This time last year I was in Brussels, surrounded by women and men from around the world who needed a place, a voice, to express their shock and horror at Trump. I’ve been pretty silent on here about the election. Less so on Facebook, which has basically just become a platform for me to share links to political articles and outrages, but I didn’t know what to say when it first happened, and I still don’t know what to say now, a year after his inauguration.
It was really hard for me to get my absentee ballot. You can track it online and my status said delivered, but delivered it was not. There was an emergency number and I got a replacement right in time, but I remember my urgency (other than the normal, civic duty) was about wanting to be able to say I had voted in the election for our first female president–not any kind of worry about the outcome. I was embarrassed, especially living abroad, that Donald Trump had gotten as far as he had, but had read the polls and felt little anxiety. Actually, from the day he won the Republican nomination I stopped worrying about Hillary’s chances.
I spent the week talking about the election with my students, and we talked about words like racist, sexist, and predator. Those were the words my elementary school aged children associated with Trump–and I couldn’t blame them because they were the words I associate with him as well.
Because I was in Spain it took forever for news to start coming in. There was talk of arranging an event at a local pinchos bar, but when we realized it would be morning before anything really happened, we decided to stay home. My roommate Shaina and I stayed up until the bitter end. Even before Florida was called I realized it wasn’t going to be the same as Obama’s election, when his victory had never really looked in jeopardy.
By 7:00 am it was clear what had happened. I was sobbing, we all were. I called my mom and she had gone to sleep–had slept through it all and was shocked he had won. She was sure I was wrong. How could so many people have chosen to vote for him??
Afterwards I felt depressed, and very far from home. I had thought I was safe, in the impossibility of a Trump victory, by living so far from home. But in reality, as soon as he won all I wanted to do was be back in the states, trying to help in any way I could. I love America. I love being American. The more I travel the more I value where I came from, and how deep my patriotism lies. Being away is still hard. I seriously considered leaving Spain and going back to find a campaign or NGO to work for. I think it’s a large part of how I ended up working where I am now.
I remember feeling so afraid. What would happen when Obama left? Who would protect those of us who aren’t rich middle aged men? Who would lead the country, and join the world in leading important initiatives–the Paris Climate Accord, the Mexico City Policy–so much of the United States decisions affect the international landscape. How could we trust Trump to manage all that??
I felt so angry. At the people who voted for Trump. At the people who voted 3rd party, or didn’t vote at all. At anyone who felt safe enough to say Clinton and Trump were equally bad, because that statement comes from such privilege I can’t even comprehend the sheltered lives of those who felt comfortable uttering such a sentiment. I wonder how they feel now.
As time moves on and we watch Trump fail again and again at following through on his campaign promises, but in effect kill Obamacare and lead through another government shut down, I’m still waiting for the next Democratic leader to show up. It still feels like Obama, but he can’t save us, not anymore. We need congress and senate to be brave, even the Republicans. To save the DREAMERs and save healthcare, and stand up to a leader I refuse to believe any of them actually respect.
Heading into the midterms I don’t feel very hopeful. We just had amazing local elections, where so many diverse people were elected, which was an inspiring and hopeful thing to see. But while we didn’t elect a pedophile in Alabama, but it was closer than it should have been. I do think the country is fed up with Trump, and I know historically the president’s party doesn’t fare well in the midterms. The issue is really just which seats are up for reelection. They will be hard wins and we’d have to win most of them, and hang on to all our current seats as well. It’s possible, I mean Trump’s election didn’t look likely either, but mainly I am just waiting for someone to step up and become the person who can lead us back from the edge, when they appear, that’s when I’ll really feel hopeful.