Last Monday, when I returned from my Italy trip, I started an elections roundup post. I recounted my excitement over the 2008 election, the first Presidential election I really followed, and the anxiety I felt as I watched Tim Kaine cast his vote in Virginia. It's really happening.
Then I woke up around 3 in the morning, GMT +1, on Wednesday, to see that it wasn't going so great. I want to respect the office of the Presidency (something our current PEOTUS has not done for the past 8 years) but I'm also a fan of self-care, so let's call him Don. Don was winning in states he was maybe going to win, like North Carolina. Then he won Florida, which had been decidedly pro-Clinton leading up to the race. By then it's almost 5 and my State-side friends have started frantically messaging me, what the fuck is going on. But Twitter assured me - there is still a path! Around 6, just as my alarm was going off, Wisconsin broke and the path was gone. Don was our next President, a reality TV show celebrity and gaudy real estate developer with zero days in public or military service.
I got ready for work. On the way in, I listened to music instead of NPR. I sat at my desk and checked Twitter. And then I started to cry. He had won Pennsylvania; it was over.
And the reason I started to cry is best summed up by Huffington Post's now defunct editor's note, which is missing sexual predator, which is a title Don added earlier, and liar, which was a gimme:
"Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar,rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S."
Wednesday was a shitty day, end of story. A German colleague asked me if I needed help drafting paperwork to get German citizenship started up, as a joke, so of course I burst in to tears. Over the next half an hour, he listened to my biggest concerns - the Supreme Court, destroying the planet for generations, the racism and sexism and nationalism, Mike Pence is really a piece of shit too, normalizing this asshat, looking at this idiot during times of crisis over the next four years, the eloquent Obama handing over the keys to a KKK-endorsed idiot who pushed the birther movement (seriously, no scandals for eight years and the Christian right is against this lovely family). And I would stop crying for a second, then start up again. I made fun of myself but he was sympathetic, as he had followed the election closely as well, and this is something that will have an effect here in Germany.
The next day, a room of half dozen German men laughed, with me or at me I'm not going to say, at the thought of President Don in general and my previous insistence that America was better than him, that there is no way he could be President. Because I've been representing the election since I came over in January.
Originally this post was going to be about being an expat in an election year in general. Instead, about moving on. Because Jesus Christ. It's Saturday. The initial shock has worn off. In the days since, there have been dozens of moments where I remember some other thing the President does or some other time I've really appreciated Obama, like when we needed a strong leader after Newtown or even just him being so charismatic at the Correspondents Dinner, and I throw up a bit thinking about President Don doing these things. And there will be a lot of moments like that, I think, until inauguration and it becomes fact. Michelle being replaced by a former illegal immigrant (the irony). Fun Uncle Joe will be replaced by that 'Christian-first' who thinks miscarriages should be buried and being gay is a choice.
Look, I understand some Republican ideas. Less government and trickle down economics and pull yourself up your own bootstraps. I think they're bullshit but if people agree with them, fine. But I can't agree with homophobic, isolationism, nationalism, xenophobia, Islamophobia ideals. Threatening people just because they're not white, straight, Christians (and preferably men).
But to be honest? This isn't going to destroy me. I'm a straight, white, female, with a decent job and a college education. I don't depend on Obamacare's exchanges or Planned Parenthood for services. My life-saving drugs aren't dependent on whatever ACA-replacement the asshats on the Hill are dreaming up right now. I don't depend on the strength of marriage equality to celebrate my family. Increase of racism does not affect me personally (though mysoginy and sexual assault, that hurts, okay). Want to get rid of the social net? I'm sitting here with my boxed wine and Netflix subscription. But a big chunk of the country can't say that. They're people of color and the lower middle class, immigrants and Muslims who have serious concerns about their health and safety.
And this is why I'm so disappointed in white women. You voted, 53% for this sexual assaulting piece of shit? Against the first woman President? And not just any woman 'let's hire her because she's a woman' (especially when we hired the least qualified candidate ever because 'we wanted an outsider') but a dedicated public servant with real ideals and suggestions for our country.
