecedented uncertainty about the policies and impact of Trump.

President Barack Obama, a longtime foe of Trump, and Hillary Clinton, the president-elect's vanquished opponent, held separate news conferences to urge people to put aside whatever bruised feelings and disappointment they have and come together for the sake of the republic, and for the good of Trump's presidency.

Obama, addressing the nation from the Rose Garden on Wednesday, said he had called Trump with congratulations and to invite him to meet at the White House today to discuss a smooth transition to the Trump administration.

"We are all now rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country," Obama said. "The peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months we are going to show that to the world."

Clinton, in her first remarks to supporters after the election, said that she hoped that Trump "will be a successful president for all Americans," and said she was "sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country."

Noting that the country was "more deeply divided than we thought," Hillary Clinton added: "We must accept this result and look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president — we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead."

For many millions of voters, a sense of excitement and even euphoria coursed from coast to coast as they celebrated the election of a true political outsider who had promised to reverse policies of the Obama administration and be a champion for "forgotten Americans." But millions of others felt a sense of dread and even fear as they tried to fathom how Trump could win the presidency when so many polls suggested otherwise, and to prepare themselves for the consequences of a new leader who has no experience in government or world affairs.

Early Wednesday during his victory speech, Trump said, "Now it's time for America to bind the wounds of division. … To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people."

He described his campaign as "a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will."

Trump campaign advisers said Wednesday that the president-elect was turning to assembling a Cabinet and White House team and selecting a conservative nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy. The advisers said Trump was inclined to roll out a few Cabinet nominations at a time, rather than kicking them off with one high-profile pick for a critical department like Treasury or State.

Among the candidates for Cabinet secretaries and advisers are members of Trump's inner circle, aides said, including Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a crucial adviser on policy issues; Steven Mnuchin, a businessman who was Trump's national finance chairman; Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; and Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House.

Trump also spent Wednesday morning receiving phone calls from world leaders, said the campaign advisers who spoke to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity to discuss the transition planning. The advisers declined to identify the leaders, though one said it would be unusual if the president-elect had not heard from allies like Britain and Germany.

Asked if President Vladimir Putin of Russia had spoken with Trump, the aide said the two men had not been in touch.

Earlier Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that the Kremlin said Putin sent Trump a telegram of congratulation, expressing "his hope to work together for removing Russian-American relations from their crisis state."

Anxiety was particularly deep among Hispanics, African-Americans, Muslims, immigrants, women and others who had felt disparaged or demonized by Trump, who at times used harsh and racially charged language in ways that upended mainstream politics. The very idea that Trump had been endorsed by a Ku Klux Klan newspaper — even if he rejected it — symbolized the sense of shock that he would now lead a vibrantly diverse democracy.

Asked how they would feel about a Trump presidency, more than a third of Americans said they would be frightened, exit polls found. Among those who voted for Hillary Clinton, the feeling was almost unanimous and reflected a deep divide: 92 percent said Trump scared them.

Politicians also joined business leaders — as well as the many Americans with retirement and savings accounts — in keeping a nervous eye on the world financial markets in fear of the sort of backlash that wounded Britain after its vote in June to leave the European Union. While some business leaders worried about the nation's sliding into recession, others were more hopeful that Trump's proposals of tax cuts, infrastructure spending and relaxing of regulations would be welcomed by the financial markets, which stabilized after sharp declines overnight.

Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, said at a news conference Wednesday morning that Trump had a "mandate" for his vision of government, including trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, after his stunning upset victory over Clinton.