It was Election Day, and it was sunny. A good omen! I thought. I was as excited and hopeful of a Hillary Clinton presidency, and eager to cast my vote. I had my reasons for voting for Clinton, not the least of which that I was worried about the prospects of a Donald Trump victory, fearing the ascension to power of someone who courted racists and spread lies, was inexperienced at best, dangerously volatile at worst, and had exhibited such blatant misogyny. Hillary, on the other hand, was a long standing democrat who had spent her career working for equality and inclusiveness for all of our citizens, protected families, had experience both as a Senator and Secretary of State, and although I worried that she was a little too hawkish she was also, I felt, a smart, talented, and pragmatic politician who could continue to steer our country forward. I really did not count the fact that Hillary would be the first woman president of the United States as a reason to vote for her – and so was caught by surprise when I found my eyes filling with tears as I cast my ballot. I can’t quite explain the feeling I was having, but then I read this sentence by Lindy West in the New York Times tonight, that sums it up pretty well:
…maybe this election was the beginning of something new, I thought. Not the death of sexism, but the birth of a world in which women’s inferiority isn’t a given. (full piece HERE)
So it was with high pride, emotion, and great hopes that I met up with my friend and fellow urban sketcher Melanie Reim, and we lined up outside the Javits center to make reportage drawings of the victory party we looked forward to that evening. (That’s her in the middle of the drawing above.) I had brought lots of blue pencils and crayons, ready to draw the Democratic Blue State Victory! We had obtained online tickets to the event, and stood there with our email confirmations printed out, ready to cheer Madame President on. Melanie told me that she had teared up as she cast her vote as well, and the thought of the first woman president of the US gave this day a sense of great history in the making. The fact that the celebration was to be at the Javits Center – with that great glass ceiling to metaphorically shatter – only added to the symbolism.
The crowd of Clinton supporters on line was mixed: different backgrounds, men and women, straight and gay, old and young, a few families with children, and several tourist groups from out of town. The mood was, I would say, cautiously celebratory, and I think there was a good amount of exhaustion as well, after the stress and strain of enduring the hateful rhetoric of Trump’s campaign. People discussed the recent polls, and assured each other that there was no way Trump could win – “no one would vote for a man who was endorsed by the KKK” “how could ANY woman vote for him?” “even Barbara Bush voted for Hillary!” “The Latinos in Florida will get rid of him!” And so it went. I think we kept assuring each other to calm our own small fears of “what if?” The man in the two drawings above had a lot to say, expressing relief that the hate mongering would soon be over, and that once Hillary took office that he, a gay man – and other groups of people that Donald Trump had cast as OTHER – could finally relax. “I’ve been afraid of Trump for SOOOO LONG!” he said.
…and the women on line were full of pride! Women turned out dressed up to celebrate the historic day. They wore white to honor the suffragettes who fought for the vote, blue to support our democratic candidate, and Hillary buttons and stickers galore. I saw many women of a certain age smiling and wearing their “I’m With Her” buttons like the badges they were – badges for veterans of the feminist marches of the 1970s that started this whole chain of events. Those women touched me the most, and I was so happy that they were going to see the day come when a woman rode in Airforce One. Decked out in a white hat and pearls, with a President Hillary gold plated necklace and a long black evening gown with a portrait of Hillary to celebrate the day, the woman above walked up and down the line, offering sunscreen to those waiting in the bright sunshine, and carrying a banner that said Obama 44 Clinton 45. “Hold up the banner and I’ll take your picture!” she told everyone.
They did, and she did!
And then, the line started to move, and people were being let into the Javits Center. Melanie and I had been nervous, we had online tickets and there were some people with printed orange tickets. But all we had received for our RSVP was a confirmation email, telling us to wait for further instructions…that never came. So once we stepped into the large hangar adjacent to the Javitts Center, with the police security lined up to control the crowd, we were elated!
We were separated into different lines – orange tickets on one line, and email tickets (confirmations) on the other. The lines were loooong and we were told that we’d be waiting in the hangar for another hour or two.
We settled in to wait, along with everyone else. We were all “WITH HER” and happy to be with her there, together! People talked, and read the news on their phones. We couldn’t wait to get the results of the election – enough waiting, let’s get this party started already!
The cops didn’t offer much information – just some vague remarks that they weren’t in charge, the Democratic party was, and that decisions of how to organize this thing had changed many times since yesterday.
“Don’t ask me, ask them!” said one of the cops. “What’s the rush?” asked another , with not so subtle sarcasm:”You’re just going to be herded to another place to wait. Ain’t nothin’ going to happen.”
(“Must be a Trump supporter”, I told Melanie, and we laughed.)
I decided to draw portraits of the many women there – and thought about how having Madame President in office would change things for women all over this country. I was feeling so optimistic. In retrospect now, it makes me sad to look at this drawing:
After about an hour and a half, we were ushered through a bag check by the police, and herded right out the door. It had been decided “by the powers that be” (as one of the cops said) that the online ticket holders would be viewing the event from the area of 11th Avenue right outside the Javits Center – all set up with a small stage for political talks and a jumbo tron from which we could view Madame President’s acceptance speech.
