Clinton, In Concession Speech: U.S. 'More Deeply Divided Than We Thought'
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Donald Trump is the president-elect with something north of 270 electoral votes. But in an unusual order of things, although he has claimed victory and received a phone call, a congratulatory phone call from Hillary Clinton as well as President Obama, Secretary Clinton has yet to speak. We are expecting that any time now. We are seeing John Podesta now in a televised image coming into the room, and perhaps Secretary Clinton will be coming shortly. And NPR's Tamara Keith is in the scene there. Tamara, do you see the secretary herself in the room yet?
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: I do not see her yet. Everyone here is - stood up and is giving a standing ovation to John Podesta, the campaign chairman, when he walked in. I mean, it's not a vigorous applause, but...
INSKEEP: Would you describe...
KEITH: ...These people are pretty tired.
INSKEEP: ...The scene where you're at?
KEITH: Yeah. We're in a pretty nondescript ballroom. There are a bunch of American flags up on the stage, a lectern, a teleprompter. There are chandeliers. And staff are now - staff and supporters are chanting Hillary, Hillary. There are a lot of people...
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
KEITH: ...That couldn't get in. Yeah?
GREENE: Tam, how different is this event than the one the campaign was hoping to hold last night?
KEITH: This is light years different. We're in a room with a white plaster ceiling and some chandeliers. And...
INSKEEP: Rather than a glass ceiling.
KEITH: ...You know, she had planned to be in a room with a glass ceiling and cannons shooting off confetti that looked like broken glass. So it's completely different than what she had planned. I mean, there were thousands and thousands of people gathered last night at the Javits Center. This morning there probably are at least a thousand people here, but - and, you know, many, many staff and supporters who are lined up, trying to get in and who will not get into the room.
GREENE: It is just amazing to think about...
KEITH: I'll also say...
GREENE: ...What's the - the difference and what is the same compared to 2008. I mean, the similarities in that she is having to acknowledge that she did not win a run for the presidency. And she talked about, you know, cracking that glass ceiling. But what a difference these years have made. I mean, this is a different moment.
KEITH: Yeah. And it will be really interesting. I think that speech that she gave in 2008 in the Building Museum in Washington, D.C., it was a - it was one of the best speeches she's ever given. And I've seen a lot of her speeches over the years. I don't know what this one will be. I know that they've been working on it. And this is an important moment because her supporters and even people who didn't support her, people who supported Bernie Sanders and maybe didn't turn out - there are a lot of people who are concerned, afraid, don't know what to expect. And she has said that she need - wants to work to repair the United States of America, to bring people together. She thought she'd be doing that as president of the United States. But this concession speech is a very important moment, as will be President Obama's press conference later today.
INSKEEP: And this is reminding me, when you talk about her 2008 concession speech, that what we're about to listen to here is an important part of the democratic tradition, the loser conceding as graciously as possible. It has happened presidential election after presidential election. And when you say that that was one of the best speeches that she ever gave in 2008, I would say that Al Gore's concession in 2000 after that disputed election was perhaps one of the best speeches he ever gave. Mitt Romney gave an elegant speech in 2012, John McCain an elegant speech in 2008.
GREENE: Puts a politician in a different position than you're accustomed to.
INSKEEP: Exactly. It's got to be a profoundly difficult thing to do. There's something of a ritual to it, of saying we're all essentially on the same side, we're all essentially fighting for the same things. But that's got to be particularly difficult in this case, where it is so abundantly clear that the two candidates did not feel that they were fighting for the same things really at all, the same vision of America.
KEITH: Yeah. And her remarks are now up on the lectern. The room is absolutely silent except for this soundtrack of these pop songs that have been playing at her campaign events, hundreds of campaign events all over the country. They're these sort of joyful pop songs. And...
INSKEEP: Nobody looks joyful on the TV images that I'm looking at here.
GREENE: No, not at all.
