It’s 9:15 PM, and we are sitting in Shelby’s dorm room. We make jokes with her roommates while CNN plays on a tiny laptop propped on a bookshelf, the first polls only just closed. Madelene’s computer is open to a skeleton outline of the opinion article for the next day. There are two headings: ‘IF CLINTON WINS’ and ‘IF TRUMP WINS.’
We come up with a series of three valid points about the importance of electing a female president, and what of her policies will come to the forefront. It is a very reasonable, organized, bulleted list. We file these ideas away under Clinton’s name. Under Trump’s name, there are four bullets, equally reasonable (in a sense): cry cry cry, our earth is consumed by fire, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and DEVASTATION.
“But really, what will we write if Trump wins?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
But, less than 12 hours later, we find ourselves attempting to make sense of a victory that was totally unprecedented. Early in the night, FiveThirtyEight only gave Donald Trump a 28.6% chance of winning the election. Even Boots, the psychic goat, predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the election.
Now we are all here. Here, in this historic moment. Here, in the center of Boston—trekking up and down Boylston street with desolate stares, feeling as though something has been taken away from each and every one of us—our pride, the safety of our friends and ourselves, and our dreams for a brighter future. We are here in this moment of pause. The question on all of our minds is: What comes next?
For a lot of us, after disappointment, there was fear. The fear that we, as young white women, feel in the face of this decision is quite real, and something neither of us expected. Last night, something was taken away from over half the population of this country, a certain freedom that we had previously thought to be inalienable. The electoral college has made it clear that women are not valued, but even we are not the group most at risk.
While we are afraid of how the attitude toward sexual assault might change, people of color face a much more immediate threat. There is a certainty that the color of their skin will become the central point of how they are treated, how much hate is hurled in their direction. Immigrants to this country, legal or otherwise, face deportation and targeted police force. For while women are marginalized, they are at least something that the Republican establishment claims to defend. At least there is a pretense.
This collective fear and dread speaks to the vast implications of this outcome, and how many people now feel that America has, in effect, turned its back on them. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy symbolized a turn in what seemed like a hopeless situation for all minorities, especially on the tail of an eight-year run of our first black president. Her potential to become president brought to mind the American “greatness” for which Trump claims to strive—the idea that anyone can do anything, that there are no barriers we can’t overcome. This idealism, this dream, is not necessarily dead. It simply comes with a new set of expectations.
It is what we do in the coming years that will define our generation. We must look back on the progress we have made as a nation and know that the changes we have seen in our country have not come easily. Change occurs when people band together and fight for what they believe in—for what is fundamentally right. Progress cannot halt today, tomorrow, or on inauguration day. We cannot spend the next four years fighting to merely preserve the America we have spent decades fighting for. We must continue to fight for an America we have yet to see.
President Obama, despite his incredibly high approval ratings, has faced enormous gridlock in the final months of his presidency. He has been unable to appoint a vacant seat in the Supreme Court. This cannot continue, especially for four years. No matter what we may think of Donald Trump’s policies, we need to give him the chance to make political changes. We also need to have faith in the democratic system, in the governors and senators and legislators, that they will represent the views of their constituents, even the democrats. It’s incredibly hard to say this the very day after it feels like democracy let us down, but that’s what we signed up for. No matter how bleak things seem now, we cannot lose hope.
As Clinton said in her concession speech, “Our campaign was never about one person, or one election. It was about the country that we love.” Love will not end here.