How to deal with a political loss

Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton felt like a blow to my very foundation. I was not just shaken by the oversimplifying polls that claimed her victory, but had seemingly lost faith in the country. My drive to school on Wednesday was the first indicator of change- the homemade signs that had been so proudly promoting Clinton the day before were brought indoors. The morning of November 9th brought one of the worst moods I had encountered this year, in which I was mildly on the verge of tears at any moment. Just the day before, I had been decked out in patriotic gear, optimistic in the nation’s choice. I thought to myself: I have already voted. It is now for the country to decide, as a whole, who we want to represent us. Even if things don’t go my way, the choice will represent what the nation wants, an ideal our Founding Fathers fought for. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now that a Trump presidency is definitely in the future, I have no idea how I’m supposed to feel. When you lose faith in democracy, how do you gain it back?

They say that after heartbreak, some things become tarnished. I think that ­­belief is about the things you used to love to do with a significant other, that you now hate post-breakup, but I love politics, so I’m here to make the stretch. On voting day, I spent the afternoon talking about the election. Everything felt right- the numbers were in our favor, and just the night before, I had finally received the Hillary car magnet I had been waiting for for over a month. I was so confident in the numbers by this time that I was spewing optimism all over Chick-Fil-A. My friend felt it too- he was complaining about the Electoral College, which ironically would inevitably make Trump win the election. I had promised not to rub Hillary’s win in his face too much, but in my head, I was already planning the next day’s patriotic outfit. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized Trump was going to win, since news stations kept calling this election a nail-biter, but I felt a sense of dread going to sleep on Tuesday night.

And then the responses started. Wednesday was a hazy day. I saw many senior girls crying in the McCain foyer, and tuned out several conversations about how terrible Trump is. The riots started in major cities across America that night, with chants of “not my president” and “my body, my choice” sweeping across the nation. I called my sister in Chicago, and she said her professor ditched the lesson plan and let her class discuss the election results. Her political science teacher was crying, not knowing how to break the news to her daughter. Facebook was a breeding ground for inflammatory comments from both sides, while the big accounts on Instagram wasted no time making jokes out of the results.

This particular election was a turning point for a lot of us because it was the first time we were old enough to be truly cognizant of what was at stake- the economy, women’s rights, foreign policy, and the environment. Celebrities were adding their input, some unwarranted, and everywhere you turned, someone had an opinion. For me especially, I was looking forward to November 8th’s results because this was my first year being able to vote. I had put out all the stops to vote early the Friday before, including showing up to the wrong polling location, speeding to get to Brookhaven’s City Hall, and sprinting half a mile to get in line at 6:57. In my mind, I know voting democratic in a red state doesn’t won’t change the outcome of a presidential election, but I was so certain that the rest of the nation wanted the same thing as me. Her defeat has me angry at everyone- America, the Democratic party, the Electoral College and myself. My support goes through cycles, which is a terrible feeling. I know a lot of people saw Clinton as a “well, she’s better than Trump and that’s all I want right now”. I, however, had been looking up to Hillary since she ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008. I think about her working for the Children’s Defense Fund and becoming involved in desegregation policies, and even amidst the controversies surrounding her, I see someone presidential.

I’m not sure where my political opinion derives itself from. Our “generation” seems to be considerably more liberal than most, so I’m not an anomaly in my leanings. Despite my parents mildly being Republicans, I grew up watching CNN and rooting for Obama. Still, I think of the quote that is (apparently falsely) attributed to Winston Churchill, that says you’re expected to be liberal at 25 and conservative at 35. And I want to know: do taxes become that big of a deal when you get older that it’s supposed to decide your political party?

Which is where I go to my next point. The big outcry against Trump (and thus his supporters) has been that he’s racist, sexist, unaccountable and a general bigot. We’d love to simplify the people who voted for him into one group, but politics doesn’t thrive on stereotypes. Surprisingly, a lot of his unexpected support on Election Day came from the Rust Belt. These areas were overlooked by both sides because they had been voting Democratic for decades, but the shrinking middle class that inhabits the Rust Belt caused one of the biggest upsets this election cycle. Instead of the social issues that you and I argue about, they’re worried about the shrinking middle class. Not all of them are in touch with race relations or concerned about foreign policy, but rather want to restore this country to its manufacturing high and bring back the jobs we’ve lost overseas. That version of the United States created the original name of the Manufacturing Belt, and is the America they want to make great again. I understand the plight of the blue-collared worker, but the peak of American manufacturing was also a terrible time for equality. Without trying to justify their desires, I’m attempting to understand their point of view. It’s kind of impossible, being a high schooler in Atlanta to imagine the life of a middle-aged factory worker who may or may not be out of a job, but I’m trying.

After such a surprising result, there has understandably been some blame being thrown around. Some people, like fake political commentator Jonathan Pie in his video President Trump: How & Why… claims Clinton was nothing more than the status quo in a nation that is salivating for change. Others, said liberals got too comfortable with the polling in our favor. Democrats are up in arms about how Bernie Sanders would have beaten Trump if he had gotten the Democratic nomination, and of course there’s the Huma Abedin/Anthony Weiner scandal that was recently brought back up. Rumors that Clinton herself is blaming FBI Director James Comey and even President Obama have the wannabe detective inside me pulling out a magnifying glass and calling Fox Mulder. In the end, I have no jurisdiction to claim whose fault it was, because the media doesn’t provide the full story, and even if it did, I wouldn’t be well-versed enough to make an educated claim.

My initial response to the imminent Trump presidency was one of anger. To me and so many other Americans, he’s not my president. But in her concession speech, Clinton urged everyone to give him “an open mind and the chance to lead” for the sake of a better America. Personally, I want him to trip up at least a little. I understand the desire for change and for an “outsider”, but I say good change does not come from a man with little to no political or public service background (but does have several bankruptcies under his belt). Am I bitter? Yes. It’s not just that he’s not the candidate I supported, but that the ‘man’ acts like a child by lying to get out of trouble and being unconcerned about potential consequences. He’s someone who not just denies climate change, but claimed China created global warming to limit U.S. manufacturing. He loves to throw insults at anyone who disapproves of him, and has admitted to using his B-list celebrity influence to grope women. Instead of a role model that children can do book reports on, I see an absurd man unfit for the role of Commander in Chief, with no political background whatsoever and a bunch of empty promises. Someone who uses sweeping generalizations to decide peoples’ characters, and whose business policies have time and time again put down entire racial groups. His victory was through the Electoral College, not the popular vote.

I’m not here to tell you whether Trump is a good person or not, because you’ve been inundated with political discussions all year and have made your decision by now. If you don’t support Trump, the solution is not to make jokes about moving to Canada and just complain about his beliefs. If you’re angry about the outcome, don’t turn on your conservative friends and family. Instead, discuss, because that’s the only way we’re going to make it in this Republicans-control all-branches-of-the-government nation. If you want change, quit complaining on Facebook and join a grassroots movement. And if you are a Trump supporter, the optimist in me would like to say congratulations, but the sad democrat in me is still crying.