Here is where I also note that Hillary won the popular vote. By a lot. Like, by more than Presidents who have won the election have won. And PEOTUS won by less than other men have lost (McCain and Romney). That is huge. Today, I feel sorry for Hillary and Obama. I think she genuinely wanted to be President because she felt she could do good for women and children. I think she had real plans and proposals. I wish I could see the celebration she, and probably the Obamas, had planned for this week. The thought of her going home, slowly shedding her campaign, leaves me saddened and full of despair. Maybe that makes me a dumb liberal, but I don't care. I genuinely liked Clinton and thought she would be a good President. I voted for her because of that, not because she was a woman (though added bonus) or because she was running against an unqualified clown, but because I thought she would be a good leader, based on her tenure in the senate and state house, and I liked her ideas.
I also feet sorry for Obama, who has accomplished so much, despite Congress's total lack of cooperation, and has had such elegance and class his entire term. And now, our first black president, is handing over his legacy to a man backed by the KKK. Who spent a considerable amount of time saying he didn't deserve to be President because he wasn't truly a citizen. And this after Obama campaigned so vigorously and with such emotion for the woman he wanted to be his successor. Both he and Clinton have been gracious and handled this week's loss with dignity. I'm saving Clinton's concession speech for the next time I have to deal with an unqualified man.
So that's where we are. It sucks. I gave myself a few days to be sad. Drank a lot of wine, painted my nails black. It was all very dramatic. I'm still disappointed and, to be honest, terrified about what the next administration might look like. Our next President has taken multiple stances on multiple issues. He indicated he wants to keep his home in NYC his base instead of the White House. There's also dissent among the Republicans and their new President. Who knows! At least it will be a surprise? But first, here are a few shining bright spots.
There were other things on the ballot that went liberal, like marijuana legalization in some states and demolishing right-to-work in Virginia. We have way more women in the Senate, including the first Latina (thanks, Harry Reid, for Nevada).
Pantsuit Nation. In her classy and gracious concession speech, Hillary said that she knew the first female president was watching. My initial thought was of a young girl, around age 8, watching in Disney pajamas. It will be months, maybe longer, before we circle around a cause for this implosion in the Democratic part. But, especially given the pussy-grabbing opponent, my fear is, like Amy says in Veep, is that the blame is laid on the feet of woman. We just weren't ready for a woman president! Look at what the first female candidate lost to! But then I discovered Pantsuit Nation and other similar movements on Twitter, encouraging women to get involved and take up the mantle. It's still early and I know the movement will tamper, but this election seems to galvanize women and other progressives rather than disenchant.
And now what do we do?
I am excited to keep following Pantsuit Nation and its compatriots. But the Keepin' It 1600 bros reminded me that talk isn't enough, you need action. I've set up a recurring donation to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Your candidate didn't win, so find the cause you really cared about that President Don is going to destroy (we haven't even mentioned climate change/ the environment yet!) and donate. There are also local and state races To have a Clinton or Obama, you have to start somewhere. We need a pipeline for fresh and inspiring talent. Or, you know, Booker 2020.
Now for some Monday morning quarterbacking! Again, we won't know for awhile. But, per turnout. I have thoughts! Clinton lost the 2012 numbers by 5m, Don won by less than 1m of Romney's 2012 loss. People just did not show up. Was it voter suppression? Lack of enthusiasm? Just two really unfavorable candidates? That final round of emails?
And what the fuck happened with what we thought we knew about politics? Don didn't follow any of the typical candidate rules (tax releases?, anyone) or behavior (no press conferences past couple of months, plus his general temperament, honestly). The polling was dramatically inaccurate. And yet, here we are. What do we do in future elections. The current thought is that it was a vote against the elite. So we went with a guy who lives in a gold tower in Manhattan?
