My mind raced all night. When the outcome had not been decided at 11pm, we turned off the coverage. We didn’t say it out loud but neither of us wanted to know the outcome if Clinton wasn’t elected. So we turned out the lights.
I woke up several times wondering if the race had been decided. I checked at 1am and many states were too close. At 3:30am, in a sleepy haze, I thought I saw the vote count tip in his favor. At 5am, I saw the calls.
We turned on the news at 6am.
I always thought a Trump presidency was possible. His behavior is unbecoming of the office, the vitriol he spewed unfit for a person leading any civilized nation. And at every turn of the campaign, his candidacy became uglier and seedier to me. As the year wore on, we never stopped being surprised by the president elect’s behavior and yet he galvanized support. Sometimes, the disbelief and surprise I felt was akin to screaming in an echo chamber where no one could hear me. I felt deeply sad for the state of our country that we could possibly elevate a person with so little respect for other people, especially the most marginalized people of this country, to a level of political life.
As much as everyone wanted to deny the possibility, as much as everyone thought it was not possible, I worried it might be a foregone conclusion.
Polls predicted a victory for Clinton, and I never felt relief. I didn’t take a victory lap. I did not do anything more than vote and share stories and stay informed. And honestly, hope.
But I am not surprised. Many people proclaimed that with the election of our first black president we live in a post-racial society. I never for a moment of the last eight years thought we lived in a country that was more accepting of people of color. If anything, we have hidden our overt racism and relied on implicit biases sown over decades. Racism remains an impossible barrier to equity in this country.
With the rise of a presidential candidate who was a woman, I did not feel as though I was seeing glass ceilings shatter. Just look at this campaign where citizens of this country overlooked misogyny, deep-seated sexism, and wrote it off as “typical” male behavior.
I never thought that electing her would mean we were in a post feminist world. I did feel the gravity of voting for Clinton as I led my daughters to the polls yesterday. I explained what it meant as diplomatically as possible. I didn’t promise them anything. I didn’t instill too much hope.
After we turned off the lights last night, the deepest of fears of what a Trump presidency meant raged in my head. For the first time in a long time, I felt like maybe this country was not going to be for me. Would I have rights? Would my daughters face a a society where they could control their reproductive rights or have a chance at overcoming sexist stereotypes about their intelligence or abilities? Would it all be obliterated by nuclear war before they even had a shot?
And what right do I have to cry about any of this? For decades, in many cases, forever, there are swaths of American citizens who were told implicitly and then explicitly that this country was not for them. We live in a country where our freedoms are built on the savage wrenching of power and resources from native people and then from anyone who threatened the small, powerful, white elite.
This is how it feels when you feel disenfranchised.
And on this morning, we wake a country divided almost completely in half. The popular vote shows us that we are a country divided nearly down the middle. Half of the citizens lost something today. But the losing electorate are not (yet) disenfranchised. We may not control who sits in the oval office nor the houses of Congress, but for now, we live in a country where we have many rights, and where we can contribute to making our local communities sources of strength and hope.
I cannot forgive anything Trump has said or done in his campaign. He has denigrated women and obliterated the long fought work of domestic and interpersonal violence advocates. He has stoked xenophobia and set back decades (maybe even centuries) of civil rights work. And I cannot act surprised that racism and misogyny and xenophobia are brewing below the surface of seemingly peaceful civic life in this country. This candidate–now future president–brought those views into the light. He made a campaign, exposing the ignorance, the bias, the underbelly of this country. And it is important to recognize that this is who we are as a country.
But I also cannot believe he will accomplish all he has promised to do. The liberal people of this country feel as betrayed by Clinton as the conservative people feel by the liberal establishment. The liberals united but not as completely as the conservatives. I remain hopeful that the losing electorate will remain invested in civic life that serves marginalized people, that seeks justice, that makes our world progressive and inclusive.
As much as I cared about the election outcome, I have to care MORE than I ever did about the future of this country. I have to care about the cabinet this man appoints, the possible justice(s) he nominates to the Supreme Court, and the legislation he will propose, support or repeal. And I hope that everyone that cared about seeing a woman in the White House will do the same. I hope that the media will remain more attuned to every move this future president makes. And hopefully, the electorate will turn its attention to state politics where much of the actual decisions governing our daily lives are made.
So while I want to cry, I’m looking ahead.
My oldest daughter wandered in to our bedroom at 6:30am. We told her the news. Her reaction stays with me.
“Well, if he is this bad, the law will catch him. He has to be nice to people.”
It’s true, I thought. He will not win over half of the country with the rhetoric he used to get to this place.
We talked about the election returns she was watching on television and I clearly and unemotionally explained what she was seeing.
As I dropped them off at school, she and her sister chattered away. When I pulled up to the curb, my oldest remarked, “A lot of people are going to be talking about this today.”
“You’re right,” I replied, “And if anyone says anything crazy, you just tell them ‘I’m not sure that’s true’ and then let’s talk about it tonight when we’re home.”
I’m going to watch this concession speech, shed a few tears and move ahead. The people have spoken, and democracy says we won’t always agree.
I have to raise two little girls to believe that they can be president. And today, that job feels a little harder.