The electors have voted. It’s been a month and a half. Heck, it’s almost 2017. And I’ve been kind of MIA on social media, and in real life too a little. I’ve pretty much spent the last seven weeks trying to make sense of everything.
Apparently it takes 21 days to break or make a habit, which would be three weeks. So I should be used to whatever this is by now. I’ve been through all the stages of grief out of order and more than once, except the last one: acceptance. (I am also, arguably stuck in the anger stage.) I’ve accepted that this is happening, but will not accept that this is the way my country will be.
I have a lot of thoughts/feelings/opinions about practically everything these days, about what happened, about what to do next, about how to talk to people who disagree with you, etc. And I’m not going to write about all of them, at least not right now. But I think today I have to start at the part that hurts the most. I have been trying to write for weeks, but I can’t get past this part. The part that starts on Election Night.
I worked as an intern for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign for nine months. I started on Super Tuesday and worked at least a thousand hours since. So when I woke up for the day at 11pm on November 7, I knew I wasn’t going to sleep for the next 29 hours, at least. I knew if I could get through one thousand hours over nine months, I could get through 29 more. I started the day (night?) wandering Brooklyn Heights with a few of my Clintern friends for a 24-hour diner while we waited for the buses to arrive. Those buses drove us and dozens of other people from HQ to the Westchester airport to greet the Stronger Together plane and we were there, on the tarmac, at 3:30 in the morning in 36 degree weather, with hundreds of supporters, when she descended those steps. She was bundled up in a fierce red coat and white scarf. (Important to note that she was up and voting four hours later.) We took the buses back to HQ and I began checking in attorneys for the Voter Assistance Hotline, where, from 5am until 11pm, they answered calls from all over the country of voters who experienced intimidation or were turned away from polling places over incorrect forms of identification or even didn’t know where they were supposed to vote. When the lawyers for the first half of the day had been checked in, I left to meet one of my friends, Cat, for brunch (my only meal of the day). Cat and I were both decked out in our Hillary gear and two separate women stopped us mid-conversation because we were talking about voting and Hillary.
When brunch was over, I had to say goodbye and head to the Javits Convention Center to help get everything in place for the big night, my assignment for the night. I was wearing a black pseudo-pantsuit, my Marc Jacobs Hillary shirt, two lanyards and two strategically-placed pins on my lapel. I also had on a vintage necklace that says “Land of the Free” on one side and an American flag on the other, that I have worn every Election Day since 2008 and will continue to wear election cycles to come. At 5:30pm, I took a photo of the lights from the press line behind me and a photo of myself in front of the stage Hillary Clinton was supposed to take later that night as president-elect of the United States. I pretty much put my phone away after that.
At 6pm, the first polls closed and the doors opened to the glass building we were supposed to shatter. For those that asked “how the mood” was… we were watching the results come in on CNN, just as everyone else was, so we didn’t have any more information than anyone else. When we thought we were going to lose Virginia, a state we thought we had in the bag, every person in the room was holding their breath. You could feel it in the air. Honestly, the convention center probably lagged in the feeling of defeat because we were standing between thousands of other people who had voted for Hillary Clinton earlier that day. I don’t know what time I started feeling nervous, but when so many states were “too close to call,” all the adrenaline from excitement for the past 21 hours, turned to adrenaline from fear. When our supervisor that night gathered the handful of interns assigned to his area and told us we were going to lose Florida (my state), I hadn’t slept in almost 24 hours, was running on just a few hours of sleep and hadn’t eaten since 11am. My friends now joke that I took a trip to hell at that moment. When those words came out of his mouth, I leaned down, hands on my knees, staring at the concrete floor, and started to cry. I tried to wipe my eyes before standing back up, but my face was blotchy and my eyes puffy (hence the trip to hell.) That was probably somewhere around 9pm or 10pm, I don’t exactly remember. It was pretty much all downhill from there.
The next few hours dragged on like nothing I’d ever felt before. It was like the knife was slowly being twisted with each call. It’s hard to listen to Wolf Blitzer’s voice now at all because every time he spoke that night, it seemed he was announcing bad news. At one point, there was a woman, a large donor I assumed, that told me and one of the interns I was working closely with that night, that “democrats vote late” and “cities report later.” She had been through probably a dozen presidential elections as an adult and she was giving us false hope. At that point, we were grasping at straws. We knew it was over. Hours passed. No one was leaving. It hit 1am and I sat down on the floor of the convention center, on the blue carpet, under that highest glass ceiling, and called my mom and cried and cried and cried. I’m sure it had to do with the fact that I was coming up on 26 hours of no sleep, but I couldn’t stop. We were all just waiting. They hadn’t called the election yet, but we knew. Everyone was upset. Even Andrea Mitchell, who I could see out of the corner of my eye all night, pretty much.
When John Podesta came to Javits that night, it was past 2am. My face was tight with tear stains. He gave hopeful remarks; all the votes weren’t counted yet. Everyone finally started leaving and we had a staff meeting where the same hope was reiterated. We never accomplished anything the easy way, they said. It was true, we didn’t.
After I left the Javits Center at 3:30am, I met Cat again on the outer rim of Union Square. We talked for a long time, but then sat in silence. A few minutes later, I leaned over with my head in my hands, trying not to sob, I guess. At the same time, a man was harassing two women crossing the street. A police officer in a van parked on the edge of the park got out and told the man to stop and to leave them alone. His response was loud and clear, piercing the silence of the middle-of-the-night 14th St. “If Donald Trump can do it, then why can’t I?” Seconds later, our phones buzzed with the breaking news alert that Trump was giving his victory speech. I haven’t felt the kind of pain in my chest that I felt in that moment in a long time.
In the words of Hamilton, it felt like the world turned upside down.
I slept for three and a half hours that night before going to her concession speech at the New Yorker Hotel the next dreary morning.
The United States from November 7 was the same United States on November 9. Maybe a little more somber, at least in my world, but nevertheless the same nation. People started using the phrase “Donald Trump’s America,” but I will no longer use it. We are not living in his America. The United States does not belong to any one person, and most certainly does not belong to Donald Trump.
A family friend said to me the other day that democratic republics get the government they deserve. And that may be true, but 3 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton on November 8 than they did for the president-elect. Donald Trump may officially represent the United States to the world soon, but he does not represent the ideals of the United States (and most certainly not me) and I’ve seen that since the election. I’ve seen it in my amazing friends, who span every race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic level and more. I’ve seen it in my subway stop and the sticky-note wall. I’ve seen it in Pantsuit Nation. That night and the days following, I received dozens of texts from loving friends from all aspects of my life, who wanted to make sure I was okay.
I have cared about politics a majority of my life, literally since I was eight years old (when I thought I was going to be the first woman president – though I guess that’s still possible now…) and I’m not stopping now. There are many reasons that I am deeply worried about this country under a Trump presidency, which I will probably end up writing about later. And while I don’t have anything particularly different to say, I am going to rise every day and fight the good fight for as long as I can. And I hope you will too.