Finally, the media and how we talk about elections. Each side is saying the media wasn't fair but here is what I know: Clinton's email scandal proved time and time again to be nothing. Sure, don't do that again, there are better alternatives, but nothing real there. The other guy? Sexual assault, a misleading university scamming people out of money, illegal Cuban ties, illegal Russian ties, no taxes, no charitable donations. There was a brief scandal about the Clinton Foundation that, again, turned out to be nothing. What about the Trump Organization? The for-profit business (as opposed to charity) that has international business ties that cause serious conflicts with the office of POTUS? And those are the ones I thought of off the top of my head. Not to mention the blatantly sexist and racist remarks and the serious lying that occurred almost daily. The fact that politifact and polls can be so different, that's the media and the false narrative they created during this election. We can't talk about Presidential (or other office) candidates like reality stars. These are serious policies and serious decisions that affect the everyday lives of real Americans. And non-Americans. So let's go buy a subscription to a newspaper and be careful about what we watch. At Michael Moore's suggestion, maybe we go watch The Bachelorette instead of wall-to-wall cable news.
But hey, at least a woman got to win the popular vote. And then concede to a man infinitely less qualified and experienced than her. Doesn't that feel familiar.
And now for what I had intended this post to be, while basking in Clinton-elect glory: living abroad during an election year!
Representation. Regardless of my emotion at the moment, this year I've had to represent the country. At work, there were a handful of political-minded Germans I worked with on a regular basis who, regardless of where we were in the cycle, would ask me about the election. Usually with some dismay at whatever idiotic thing Don had done, laugh at his chances for winning. Similarly, any time someone figured out my nationality while I was traveling, including museum docents and strangers on the train and the nice couple sitting next to me at dinner, the election came up. And it was all the same - you're not really going to elect that buffoon, are you? And my response was always the same - haha, don't worry, Hill's got this, look at all these statistics! And here, if I was in the office, is the point where I would bring up 538 or Upshot. And here is where I get wistful just thinking of those days. I didn't meet a single European that didn't agree with me - Clinton over that jackass, definitely. And there was a remove. Talking to politics with fellow Americans is tough. It's like dealing with a mine field, figuring out where you agree and disagree. My experience with Europeans has been much simpler. My experience with a Don president has been limited but so far people have expressed their sympathy or let me cry at him for half an hour.
Distance. This has been bad and good. Normally, in an election year, I bounce back and forth. I chat with colleagues and like-minded individuals. But I also interact with other Americans. In 2012 I may have been an Obama-marked Prius but I parked at Target next to a big Romney-Ryan SUV. Given the mean charge of this election, I've been glad to be on the sidelines. To live in my European bubble where Don is an idiot and Obama is pretty great and everything will be fine. I didn't have to park next to the other guy or see him at Target. It was nice not to be faced daily with the great divisive nature of our country, but it also made me complacent and less cognizant of how big the divide really was, making me too wrapped up in the election and also less aware of the other side.
Voting. Voting was a pain in the ass. It took months of emailing to get the ballot squared away, including emails to my local and state officials. But the rest of it? Excellent. Voting by absentee is the best - I had weeks to make the decision. I could Google every single thing on the ballot (I know, you can do this before you vote in person, but it was nice to be able to do it when you have the ballot in hand). And afterwards, I got an email saying that my ballot had been cast. That, honestly, was pretty fucking cool. I saved that one. Sure, my lady didn't win, but I did cast a vote for the first woman to a major party, who also won the popular vote, and I got to help elect Tammy Duckworth to IL senate. And I have an email that will be in my gmail storage for awhile.
How do I feel? Still terrified. Sure, I would have been idealogically opposed to a President Romney or McCain. But at least I would have felt them capable (minus Palin) and not racist or sexist. I join Obama and Clinton in hoping the best for the country.
And on bad days, I highly recommend John Oliver and Samantha Bee. Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. Those last three have given excellent bits this week on the election and I can't wait to see what Oliver has to say tomorrow night. I also recommend checking out the Keepin' It 1600 podcast. Their two post-election episodes were encouraging.