Election Night

November 8.

I’m wearing my new shirt spouting, “Madam President if you’re nasty.” I’m sick and jet lagged, but don’t expect this to take long. I want to be home in bed, but it’s a historic election. What’s a little more exhaustion added onto the compounding pile?

In my friends’ kitchen, I put the kettle on for some tea. I ask my husband to snap a photo of my shirt for Instagram, but not to get my face so I don’t expose how tired I am. He accidentally posts it immediately, which is fine. The shirt is its own commentary. No need to add to it.

I drink my tea. The rest of my friends have whiskey or a few beers. I brought over a bottle of liquor, intending for it to come out at the end of the night for a celebratory “Swill for Hill.” Nearly a month later, it’s still in the cupboard unopened.

There are eight of us in the kitchen. Three straight cis married couples and two single women. Seven white folks and one Puerto-Rican American. One of us in their twenties, the rest in our thirties. All middle-class. The election coverage rolls in as we all sit around the island, petting dogs and rolling ours eyes as the central Eastern states are declared for Trump. Short videos from nightly satirical news shows are played to break up the coverage and get a few needed laughs.

It starts to turn when Ohio, the state that we were all born, raised, and currently reside in, is declared for Trump. This is bad. Four years ago when Ohio was called, it was the decisive stroke. We had been holding hands and erupted into cheers when Ohio went to Obama in 2012. Social media posts declaring Obama “President of Ohio” went up in triumph. Now in 2016, an atmosphere of disappointment starts to settle in. We all think of family members that we know voted for Trump. Or Gary Johnson. Or didn’t vote. Or left the top of the ballot blank. Fuck. We are the worst. Our people have chosen poorly.

But it’s not over. There are more swing states this year. Virginia is looking mostly blue, likely due to Hillary’s choice of Tim Kaine for a running mate. Then Michigan. At one point the difference in votes is in the double digits. Seventy-one. Seventy-one more people have voted for Trump than Clinton. It’s still too close to call.

The map is really red. It looks and feels like a massacre. This isn’t what I was expecting. The conversation moves towards “What if?” What if he wins and repeals healthcare reform? One of us has a pre-existing condition. Will that doom her to a life without medical coverage? What does this say to our gay friends who have felt un-loved by their countrymen and women as Trump has carried on his tirade of bigotry for months? What does this say to the women that make up more than half of the population of our country? The five of us in the room do not feel safe. We’ve just seen a huge portion of the population condone a man who claims to have sexually assaulted women and will not even acknowledge that that’s a problem. Our friend who is Puerto-Rican American notes that he is a shade of brown that is ambiguous enough to be mistaken for Middle Eastern. He’s expecting that he could be included in any anti-Muslim discrimination.

My head hurts. My throat is raw. My heart is aching. But how could Hillary not pull through? I’m not prepared to wait it out tonight. I head home to rest. In my bed, I prop open my laptop and refresh the CNN feed every few minutes. California is called and Hillary takes the lead. Michigan is still too close to call.

I wake up around three when my husband comes home. I asked if they’ve called the election. No, he tells me, unsettling me further. I sleep for a few more hours and get up again at five. The stress and the jet lag are teaming up. The news is that Trump has been elected. Hillary has conceded, but not spoken to the public yet.

I’m shocked. Crushed. I cry silently through the news. My heart breaks for my queer friends, who have so openly expressed founded fears and spoken out. For the African American community that has faced so much violence. For the Muslim community in American that has been demonized. I hurt for friends who are sexual assault survivors, who have been told that they should “get over it,” “not make it a big deal,” “at least it wasn’t worse,” who have not been believed. I hurt for myself and all the American women who have just had it confirmed once again, that women are not equal to men. When I am not promoted first or when I am paid less, I can’t prove that it’s because of my gender alone. But here’s the latest evidence, nationally witnessed. And my heart breaks for Hillary Clinton, the person.

And she is a person, and a decent one at that. She is tough as nails. She is smart; she is evolving; she can compromise. This is a woman who knows how to give everything. She’s been dealing with disappointment and criticism for decades. Through it all, she’s remained committed to making things better for others. The election of Donald Trump is more than a slap in the face, it’s a knife in the heart. A heart that has done so much good for so many people.

One of the largest reasons that I voted for Hillary in the primaries is that she knows how to work with Republicans and people with whom she does not agree. My hope was that she could find some middle ground to motivate Congress to be more productive. I thought that, as a political moderate, she could remove some of the partisan blocks. While my own personal politics align more closely with Bernie Sanders, I expected that Hillary could be more centrist and unifying.

I was wrong. And I should have known this. One key indicator that had baffled me was that so many of the Ron Paul supporters of 2008 were Bernie Sanders supporters in 2016. From a political science perspective, this doesn’t make sense to me. They overlap on almost no policies. But if I would have focused on what it is that they do share, I likely would have been much more enlightened. It’s a movement. It’s not about the work or the policy. Specifically, it’s the anti-establishment rhetoric. There’s a lot more to say here, but I’m still unpacking it all, trying to make sense.

Around seven in the morning on November 9, my husband wakes up. He asks if Trump is president. I tell him yes and his shoulders crumple forward. He notes that while he, as a straight white man, has little to fear, this is devastating. Things aren’t going to be okay.

Written by Erin C.P.


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