Heartbreak on November 8th

The day after the election, I cried. I cried all morning when I woke up and the reality of what had happened sank in. I cried when I watched Hillary Rodham Clinton concede to Donald Trump. I cried in the bathroom at my office and on the bus on the way home. While I cared a lot about this election throughout its incredibly long run, I’ll admit that my emotional response surprised me. I have never felt a political loss so deeply or taken it so personally. I couldn’t process what was welling up inside me. I completely retreated. I left work early, shut out all social media and news outlets for days, and instead looked inside myself. So, nearly a week after the historic night that shook my world, and at the risk of adding to the incessant noise that is the post-election media blitz, I am going to unpack it here. Bear with me.

There is the first, most obvious fact that I didn’t expect to feel the pain I did because I didn’t think Hillary would lose. I had worried that not enough people would turn out for her. I’d thought about the impact of some of Trump’s policies if they were enacted. But when I thought of election night, I saw one thing: celebration. So there’s that.

There is also the second obvious fact that Trump will be my President. Not only will he challenge or impede progress on many of the issues that I care about, but I fundamentally do not feel represented by my leader… and as a middle class white person, I recognize my privilege in feeling that for the first time. It is shocking.

But the fact that Trump will be my President is separate from and in addition to my sheer disappointment that Hillary with not be. I do not mean to minimize the justifiable fear and insecurity that much of the country is grappling with when coming to terms with a Trump administration, particularly those groups who feel personally targeted. But when I truly ask myself what made my stomach sink that day, it was mostly about Hillary’s loss.

She may be a member of the political elite who did not fully grasp the frustration and despair of many Americans who do not feel heard. That is a fair criticism, and one that I hope will create change in the Democratic party and a curiosity and empathy across our country. But she is also an incredibly smart person who understands the complexities of the challenges our country faces; does not give up in the face of persistent hardship; and has been effective at reaching across the aisle and making things happen in a slow, bureaucratic system. Independent fact-checkers show that she is one of the most honest politicians on the national stage, and frankly she is also one of the best qualified to do this most difficult and demanding job. So, I had a difficult time understanding the sentiment that was thrown around throughout the campaign that America had two equally bad candidates to choose from.

Now, of course there are plenty of people on the right (and on the left too) who have philosophical differences with Hillary and disagree with her vision for the country. And that’s allowed. Disagreement on the issues is the underpinning of healthy debate. But policy disagreements aren’t what dominated the anti-Hillary rhetoric during this election, and they’re not what have dominated the anti-Hillary rhetoric over the course of her public life. Unfounded scandal and dislike have.

When I have been faced with low expectations or implicit bias in my own life, my strategy has been to put my head down and let my work speak for itself. I had the same feelings during this election. I pushed aside all the frustration throughout the last 18 months — frustration at a news cycle that felt like the gossip column, at the constant distractions from real conversation, and at the inability to reason with crazy — and thought that if we could just get her elected, she would quiet all the knee-jerk haters through action. She would get into the White House, roll up her sleeves, get shit done, and prove them wrong. She would show the country and the world that after working so hard to get here, putting her own career second after her husband’s, and putting up with so much scrutiny, that she could do it.

Maybe this was a naive daydream. Maybe the divided state of our country would have made compromise, and therefore action, impossible. Maybe the opposition would have continued to drudge up things to scandalize. But throughout her career, Hillary’s approval ratings have dipped during elections and been strong during her times in office. And I hoped the same would be true this time. I guess we will never know.

During her concession speech, Hillary said that nothing has made her prouder than to be women’s champion and apologized for losing. She is the first candidate to say “I’m sorry” during a presidential concession speech (and, incidentally, the first woman to give one). In that moment, you could feel the weight of responsibility she felt to be a voice for those of us who believed in her. Well, she was my champion, and I am deeply saddened that this time reason and hard work did not win out, that we don’t get to see what an HRC presidency would have accomplished.

Disappointment and outrage at the outcome of this election are not enough. Words are nothing without action, and there will be plenty of need for action over the next four years. I know. But for right now, this is all I’ve got.

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2 thoughts on “Heartbreak on November 8th

  1. Thank you for putting words to everything that I have ben feeling but have not quite been ready to say. The day after, although for some reason I felt embarrassed to admit it, amongst so so many parts of this reality that made me angry, fearful, devastated, the thing that evoked the most emotion for me was thinking about Hillary and how she might be feeling on that day. I kept thinking about all that she put into this and all that she did for the women in this country. I couldn’t stop the tears when I thought about her maybe having thoughts like what if I was just more charismatic, likable, and worst of all male, or her feeling guilty about having “let” this happen to our country. Wondering if she should have let Bernie have her spot simply because his ideas were more radical and appealing although not grounded in reality or experience. Or because he was a man and simply because of that had a better chance of winning. I realized, in a way, this was me being protective and is how I feel about people I love and, in a way, I think maybe I do love her. I wished I could talk to her and tell her how she has paved the road for all women, how unfair this election was with non-scandal issues treated the same as misogyny and racism.

    As the days have past since the election, other parts of this reality have become more real, like having to sit with my clients who are survivors of sexual violence, realizing that we will soon have a president who has likely committed assault himself, or at least whose election to office represents to many of them that the majority of people in this country believe what was done to them is okay or at the very least forgivable. Although this among other similar things are feeling like the bigger issues now and I am beginning to feel ready to look forward and scheme around activism and advocacy, I still feel an ache in my stomach when I think of Hillary, how she poured her heart and soul into this election for all of us. She is my hero and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else in her shoes, regardless of how this all turned out. I have decided to write her a letter and encourage anyone to write one as well. You could even send her your blog printed out Jane! I have a feeling she would love to read it.

    The address is: Hillary for America, Post Office Box 5256, New York, NY 10185-5256

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You know who can’t be discriminated against? Aborted children. Look….Trump’s bullying and bigotry is disgusting. But being alive is pretty cool, for the most part. Hillary was endorsed by an agency responsible for aborting SEVEN MILLION PREGNANCIES since the 70’s. Would you rather be alive, gay and not able to get married? Or would you rather have just been aborted.

    Like

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