The 60.9 million Americans who gave Hillary Clinton a useless popular vote victory woke up Wednesday to a nightmare, feeling as if their guts had been ripped out. And for those young adults raised with progressive values and experiencing their first presidential election, the pain was arguably worse.
Today, let’s hear from some of them.
The students in my political journalism course at the University of Pennsylvania had known for months that there would be an assignment on election night — to write an opinion column about the results. Turned out they had to process their shock under tight deadline pressure. They managed to do so, often in surprisingly personal ways, often eloquently. What follows is a small representative sampling of excerpts that I’ve edited for concision, excerpts that span the emotions from anger to hope, from bewilderment to resolve.
“Last night was more than the loss of Hillary Clinton. Merit lost. Experience lost. Human values, human decency, gender equity and good lost. In the end, love did not win. And I am ashamed. I am hateful. And I know I come from a position of privilege, but I’m scared for the Latinas, Muslims, blacks, women, and LGBT people who I love.
“Despite Clinton’s reassurance that she ‘still believes as strongly as [she] ever has … that our best days are still ahead of us,’ it is hard for many left-leaning Americans to accept the truth — that a man with no military or public service experience, who ran a campaign based on nativist hate, racism, and misogyny, is, indeed, our president. I just never imagined it would hurt this much.”
“All I can wonder right now is, does the press even matter? Does this profession that I have so long esteemed and want to enter as a career, a profession that is intended to inform and impact, even matter? Essentially every large newspaper and magazine from The New York Times to Vogue endorsed Clinton and sharply condemned Trump. Was anyone even listening?
“Or maybe we are simply immersed in an echo chamber of like-minded Americans, reinforcing one another to a point of false confidence. While many in the press argued that Trump voters were out of touch with reality, perhaps it was the media and the college-educated who were blind to the will of those Americans.
“As I plan to hopefully enter a career in journalism, I ask: What is my purpose? What is our goal? To whom are we really speaking? Is anyone even listening? How do I make a difference?”
“As it got later and later on Election Night, and Trump continued to rack up victories, a friend jokingly texted to me, ‘Do you feel grabbed by the p—y?’ And I couldn’t laugh along, because at 3 a.m. my best friend called me in tears. She was terrified that the success of Trump, despite his deeply misogynistic rhetoric, had legitimized her rapist and the horrible things he’d done. She feels that all the progress women have made since 1920, as well as all of the social progress made during the Obama administration, will be undone in the next four years, and she might might very well be right. When hate Trumps love, anything is possible.”
“This election was a referendum on Washington, and the American people duly rejected the insiders. They rejected the elites, the lobbyists, the special interests. They rejected the revolving door, the corrosive influence of money in politics. Today, a growing number of people, who have felt disenfranchised and ignored, have accomplished their greatest feat. These are not bad people, they don’t want to harm the country or hurt anyone; they simply oppose the establishment, they view political correctness as corrosive and free trade as damaging.
“I voted for Secretary Clinton, but I want to propose something radical: After the bitter division, the bellicose, frightening campaign that has torn this nation apart, do we not owe it to our country — and perhaps to ourselves — to rally behind Trump? At this time, getting behind him is getting behind America. And who knows? He might be a good president.”
“What I could have never imagined happening, happened. Through tears, my friend Alex put the situation in the most accurate terms: We have never realized just how insular our bubble is. Trump swept some important demographics — ones to which I have never been exposed in my white, Jewish, Ivy League, Manhattan bubble. I have come away from this election with a sobered perspective on the future. I have learned how little I know. But now comes the question of how to proceed. “America must maintain integrity and grit. We must continue to respect our country, despite its flaws. There are still so many beautiful things about America. The world will go on.”
“To everyone who said they planned to flee the country if Donald Trump won, do it. I dare you. I’ll even subsidize your one-way ticket out of this country that you are so convinced will burn to the ground. I would like to ask: Is it so easy to abandon being an American? My parents came to this country in a search of a better life. They came to this country following the Tienanmen Square protests in 1989, when hundreds of college students were being gunned down for protesting. They came from a country that to this day suppresses freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and democracy.
“What would leaving even accomplish? A massive Trump diaspora of bewildered Democrats leaving this country so that Trump can win his next election by an even larger margin?
“That is not what Americans do. Just as Americans did before us, we must grit our teeth and look forward as a nation, together. We must stand in solidarity, and respect and embrace each other, Trump and Clinton supporters alike. We must not panic and pretend that we are leaving. We are the next generation of leaders that will need to clean up for Trump. That means staying and doing the work we need to do.”
“It’s easy to want to turn and run. The Guardian reported that Canada’s immigration website crashed last night due to high levels of traffic. Google Trends watched ‘move to Canada’ spike, while Twitter exploded with various hashtags about asylum in foreign nations.
“But then I remember now how my mother reacted to the return of her cancer tumors. She did not give up. She did not run away. She stayed and she fought, embracing the strangeness of her scars, using their needle-tipped strength for the battles ahead. She refused to let the beast inside her build a cell wall to divide and divide and divide. And so must we.”
“I am a queer Asian-American woman. I am the daughter of documented immigrants and the granddaughter of undocumented ones. My loved ones come from all corners of this country and the world. They are Latino, black, Native American. They are women, gay, trans, and Muslim. All from groups that Trump has ignored and insulted and condemned. And it worked.
“But don’t take my pain for despair.
“There is still a lot of work to be done for this country. The only option we have is to learn from this, and act on it. We can be upset, be sad, be angry, but we gain nothing if we don’t move forward and continue to stand up for what we believe. We can emigrate, we can cut ties with those we don’t agree with, we can do nothing — but if we do that, we fail to make change possible. Like President Obama said, the sun will rise again.
“And the sun will continue to rise again and again and again.”
I wrote yesterday about Clinton’s disastrous underperformance. These stats from key states buttress my point:
Losing Wisconsin (the first Democrat to do that since 1984), her tally was nearly 250,000 smaller than President Obama’s in 2012; in critical Milwaukee County, she was down 40,000.
Losing Ohio, she was down 500,000 from Obama’s ’12 total; in critical Cuyohoga County (Cleveland), she was down 40,000.
Losing Michigan (the first Democrat to do that since 1988), she was down 300,000; in critical Wayne County (Detroit), she was down 80,000.
A national metric: Black women have long been a core Democratic constituency, but Clinton drew roughly 1.5 million fewer black women than Obama did in 2012.