KEITH: No. No one in this room looks joyful at all. And it's - there's a disconnect (laughter) between the music - yeah.
INSKEEP: Tamara Keith, I'm going to let you fall silent here and observe this moment. We're going to continue waiting for Secretary Clinton to come to the lectern, and we will go directly to her remarks when they happen. NPR's Mara Liasson has been listening to all of this. And Mara, we may jump in at any moment and interrupt you if Secretary Clinton appears. But I'd like to ask you, because you have been through quite a few campaigns, what you're thinking about as you wait for this particular moment.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, you know, as you said, the concession speeches are - really show what democracy is about. You know, Al Gore, I think, gets the prize for that. He, you know, won the popular vote by more than we think Hillary Clinton is winning it now, and he respected Democratic institutions and customs, which is the glue that holds our democracy together. And I thought it was a great irony that here Hillary Clinton is conceding, even though she won the popular vote, because that is how our country works, when Donald Trump, who won, said that he wasn't necessarily going to concede unless he won. So...
GREENE: Yeah, that was a powerful moment at that debate...
LIASSON: Yes. Yeah, that was a very powerful moment. And...
GREENE: I mean, people suggesting that he was - the glue holding the democracy together was at risk.
LIASSON: Yeah. And one of the things that I've heard from Republicans as well as Democrats is that they still don't know how much he cherishes, values democratic institutions or plans to, you know, try to change them. And that's something that we're waiting to see. But this has to be a terribly painful time for Hillary Clinton.
INSKEEP: And we just want to mention that we're going to continue right here with special coverage as we await Hillary Clinton's speech. I am recalling a moment, Mara Liasson - and I'm doing this from memory, without a transcript in front of me - but it was from the first presidential debate. And it was the first time that both candidates were asked if they would accept the results of the election. And Donald Trump took quite some time to really answer the question, but ultimately said, absolutely, I'll accept the results.
GREENE: Of course he said something later to great controversy.
LIASSON: Yes, later - later he said something.
GREENE: But the thing that sticks in my mind is Hillary Clinton's answer. And in my memory, she didn't really answer the question too directly and seemed to struggle with it. And I mention that now because you can sense how passionately this person felt about winning here.
LIASSON: Well, we should ask Tam that because I thought she said of course she would.
INSKEEP: Tam, are you still there?
KEITH: Yeah, yeah, I'm pretty sure that she said...
GREENE: She did say so.
KEITH: ...That she would.
GREENE: I'm thinking...
LIASSON: Yes, yeah.
GREENE: ...In terms of the...
LIASSON: I don't remember her struggling with it.
GREENE: Oh, OK, all right. I'm thinking in terms of the difficulty on her face, so I - but I will except that there are different interpretations of that.
LIASSON: Oh, well, maybe she had a look on her face.
LIASSON: I don't remember that, but she certainly said she'd abide by the results.
GREENE: Yeah, of course she - yeah, yeah.
LIASSON: I mean this is, you know - this is...
KEITH: Because she was trying to take the political high road there. That was a moment where she was, you know - as with many moments throughout this campaign where she was trying to say that Donald Trump is an outlier.
And now she has to come up on stage and say that he is the next president of the United States and that she will work with him or that she's had a conversation with him or, you know, offer something to her supporters all over the country that don't really know what to think this morning.
INSKEEP: Do you both think that people working for Hillary Clinton contemplated this moment as a possibility in the final days? I mean obviously so many pollsters were suggesting that Hillary Clinton had a very good shot at winning. We know that campaigns do internal polling and don't always talk about what they know, what they don't know. Do you think they saw this is as even a minor possibility that this - that it would come to this?
KEITH: Their internal polling very much indicated that she would win. But they are definitely worriers, and they always said that they knew that this would be hard, and no one ever believed them when they said that. And so I think that there was always that in the back of the minds of everyone.
