In January and February, I had nothing else to do but apply for jobs so I volunteered on the Hillary for Colorado campaign. Making hundreds of phone calls, attending events, I was all in. I’ve been all in for this moment for a while. I grew up in a Hillary house; my mom read It Takes a Village when it first came out. I think my mom saw a bit of herself in the upstart first lady. My family was heartbroken in 2008 when she lost the primary to Barack Obama – though we grew to love him and his family too. So 2016 was going to be The Year.
Hillary lost the Colorado caucus, but hot damn if she wasn’t on a roll. She ended up winning the primaries by four million votes, lest y’all forgot, and the emotion of that moment is hard to put into words. I watched the speech she gave when it was apparent she would win the nomination with champagne and my mom and dad. There were lots of tears.
Going into the general, it seemed like a black and white choice between what kind of nation we wanted: one that included everyone, and one that, to put it mildly, did not. From his first day on the campaign trail, Trump had insulted just about everyone in some horrible ways: Mexicans were not “sending their best” to America; mocking of a disabled reporter; repeated assaults on being female because we “bleed out of our wherever”.
That’s the “hate” that we referred to on the Love Trumps Hate signs. The America we wanted was one where we brought everyone to the table, not just those who had historically commanded control of it. (White men. I’m talking about white men.) Tolerance, and being accepting of opinions and perspectives different from yours, requires respect from the parties involved. That’s why the “tolerant left” does not treat with the same weight the gender spectrum and racism. Both Sides-ism demands that climate change and climate change denial, misogyny and feminism, racism and equality, Trump and Hillary be treated as issues that command the same footing, should be covered equally. Let me be unequivocal here: they do not.
The Friday the Access Hollywood tape dropped, I was sitting in our campaign office with our manager and digital maven. I had to watch it three times to really take it in and realize that what I was watching wasn’t a joke. Everyone else was watching it at the same time, because when you work in politics, everyone is constantly plugged in. In an attempt at humor, our campaign manager looked at me and the other woman and said, “Don’t worry guys, there will be a place for you in Trump’s America!” “Yeah, I believe Margaret Atwood outlined that place for us a while back,” I retorted, alluding to The Handmaid’s Tale.
This is a country that has spit out candidates for things like spelling “potato” wrong. For getting SUPER hyped up at a primary rally. For forgetting the third agency that would be cut. For relegating women to binders.
A man was on tape objectifying a woman, bragging about sexual assault. He has had numerous women over the years accuse him of sexual assault. The men he praises have subsequently lost jobs due to sexual assault and harassment. This at the end of a long, long, LONG campaign of insulting and other-ing people who do not look like him, do not sound like him. Literally, every single person in this country who was not rich, white, and male was told that they were not worthy of being recognized as human. And somehow we were supposed to put him on equal footing, treat him as the same as a woman who was the most qualified candidate for the office ever.
But she wasn’t “likeable”. She had flaws (god forbid). Her campaign made some misteps. She was the target of decades of misinformation and smear campaigns. Still she rose: every time she was punched, she got back up. She dug in. She became more of an expert. Got more experience. Did everything we told her to do, including change her hair, change her outfits, be more human. For Christ’s sake, she dabbed on Ellen to appeal to people. I still don’t even know what dabbing is.
We elected the other guy because he tells things like they are to a public who wants to be told that their bouts of racism, sexism, ableism are normal and not that they should change, should try to step back and see things differently. And we called it being “economically anxious.”
I am not a sexual assault survivor, so I cannot speak to what the comments on the Access Hollywood tape mean to a survivor. I am not a person of color, so I cannot speak to what every other statement out of his mouth on the campaign trail mean to a person of color. I am not disabled, so I cannot speak to what the mocking of the reporter meant to a disabled person.
I am a high achieving woman, though. One who looked up to Hillary as someone who has done everything we ask a woman to do when seeking the aspirational. She went to college and excelled. She got into an Ivy for law school and excelled. She knew she could make a difference, and used her privilege to fight for children, and fair housing, and women’s rights. She refused to sit politely at first lady dinners in Arkansas and at the White House. She made waves in pools where women had historically not been allowed, or ignored, or thrown out. Then, when she was free to chase her own ambition, she started as a senator. When her first presidential run didn’t pan out, she created another path for herself via accepting the Secretary of State position. She forged relationships, she worked with people who had smeared her, and eventually, all these people ended up liking her. The irony! And then she came back around, and made another run at what she wanted.
Yet all this wasn’t enough. We wanted her to do things differently. Wanted her to be different. Wanted her progressive and measured policies to come from a “more likeable” (read: male) person.
I worked hard in high school. I was always the “smart girl” up to then, and even after. People wanted to sit next to me during tests, even if they didn’t want to eat lunch with me. I was involved: choir, volunteering, human rights (oh there’s another story!), riding horses, exchange and language programs. I didn’t get into my first choice college, but I got into an excellent liberal arts university. I did well there, too. Got even more involved: the student activities board, the radio station, my sorority, founding the Amnesty International chapter, study abroads, writing for the newspaper and yearbook, honors classes, riding. I got into almost every grad school I applied to. I did well. The economy collapsed, but I took my opportunities where I could get them. I followed Hillary’s lead: stick to values and what I could do in the moment, and constantly forge ahead, build those relationships even though I will be seen as a bitch, or pushy, or any number of other things I have been called over the years (some not undeserved). Even when I was laid off, I found opportunities afterward. I did what everyone encouraged someone like me to do.
And then 2016 happened.
It is an endless knife in my heart that this woman lost. Not only for what could have been, but on a personal level. It told me the fear that lurks in the back of my mind like a predator circling prey was correct: do what we tell you, but it will never be enough.
“If we only have a problem with Hillary Clinton, not with women, why is she the only woman who has ever gotten this far?” — @rtraister 🔥
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) April 28, 2017
Coming on the heels of my layoff, November was a personal benchmark as well. That if Hillary could get punched and bounce back so many times, so could I. November was personal, as well.
November 8, 2016 felt like a statement: You will do everything you are told leads to success, and then we will move the goalposts.