Election Day

It was disconcerting Tuesday morning to walk downtown through the Hub, a big intersection that is crammed with people waving placards for every cause and candidate every election day. The Hub was deserted. Certainly our small town in its deep blue bubble was not a place to expend national resources, but no one? Not even people vying for highly competitive local races? It was as if the election weren’t even happening, except for a Trump/Pence bumper sticker on a parked truck a block away, and a handmade poster complete with horns and a pitchfork that read “Hellary 2016.”

Despite these ominous signs, I was sure I’d be celebrating the election of our first female president that night. The polls were looking pretty good, despite the FBI’s damaging salvo. During my final phone banking shift, when we were making calls to Florida, one supporter I spoke to told me her seven-year-old daughter’s class held a mock election, and Hillary had won in a landslide.

Then came another inkling of trouble that I also dismissed. A man told me that his first-grader was one of only ten Hillary voters in her classroom’s poll. “This is a blue county,” he said, “And Trump blew her out of the water. I am so frightened.” I told him about the woman I’d just talked with, reassuring myself if not him. A few hours later, as I headed off to our friend’s house with a plate of scrumptious chocolate layer bars and a bottle of bubbly, the closeness of the Virginia returns was worrisome. But I told myself that the northern suburbs had not yet come in, and remained confident.

As we tuned in to MSNBC, CNN, even Fox, looking for a different reality than the one that seemed to be unfolding, I started fielding texts from our daughter:

“I’M SO NERVOUS HOLY CRAP! HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?

“Keep the faith,” I texted back. “It will just be closer and a longer night than we’d hoped.”

Two hours later, as Stephen Colbert’s national wake ended on Showtime, I had dropped all optimism, all pretense of maternal comfort, unless “Fucking unbelievable” counts as reassurance.

Our host took the dog out to pee, and upon his return reported that the party at the neighbor’s house seemed oddly raucous, unlike our gloomy gathering. My husband and I left a bit before 10:00, still with no verdict, but with our champagne unpopped and our hearts broken. Some people were leaving the party across the street, and we heard a voice call out, “White men rule!” We tried to convince ourselves that we might have said the same thing in an ironic attempt at gallows humor. But we could not deny that they were celebrating, while we were in shock and mourning.

I know that I must engage in soul-searching to understand what I missed, and why. I must acknowledge my own failures of empathy, my candidate’s poor choices, the legitimate concerns of those who voted for her opponent. There are a million different converging factors that have resulted in this outcome, and I know that blaming it on racism and misogyny is overly simplistic and insulting. Still, it is naive to deny the powerful influence of these virulent strains. They are here in my own backyard.

This is our deep blue bubble. This is my deep denial. This is where we live.

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What was your election day and night like?

6 thoughts on “Election Day

  1. I’ve been thinking about this “bubble” theory. We are not in a bubble. We are representative of the future. If California were its own country, it would have the 6th largest GNP in the world. We have more immigrants. More nonwhites that white (60/40 split). We provide 50% of the produce on the shelves of the other 49 states.

    In this election California imposed gun restrictions, outlawed plastic bags, voted to keep a tax on the rich in order to fund public education. (Because we also know what happens when something like Prop 13 defunds education). We know the reality of climate change–what happens when it doesn’t rain for 5 years. We know what happens when you have a generous (relatively!) family leave act and the difference a higher minimum wage makes.

    We know what happens when a conservative hold strangles a healthy budget. We know what happens when a frugal governor can turn red to black through taxes.

    I think we are shocked because we know how inclusion works for the greater good. But this state has its share of racist behavior, from locking up indigenous people to locking up Japanese Americans to treating Mexicans and Chinese as sub-humans. We built our state lines with a wall in mind (our boundaries with the Sierras and the desert are no accident). We tried giving the rich a break with Prop 13. We let the tyranny of the minority keep us in the red.

    But the California that I am a part of today respects its citizens. Be they LGBTQ, immigrant, rich, poor, of a religious persuasion or not. (Aside from that death penalty thing).

    Not perfect by any means. But we know how hard it is–even with cooperation–to create a thriving state. To see rhetoric on the election of the future of our country match the rhetoric of sports fans is sickening.

    • Thanks for writing this, Janine–it’s one of the most perceptive and hopeful analyses I’ve seen. Glad to live here (despite the lack of water and, you know, the earthquake thing!).

        • I think so much of what women consider rant-like is an internalization of the “don’t speak up if it will ruffle feathers” dictum with which most of us were raised. If nothing else, this election has brought home to me how pervasive this is, and how much I participate in it and have, to my regret, passed it on too much to my own daughters. Let’s not acquiesce to squelching our powerful–not ranty–voices.

    • Brexit struck fear into my heart about our election. So did the rejection of the Colombia peace deal (though blessedly that is back on the table, new and improved). And, in the realm of total magical thinking, I also felt nervous when the Chicago Cubs won the world series–it reminded me of when the Red Sox won in 2004, but Kerry lost the election. My favored teams won, my favored candidates lost.

      It gets worse as the shock wears off and the reality sinks in. Some truly dreadful appointments are under way, with some devastating reversals of progress in the works.

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