One week ago today, I was feeling pretty confident that we as a country would soon elect our first female president.
On Tuesday, November 8th, I attended an Election Day playdate with my littles. I had voted by mail a few weeks prior and did not have to visit a polling place. I watched polling updates pop up on my newsfeed – “I Voted” pins, “I’m With Her” t-shirts, etc.
That evening, we turned the TV on earlier than usual (we keep it off when the babies are up) to check on the early results. Clinton and Trump were fairly even early on, but Trump soon took the lead. Once the babies were asleep, it became obvious that Trump was galloping ahead. Why were all of these states turning red!?
Let me preface this by saying that I have not always voted for the Democratic presidential candidate. And I should also mention that I am not the most politically involved. Other than voting in the national election and staying loosely up-to-date with the news, I am not very government-focused. This election, however, changed things. I noticed it around me as well – people who were not generally fired up about politics were suddenly fired up about politics (and yet not enough people were fired up as only half of our nation voted).
There seemed to be a lot on the line: outright prejudice against minorities, raging misogyny, a reversal of the social justice progress made over the last 8 years (and I say this despite having voted for Romney in 2012). This would also be our chance to elect the first female president – what a remarkable model for the young girls of our nation!
And yet those states kept turning red. The mood of the night turned sour. Trump was declared President-Elect. Clinton conceded. Was this real life?
I felt gutted. I couldn’t sleep. I was nauseous. It was a terrible, terrible night.
Five days later, the disappointment is still palpable. Waves of horror, fear, and anxiety will wash over me periodically throughout the day, and the next second I will go on with business as usual. I find it difficult to eloquently express my thoughts, but here they are:
- I know people who voted for Trump. They are decent, intelligent, and compassionate humans. They are all white (although he did receive almost 1/3 of the Latino vote, if my sources are correct). I don’t know how they were able to ignore the racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic comments he made when they voted. In saying those words (despite whether he truly believes them), he has given voice to the hatred that has always divided this nation. I worry about the repercussions – about the violence that will ensue. I am wary of the media reports, but I know people who have personally experienced verbal assaults, and this causes me much anxiety. I believe the only reason these people were able to choose policy/dislike of Clinton/desire for change over blatant discrimination is that they are white. They will never be the target of this discrimination, and so it becomes a non-issue. As for the women, I truly don’t understand how they could have voted for him (especially over a female candidate who so championed women’s rights). But I respect that we all have differences in opinions and welcome open dialogue with Trump supporters. I also hope that he will continue to (as he did today) condone any hate exhibited by his supporters. (And I also believe that anti-Trump protests should be peaceful.)
- I am sad that our first viable female candidate lost. I know that Clinton came with baggage, and was also campaigning after two terms of a Democratic president. Yet I can only imagine the elation I would have felt at having a Madam President. What a beacon of accomplishment for so many young women in the world – a true symbol that anything is within reach! Instead, a highly qualified female candidate who did her homework and knew the ropes lost to a highly unqualified male who had more braggadocio than substance. In other words, this was a great example of what women face every day in the world. We have to work harder than men but be well-groomed, perfect, and likable, in order to command lesser respect. And other women will still choose the male candidate because you weren’t [insert any adjective here] enough. Women are terrible at supporting other women! It is a sad state of gender affairs in this country.
- We are fortunate to have freedom of speech in the USA. In other countries, if the candidate you were not in favor of won, you would be better off not writing opinion pieces about how his win was a disaster for your country, or ridiculing his hair/word choice/artificial skin tone. We are fortunate to be able to voice our opinions and to not suffer retribution. I hope that this does not change under the Trump administration. It is so important to the democracy we so value.
- We need to come together. I know this strikes a nerve for both sides. There is deep-seated resentment here, but we must try to unite. No, I don’t expect blacks to embrace the KKK, or “Build the Wall!” enthusiasts to suddenly welcome Mexicans, but I do believe that middle-of-the-road supporters for both sides can and should come together. We can now see what the division of these past few years has done to our country.
- Finally, note to self: we need to be more politically aware. One of my AP history teachers in high school would always remind us of a famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin after the signing of the U.S. Constitution. He was asked: “What have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” and he responded: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” His point was that our freedom – our republic – was something that we would have to fight for continuously. After this election, it has become evident that we are not fighting for it. We are taking it for granted because things are (mostly) good in this country. But that will no longer be true if we continue on this course of allowing others to make decisions for us.
Less than one week after an upsetting election, I am feeling a bit more hopeful about Trump’s presidency. I hope that he will do the “right thing” and unite the people of the United States. I hope that he will take his role as president seriously, and that he will not embarrass us in the eyes of the world. I hope that he will be respectful of each citizen of this nation, protect their rights, and also protect the environment we live in. These are lofty goals, and I can’t say that he’s trending in the right direction, but we must give him a chance. I hope he proves all of us doubters wrong – for the sake of this country and its people. And I trust that my friends who voted for Trump saw something in him that I missed. They have good judgment and I cling to that for a glimmer of hope.