I mean, you know, early in the evening last night, Clinton aides were excited, were congratulatory, and then obviously that faded. But I think even when they were excited about what they thought was going to happen that night, there was always something lingering...
LIASSON: You know, Jen Palmieri...
KEITH: ...Because of the unpredictability.
LIASSON: Jen Palmieri he has been through something like this. I thought her a lot last night.
INSKEEP: She's one of the top communications advisors for Hillary Clinton, yeah.
LIASSON: Yes because she was working for John Kerry in 2004, and she was in Ohio. And they met - and the Kerry campaign met all their targets in Ohio. All they had to do was win Ohio, and he would be the president. And then almost out of the woodwork came thousands of Bush voters that they hadn't plugged into their model.
So Karl Rove just found a whole bunch more voters - white evangelicals and other voters in Ohio - that the Clinton campaign didn't know existed and hadn't planned for. And that was kind of the story of last night. She didn't do as well as Obama at getting the coalition of young people and minorities out, but they did hit their targets.
But everybody's models were off. It wasn't just the Clinton's campaigns. I guess nobody planned or assumed that he could get the kind of margins with white, working-class voters that he did. And that's really what happened. You know, the...
INSKEEP: It's funny you mentioned Jen Palmieri. She was one of the staff members we just saw on television...
INSKEEP: ...In what looks like a very somber...
KEITH: Yeah, she's sitting in the front row.
INSKEEP: ...Very somber group.
LIASSON: Yeah, And you know, 90 percent of voters have told pollsters recently that they couldn't support or - the other candidate if they became president. I mean this is an extremely divided country.
You know, Donald Trump was - liked to talk about Brexit a lot, saying that we're going to have our own Brexit. And by that he meant a revolt of the working class against elites and globalization and immigrants. But I see the Brexit metaphor a little bit differently. Brexit revealed an intense, sharp, clean divide in British society - rural versus urban, young versus old, educated versus uneducated. And that's what we saw in the results last night.
This is a very cleanly divided country, and Donald Trump somehow sensed that, maybe instinctively, that he knew that he could ride white identity politics and kind of that kind of grievance politics all the way to the White House.
GREENE: We've got more to talk about here, but we're hearing some applause. Tamara Keith, is something happening where you are in the hotel?
KEITH: Yeah, the close aide Huma Abedin has entered the room as well as a few other very close aides. And everyone stood up and applauded once again.
GREENE: So as they're applauding, let's just mention a couple of other bits of news we've heard this morning. President Obama's put out a statement and said that he's invited Mr. Trump to the White House to begin a transition period.
We've also heard today, by the way, from former President George H.W. Bush, who was rumored - reported to have said he would vote against Donald Trump, that he would vote for Hillary Clinton as a matter of fact. He never confirmed that report. But that's what the claim was. And George H.W. Bush has now publicly congratulated Donald Trump on his victory, which raises another question I would think for many Republicans, which is, what kind of attitude if they're Republicans who had resisted Donald Trump, who had opposed Donald Trump - what kind of attitude they take now?
And we'll just mention that the vice presidential nominee for the Democrats, Tim Kaine, is now at the lectern. Oh, OK, we're not going to carry those remarks. All right, we'll just continue talking here for a moment. He's going to introduce Hillary Clinton, and we will hear that momentarily.
INSKEEP: You know, it's - you mentioned that meeting at the White House.
GREENE: Actually let's go ahead.
INSKEEP: Let's listen.
GREENE: Let's listen to Tim Kaine.
INSKEEP: Let's listen to Tim Kaine, yeah.
GREENE: Let's listen.
TIM KAINE: ...Things she has done as a civil rights lawyer and the first lady of Arkansas and first lady of this country and senator and secretary of state. She has made history in a nation that is good at so many things but that has made it uniquely difficult for a woman to be elected to federal office. She became the first major party nominee as a woman to be president and last night won the popular vote of Americans.
