Exactly one year ago tonight I attended an Election Night watch party at a family friend’s house, and exactly one year ago from this very moment I was in the car, driving home in fear and absolute shock, unable to stay long enough to witness the result I so dreaded come to life.
The Electoral College numbers weren’t looking good. Nothing was making sense. Down was up, and up was down. We were supposed to be drinking champagne and crying while watching the first female president of these United States give her victory speech. Just the thought of what could have been brings me to tears, even while writing this.
Instead, the Presidency was stolen from Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Hillary Rodham Clinton who—despite rampant sexism and a smear campaign by Republicans and the far-left alike, and Russian email and data hacking—STILL won the popular vote by three million.
As I drove home that night, I felt numb. About an hour earlier, as the numbers began to look worse and worse, I left the group to call my best friend, feeling a panic attack building in my chest. I stepped outside into the chilly November air—ironically the Hillary-inspired pantsuit I had been wearing did little to keep me warm and comfortable—my fingers shaky as I typed her name into my contact list, and as soon as she picked up I burst into tears.
“I’m scared,” I cried. For my former students in LA, many of whom were undocumented and/or came from immigrant families. For my four-year-old nephew (and now niece who was just born last week), who had to wake up the next morning and learn that the voice of hatred had “won.” For our Muslim community. For my own LGBT+ community. For women everywhere. For Planned Parenthood. For everyone fighting for universal healthcare—hell, even just for Obamacare to survive. For everyone fighting for gun control. For everyone fighting for…anything worthwhile.
I knew how scared I was, but I couldn’t bear the thought of how scared the majority of our country felt. After all, I am a middle class feminine white woman. If this administration were going to harm me, they would have to harm a lot more people along the way. And that’s not fucking okay with me. It never will be.
I felt the weight of all the hurt that was happening—and would inevitably get worse—around me, and just wanted to collapse under its pressure.
When I got home shortly after 9:00pm, I immediately changed into my pajamas and buried myself under the covers of my bed, putting my phone on silent and vowing to ignore it for as long as possible. My parents had opted to stay at the party, so it was just my dog and me. I remember shortly after 11:00pm my mom coming into my dark bedroom and placing her hand on my back; I began to cry again. She tried to console me: “don’t worry. They haven’t called anything yet.”
I fell back into a fitful sleep, filled with stress dream after stress dream, and after each one I would wake up just enough to tell myself that I hadn’t officially checked the news, so no one had officially “won.” Still, my heart knew.
The following morning I awoke to a series of texts:
“Hopefully it’ll be a quick four years.”
“Don’t listen to _______ on Facebook.”
“I can’t believe it.”
From my German friend in Germany, at around 5:00am her time:
“I won’t give up hope! What the hell is happening over there???”
“Are you okay?”
No, I wasn’t. I’m not. None of us should be, because none of this was normal. None of this made sense. How could someone who went on national television and openly mocked a disabled reporter, called Mexicans rapists, and bragged about sexually assaulting women suddenly be President of the United States? Such a stark contrast to the hope we had all felt eight years ago, and then again as 16-year-old me witnessed thousands of people cry tears of joy at Obama’s first inauguration.
Thankfully at that point in my life I had been working freelance, so I didn’t have to leave the house the next day. I opted to stay in my pajamas well into the afternoon, crying off and on all day. From Hillary’s speech that morning, to the afternoon when I had called my German friend on FaceTime to vent.
Hillary. God damn it. That woman. Just the sheer thought of how much pain she must have been in took my breath away. It still does. No matter how many times she told us that all of our phone calls, all of our canvassing, our begging and pleading for our friends and family to see reason, all of it mattered; at that point, it felt like it amounted to nothing. She did not fail us, we had failed her.
I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise, but I lost both friends and family after the 2016 election. People I had once been close to, I didn’t speak to for over six months. Old church friends deleted me from Facebook and blocked me on Twitter in the blink of an eye. A mother-figure who had been there for me during one of the darkest times of my life, whose warm smile I can still remember from backstage as I stood in the pool at church, waiting to be baptized; learning of her vote felt like a literal stab to the chest. “I will always vote for the pro-life candidate,” she told me. Excuse me, the PRO-LIFE???? How in the FUCK is this candidate or his snake of a VP PRO-LIFE???? How is cutting food stamps pro-life? Gutting healthcare for children? I identify as pro-life, and none of those things make sense to me. How could you claim to love me in all my queer glory, and cast your vote for someone who openly believed in electrocuting me straight? That to me is equivalent to looking me in the eye and saying “I don’t love you anymore.” A break up, if you will.
And then there’s the fact that no amount of love can even convince your family, your own flesh and blood, to cast their votes with care, or cast their votes at all. I mentioned this in a previous blog about the recent Las Vegas shooting—you cannot make anyone care about you. In the past, I didn’t take people’s vote, or lack thereof, personally—after all, I’ve voted Republican before—but this time, I did. I still do.
Because this wasn’t Democrat vs. Republican, this was humanity, love, and decency (also a motherflying SCOTUS seat!!!!) vs. racism, bigotry, xenophobia, islamophobia, and more. Personally, regardless of who the candidate was, I would 110 percent rather have a president in office I could push further left, than a president who is literally trying to undo everything I hold dear. Even if Hillary Clinton “wasn’t your favorite,” this was the time to hold your nose and fucking vote anyway. Still today the “there’s just something about her” argument makes me want to vomit.
You do know the “just something about her” point of view is rooted in right-wing lies and misogyny and bullshit, right? Well, if you didn’t, you do now. Don’t say no one ever told you.
Tonight was another Election Night. Small, but significant. Reading that the Democrats had pretty much swept Virginia and flipped New Jersey blue gave me the hope that I had so desperately needed a year ago. In Virginia, a transgender woman unseated a House Delegate who had previously authored a transphobic bathroom bill. A Democratic Socialist unseated the GOP House Majority Whip. The biggest issue for Virginia voters today was healthcare and guns, and they voted against the NRA-backed candidate and WON.
For the first time in a year, I am close to hoping that we can one day take our country back. From Trump, from Russia, from racism, bigotry, hatred, and more. And this is largely why I was able to write this post tonight.
Sometimes I think about how partisan our country has become—how partisan I’ve become—and still feel disheartened. Even if my candidate wins, or if love wins, or if progressive values win, or whatever, there are still people out there who hate us. Who feed off of fear and ignorance and brag about misinformation.
So what do we do to change that?
Earlier this year I joined a local resistance group called Indivisible. Non-partisan. Fighting Trump with everything we have. Despite wishing we could turn back the clock and do November 8, 2016 over again, I am so damn grateful for Indivisible. At this point it’s difficult to imagine my life without my resistance buddies.
Still, this past year has been fucking exhausting, infuriating, and debilitating. I for one know we can’t continue this way. I’m tired of being angry, I’m tired of feeling cheated, and heartbroken. So I hope that wherever Hillary is tonight she can go to sleep knowing that her message is the true message of America. And in a way, Bernie Sanders too.
We really are Stronger Together.