The 2016 presidential election was hardly like the Civil War. Yet with the continuing rancor over Donald Trump’s victory, it is worth recalling Lincoln’s advice toward the end of that great conflict: “Let us strive on to ... bind up the nation’s wounds.” Hillary Clinton caught that spirit in her concession speech by saying Americans owe Mr. Trump “a chance to succeed.” And President Obama said “we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country.”
For his part, the president-elect not only called for unity but said his top priority would be to achieve something that both he and Mrs. Clinton promised: To bind up the nation’s wounded infrastructure of bridges, highways, tunnels, and airports.
Washington needs a rallying point soon after this tough election, and nothing creates more political consensus than the view that public structures, from streets to levees, are crumbling. The average age of infrastructure has been increasing since the late 1960s, creating worries that it is creating a slowdown in productivity. To boost innovation, the United States must tackle its transport bottlenecks.
Polls indicate wide support for improving infrastructure. One survey found Southern California drivers would pay $20 a commute for traffic-free highways. And in a number of ballot measures this month, voters from Atlanta to Seattle backed projects for transit and highways. That local consensus should now be reflected in Congress.
If Democrats and Republicans can get off to a bipartisan start on this issue, it might set a healing tone for others to come. One mistake by both parties after Mr. Obama’s victory in 2008 and the sweep of Congress by Democrats was that both parties only hardened their positions. Instead of collaborating on the first major legislation, an economic stimulus package, they struck a fighting pose, which lasted for eight years.
To be sure, Trump and Congress must work on the gritty details of how to finance infrastructure projects and which ones are most important. Democrats seek direct spending by a government entity, aimed mainly at creating jobs and helping cities. Trump wants to tap private capital for building projects, using tax credits as incentives, with states and localities setting priorities.
Such differences, however, can be resolved if both parties want a fresh start and are willing to give the new president “a chance to succeed.” Politics need not always be “my way or the highway.” It can also be “our way is better highways.”