My tears all day yesterday were not about Hillary Clinton. I haven’t been a Clinton fan in many years. While I don’t think they are evil people, I’m not sure we can entirely trust them either (sadly, as we know, so few politicians are trustworthy). I do think they are both super smart and capable politicians (sometimes this can also mean cunning). And I do believe Hillary has had to work harder than men to create the incredible career she has had. She has done a remarkable job at shattering glass ceilings, and all women should be thanking her for that. So while I never once used an #imwithher hashtag or put on a nasty woman t-shirt, I felt quite confident that she was the person for the job — at the same time that she certainly wasn’t my first choice for POTUS.
My lack of campaign slogan hashtags and lack of excitement over madame president left me feeling like a bit of an outsider in my SMS feeds leading up to the election. It was/is no secret that I was a diehard Bernie supporter and dreamed for years of a having him as president (I had long thought it was a simply pipe dream. Side note: the term “pipe dream” comes from the fantasies brought on my smoking opium…). Under no circumstances would I ever describe myself as “with her,” although there was no question that I was voting for her. And while I was excited about the prospect of the U.S.’s first woman president, I would much rather that person be Elizabeth Warren (or even Michelle Obama, though she says she isn’t interested. Or, here’s a pipe dream for ya — Zephyr Teachout, even though she was unable to win a Congress seat this election cycle).
Also, I want to make clear that despite my lack of enthusiasm for Hillary as the democratic candidate, I also was sure to steer far clear of all the “lesser of two evils” rhetoric. As I stated earlier, I don’t think Hillary is evil (or at least not any more evil than politics in general are evil, in which case it becomes a necessary evil that we (the people) try to work with each day to improve upon and make more ethical and more effective). And I certainly held full faith that she could keep this ship afloat without inflicting a whole lot of harm for the next four years. Trump, on the other hand, is evil. He’s dangerous. He puts our country at risk on a global level, and he puts our country at risk internally by normalizing (even glorifying) hate and violence toward women and minorities. Obviously as a queer woman this scares me, while I simultaneously recognize the safety that my place of privilege (white, can pass as straight, educated) affords me that many other of Trump’s targets don’t have.
So back to those tears…. They were for myself and my family, certainly (Dawn said to me in the middle of the night that she fears we will have to take money out of savings to pay for an adoption in case DOMA is reinstated), but they were for my country most of all. Now here is where it gets weird: I’ve never uttered the words “my country” before, as I’ve never identified as patriotic (a concept that I feel often breeds violence and separatism. It gets even more uncomfortable because indeed, a growing white nationalism is part of what got us into this ugly president elect predicament). So, you might imagine, it was a very weird and uncomfortable feeling for me that I couldn’t stop crying all day over “my country” and a candidate whom I didn’t even support initially. I didn’t cry in 2000. I didn’t cry in 2004. I wasn’t jumping for joy, but I wasn’t crying. So why were so many of us crying yesterday?
The obvious answer is we were crying over the election of a bigoted, misogynistic, egomaniac into the White House. A terrifying bully as the head of our country. That is worth crying about for sure. But of course I wanted to look at the tears more closely. I had a great and very candid conversation with my students about the election, and we were all nodding our heads about being so sad over just how divided our country is, but if we look back over the elections for the past 16 years, we can see that nearly all of them were just as split down the middle (Obama pulled out ahead of Romney in 2012, but even that was damn close to 50/50, as 2008, 2004, and 2000 all were). So this close to 50/50 outcome is technically nothing new, but this divide feels very different, because it feels as though on one side of it lives hatred. That kind of divide feels much more difficult to overcome. Hatred is not a disagreement on policy; it’s not a disagreement on how the money gets allocated; it’s not a bipartisan issue. It’s not politics as usual, for sure. It’s something much scarier and more awful.
I like to think that 50% of the country is not comprised of racist assholes. I can support this with anecdotal evidence of folks I know (family members even. We all have them, right?) who voted for Trump. But what bothers me so much is that even if they aren’t outwardly racist or misogynist or just general assholes, those are the things they chose to vote for. And they either don’t know that’s what they just did (which points to — WOW — a whole slew of issues around education and civics/government that I cannot get into here). Or they don’t care. And I find both of those possibilities so deeply troubling. In some ways I find them more troubling than those who voted for Trump because they are white supremacists or xenophobes or whatever. I guess this is because I can wrap my head around understanding hate more easily than I can around making the effort to vote without realizing or caring about what you’re choosing to vote for.
Gosh there is just so much to say about this election cycle. There is a shit-ton of material out there arguing about how this happened and how we (lib/dems) shouldn’t be so surprised. I have been thinking a lot about these comments (as one of the progressives who was caught off guard for sure), and I will write about them in part two post.