It’s already been a whole year since arguably one of the most astounding, unprecedented, and profoundly sad election nights in American history, but at times it feels like a century. Instead of breaking the glass ceiling by electing Hillary Rodham Clinton as our first woman president, the American people chose to take leaps backwards, hoping to “Make America Great Again”. Despite HRC winning the popular vote in the 2016 election, Donald J. Trump, a former reality star and notorious womanizer, became President of the United States.
It’s been an odd year. I remember waking up on November 8th, 2016 with a sense of uneasiness and even fear, likely linked to the chaos a Trump appearance wreaked on my campus a week before. I swallowed my doubts, though, and embarked through my day with a fire in my belly and a Clinton sign in my hand. I educated classmates on how and where to vote, I canvassed all over campus and the surrounding areas, and I stress shoveled Pad Thai in my mouth with shaky hands, all before watching the results unfold with the Democratic Party in my city.
After months of canvassing, late night phone calls, and fervorous daily reading, my friends and I were exhausted, but ready to see the woman we loved and believed in make herstory. I was proud of and inspired by the work of my fellow Dems, and I was invigorated by the political interest and activism that I hadn’t seen in my peers in previous elections. I saw hope for this country, despite the horrific unveiling of those sharing in Trump’s disturbing ideology, but as the evening sprawled forward, I saw that hope sinking as the multiple generations of believers sitting around me watched the polls come in. I frantically left the room after the results for Wisconsin, my home state, came through, calling my Grandma across the country in tears. Since election season started months ago, we had countless impassioned, angry, and proud conversations about what we were witnessing in our country, and our worst fears were being realized. After many more hours with close friends trying to hold on to our final shreds of hope, we went to bed with wet faces and a gut feeling that tomorrow, everything would be different.
We were right. After waking up with our eyes swollen from tears, and our bodies groggy from little sleep, my roommate and I cuddled up in his bed, confirming what we knew was true hours before the official results came in. Hate had won, and that hate was plastered all over Facebook walls and conversations on campus. The collective sorrow of those of us looking towards how this leadership would impact us and future generations, was also evident in the sharing of kind words with loved ones, calls for action and comfort, and the idea that this didn’t have to mean true defeat. We knew we needed to mobilize, to fight back with our votes and our voices, but we took time to mourn, to be kind to ourselves. We found solace in art, community, and rest, but knew that hibernation couldn’t last forever. We refused to let the fire die, and pushed ourselves back into action.
Over the past twelve months, it has felt like our country has been on a roller coaster from Hell. Liberals endured holiday dinners with Trump loving families tiptoeing, or gleefully stomping, around the giant orange elephant in the room. Trump had more trouble picking a team of staffers than a twelve-year-old picking classmates for kickball.
Women from all walks of life marched in solidarity around the country, and across the world, while Trump boasted about his sparse (in comparison) attendees at his Inauguration into a position he is wildly unfit to possess. I myself attended the march in Montreal, Canada after spending the morning reading Maya Angelou’s soothing words and writing about hope and action. With a few outliers, conservative politicians, fearing more for their future in politics than the future of our country, continue to condone Trump’s behavior and help mobilize such actions as dismantling the Affordable Care Act and moving to end DACA. Democrats have had to come to terms with the ways their party and the establishment has failed them, and we must continue to grapple with ways to move forward.
We all carry new fears that didn’t exist a year ago. We wonder if today will be the day that Trump’s Twitter finally causes nuclear war. The pervasive presence of Russia in our executive branch looms larger than ever. And we’ve had to face the horrifying reality that our country truly is so divided that some men would rather vote for a sexual predator who targets children than consider a Democrat.
The last few weeks have been tumultuous ones for America. Icons and titans are toppling, angry women are turning out to vote, and it feels—even if just for a moment—like a tide may be turning. Is it accurate to lay this at the feet of Trump and his administration? Maybe not. But while I spent last Tuesday looking back on one of the most disappointing evenings of my young life, I also feel invigorated. I refuse to give up hope, and this Election Day, unlike the one this past year, has kept my fire burning.
There were many “firsts” occurring for women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates who made history, despite the overwhelmingly dismal atmosphere broadcasted every day in the news. I like to think that the Trump-era we live in, the one we fought so bitterly against, is producing a generation of fighters, activists, and elected officials. I hope that these representatives can be catalysts for change, and that we, especially women, recognize the power of votes and our voices.
Donald Trump won’t let us forget about his victory last year. Whenever his cards are down, it’s the one triumph he returns to. But we shouldn’t forget it either. As easy as it is to stay in a funk over last year’s shit storm, I’m choosing to look forward, look up, and continue to work for what I so fiercely believe in, and I urge all of you Nasty Women to do the same. I like to think Hillary would say the same thing.
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