KAINE: That is an amazing accomplishment. It is an amazing accomplishment. I'm proud of Hillary Clinton because, in the words of Langston Hughes, she's held fast to dreams. She was inspired at a young age to an epiphany that if families and children do well, that's the best barometer for whether a society does well. And in everything she's done, she's focused on that.
She - we know she would have made history as a president in one sense, but we never have had a president who's made their whole career about the empowerment of families and children. And I was as excited about that in the Oval Office I was excited to have my friend Hillary there and make history as the first women president. I'm excited and proud of Hillary because she has built such a wonderful team. There is a...
KAINE: There's a beautiful and kind of comical parable in the New Testament about a vineyard owner who hires people to work and says, and I'm gonna pay you this for a full day. Then he hires people at noon; I'm going to pay you the same thing for the half day. Then he hires people in one hours before; I'm going to pay you the same. And those who started early in the day say, hold on. You know, we don't like this - that you're treating everybody who came late just as well as you're treating us.
I'm going to tell you something. Here's what I've come to know so well about Hillary. The team that she has assembled over the years of people that are so deeply loyal to her because she's so deeply loyal to them is inspiring.
But I've seen that same degree of loyalty and compassion and sensitivity extended to the most recent folks who've joined the team, the folks who came to the vineyard with just one hour to go. Her loyalty and compassion - of Hillary and Bill - to people - if you're with you, you're with you. And that is just something so remarkable. And finally, I'm proud of Hillary because she loves this country. Nobody...
GREENE: We are listening to Tim Kaine.
KAINE: Nobody had to wonder about Hillary Clinton, whether she would accept an outcome of an election in our beautiful democracy. Nobody had ask that question. Nobody had to doubt it. She knows our country for what it is. She knows the system that we have. And in it's warts and blemishes, she's deeply in love with it and accepts it. She's been in battles before where if it didn't go her way, she accepted it but then woke up the next day and battled again for the dreams that she's held fast to. And that love of country is something that I think is obvious to everybody - obvious to everyone.
I want to thank Hillary Clinton for asking Anne and I to join this wild ride. We - about a week before she asked if I would be her running mate, Anne and I went up to Westchester, and we sat down with Hillary and Bill and with Chelsea and Mark and with Charlotte and Aiden for about three hours of conversation to try to determine whether we would be the right people to be on the ticket.
And when we got in the car to head back to the airport after the three-hour discussion, I said to Anne, Honey, I don't know whether we're going to be on this ticket or not, but I do know this. We're going to remember that three hours for the rest of our life. And now we've - we'll remember 105 days that we've had with this fantastic couple of public servants and all of you for the rest of our life.
I'll just say this. Hillary and I know well the wisdom in the words of William Faulkner. He said, they killed us, but they ain't whooped us yet.
KAINE: They killed us. They killed us, but they ain't whooped us yet...
KAINE: ...Because we know...
KAINE: We know that the works remains. We know that the dreams of empowering families and children remain. And in that work - that important work that we have to do as a nation - it is so comforting even at a tough time to know that Hillary Clinton is somebody until her very last breath is going to be battling for the values that make this nation great and the values that we care so deeply about. So now please join me in welcoming Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.
GREENE: And we're listening to the applause there.
GREENE: Secretary Clinton comes out dressed in black and purple, smiling, her husband just behind her, embraces Tim Kaine in front of those American flags - a long row of American flags. There's Chelsea Clinton just behind.
GREENE: And there she is at the lectern as the hugs continue right behind her.
HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you.
GREENE: Let's give a listen.
CLINTON: Thank you so very much for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED CLINTON SUPPORTERS: We love you.
CLINTON: And I love you all, too. Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans. This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for. And I'm sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country. But I feel...
CLINTON: I feel pride and gratitude for this wonderful campaign that we built together, this vast, diverse, creative, unruly, energized campaign. You represent the best of America. And being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
CLINTON: I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it, too. And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. This is painful. And it will be for a long time. But I want you to remember this. Our campaign was never about one person or even one election. It was about the country we love and about building an America that's hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted.
We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. And we don't just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines other things - the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too. And we must defend them.
CLINTON: And let me add, our constitutional democracy demands our participation - not just every four years, but all the time. So let's do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear - making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet and breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams. We've spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American dream is big enough for everyone - for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people and people with disabilities, for everyone.
CLINTON: So now our responsibility as citizens is to keep doing our part to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek. And I know you will. I am so grateful to stand with all of you. I want to thank Tim Kaine and Anne Holton for being our partners on this journey.
CLINTON: It has been a joy getting to know them better. And it gives me great hope and comfort to know that Tim will remain on the front lines of our democracy, representing Virginia in the Senate.
CLINTON: To Barack and Michelle Obama, our country owes you an enormous debt of gratitude.
CLINTON: We thank you for your graceful, determined leadership that has meant so much to so many Americans and people across the world. And to Bill and Chelsea, Mark, Charlotte, Aidan, our brothers and our entire family, my love for you means more than I can ever express. You crisscrossed this country on our behalf and lifted me up when I needed it most - even 4-month-old Aidan, who traveled with his mom. I will always be grateful to the creative, talented, dedicated men and women at our headquarters in Brooklyn and across our country.
CLINTON: You poured your hearts into this campaign. For some of you who are veterans, it was a campaign after you had done other campaigns. Some of you, it was your first campaign. I want each of you to know that you were the best campaign anybody could have ever expected or wanted.
CLINTON: And to the millions of volunteers, community leaders, activists and union organizers who knocked on doors, talked to neighbors, posted on Facebook - even in secret, private Facebook sites...
CLINTON: I want everybody coming out from behind that. And make sure your voices are heard going forward.
CLINTON: To everyone who sent in contributions as small as $5 and kept us going, thank you. Thank you from all of us. And to the young people in particular, I hope you will hear this. I have, as Tim said, spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I've had successes, and I've had setbacks, sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks too. This loss hurts. But please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it.
CLINTON: It is. It is worth it.
CLINTON: And so we need - we need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives. And to all the women - and especially the young women - who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.
CLINTON: Now, I know - I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling. But someday, someone will - and hopefully, sooner than we might think right now.
CLINTON: And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.
CLINTON: Finally, I am so grateful for our country and for all it has given to me. I count my blessings every single day that I am an American. And I still believe, as deeply as I ever have, that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.
CLINTON: Because you know - you know, I believe we are stronger together. And we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that. You know, Scripture tells us, let us not grow weary in doing good. For in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart. So my friends, let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come. And there is more work to do. I am incredibly honored and grateful to have had this chance to represent all of you in this consequential election. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
GREENE: That's former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton getting a kiss from Bill Clinton after she finishes her concession speech, being hugged by Chelsea Clinton. Now, the heart of that speech - she said of Donald Trump, we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead, that the peaceful transfer of power was part of American traditions.
But then she laid down a marker, Mara Liasson. She said we also believe in the rule of law, that all people are created equal and in the freedom of worship and expression and spoke of defending that. Very, very briefly, Mara Liasson - it was a message of reassurance I would think for some of her supporters. And NPR's Mara Liasson is not with us, so let's just continue. Let's just continue on here.
Secretary Clinton is now on her way out of the room, getting hugs from different members of her staff as she goes, saying that she believes that our constitutional democracy demands our participation. Our constitutional democracy is the way that she put that. And that's another thing that I would think that people would read a line into there. Renee...
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Yeah, you do have to wonder how much harder that concession speech might have been to deliver given that at this moment in time, she is on track to win the popular vote.
GREENE: Which is going to become such something politically significant. It certainly was when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral.
INSKEEP: She said this is painful. She said in the speech, this is painful, and will be for very long time. And then you can feel that in that room it looked like.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.