Well, not the front row seats were had hoped for, but still looked like this would be a great event and we envisioned the emotions of the crowd overflowing when the vote was called. Surely it would be an early night, we thought, because Trump would lose quickly. He was inexperienced, how could he be president? Ban all Muslim immigration? 12 ladies coming out to confirm the terrible things he’d bragged about doing to women? Not to mention lying about supporting the Iraq war, denying climate change exists, refusing to release his taxes, etc. etc., etc! We kept repeating this to each other, like a magical chant. The crowd was getting a bit too tight for us, so Melanie and I moved back from the main stage and found a curb to sit on. As we waited for the election returns, I drew this little girl with the American flag, who was standing in front of the Empire State building, symbol piled on symbol. I thought about how wonderful it would be that she was going to grow up in a world where of course a woman could be President. Sigh…
Soon a few minutes turned into an hour, then more, and nothing was happening. People started wandering around, asking each other, “are we getting to go inside at all?” We told them no, the tickets has said an ‘outdoor seating’ was a possibility, but they just decided to go and ask someone else. Finally a Javits employee convinced everyone that we were going to be out there for the duration, but there would be musical act and some political speeches (I think Chuck Schumer spoke there later in the evening.) Melanie and I found ourselves sitting on a curb in the midst of a several middle aged women, who said, “I love Hillary, but if I’m going to watch her on a big TV screen, I’d rather do it in my comfortable living room, with a glass of wine!”
After a while spent watching people line up to eat tacos and wander around aimlessly, we kind of agreed. Plus, we were not getting any news of the election results, and we wanted to find out some numbers, and start celebrating! So we decided to walk over to 10th Avenue to find another venue to watch the election from, and draw the Clinton supporters. (In retrospect, I wonder if the Clinton team had been receiving early results, and was waiting for some kind of good news before starting any kind of event at the Javits. It would make sense, who wants to come out and announce, Donald Trump has just won Tennessee!)
We landed in some kind of bar/restaurant on 10th Ave that had a wall of TV screens tuned in to CNN. The room was full of Clinton supporters – several of whom we recognized from the Javitts Center line – and the mood was tense. Trump had just won Kentucky and Indiana, and was ahead by several electoral votes. “She doesn’t need those states,” we said nervously, “the night is just beginning.” I saw two of the ladies from the curbside clique, drinking their wine and discussing what states Hillary needed to carry for a victory. The waitress handed out Hillary H stickers.
And then, the early results from Florida came in – HILLARY WAS IN THE LEAD! The crowd erupted in cheers! Here we go – it’s beginning!!! The ladies were gleeful. The couple at the bar kissed. We felt happy.
And then, we felt nervous again. Trump was leading in several other states. Then Trump was leading in Florida. Then Clinton was. Then Trump. The evening wore on, and the atmosphere in the bar became tenser and tenser. More drinks were ordered, and everyone was glued to the televisions. It will all work out, we told ourselves. It has to.
But the map kept turning red. And redder still. West Virginia. North Carolina. So close, but won by Trump. The western states started coming in. COLORADO! for Hillary. But would it be enough?
“Are you drawing the FRUSTRATION in this bar?” a woman asked Melanie. We could not help but draw it; we were feeling it as well. How could a man endorsed by the KKK be getting this many votes? We felt as if we didn’t know our own country.
And then Texas went to Trump. So many electoral votes. John King on CNN went over all the scenarios: If Clinton wins Minnesota and Trump takes Pennsylvania, then New Hampshire will mean…forty precincts have reported, but we still have no votes counted in this region…well even without Wisconsin if Clinton takes Pennsylvania and then…. No one was listening. Everyone was just looking, looking at those states turning red, one after the other. People stared in shock, transfixed by that map. New Yorkers are often accused of living in a bubble relative to the rest of the country, and on Election Night, I think that bubble popped. It was numbing for all of Hillary’s supporters. And the states just kept turning red.
And more red. And more. The red grew in size, slowly but surely, across the map.
People were stunned, staring, holding their hands over their mouths in disbelief. Minnesota and Wisconsin, the “Blue Wall” of Democrats, was disintegrating. Pennsylvania went up and down like a roller coaster: Trump – Clinton – Trump. The crowd did not move. People put their head in their hands. The face of the middle aged feminist crumbled in stages. The woman who kissed her boyfriend earlier in the evening was now being consoled by him. And then Trump won Ohio. More red, spreading across the map, as the Clinton supporters who came out for a celebration stayed for the Democratic parties funeral. The hateful and divisive words of Donald Trump’s campaign began to ring in our ears, and people began to talk of fear. It was starting to look like the man who had dog whistled, tweeted, and barked racism, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia and xenophobia into our political mainstream was going to become our next President. African Americans, Jews, and all people of color welcomed fear back into their lives. The LGBT community welcomed greater sexual discrimination back into their lives. Women welcomed the prospect of sexual harassment as the norm back into their lives. Immigrants hoping for a chance to remain in the US welcomed hopelessness back into their lives. Undocumented immigrants hoping for a life out of the shadows stepped back in. Muslim Americans wondered if they would be safe. The stock market began to tumble. And the states kept turning red.
Melanie and I couldn’t take any more. We decided to go home.
I hailed a taxi on the avenue and the driver pulled up slowly and opened his window. “Are you a Clinton supporter?” he asked me. “I can only pick up Clinton supporters tonight.” I smiled and showed him my Hillary H sticker. It was nice to smile, and I felt again a bit of hope as I heard on the cab radio that Clinton had won California. Maybe….maybe…but then as I walked through my front door she lost North Carolina. Then Pennsylvania. And next John Podesta was on television, telling all of Hillary Clinton’s supporters to go home. Secretary Clinton would speak tomorrow.
I watched and waited, glued to my television, to see the final states go red. Even before Wisconsin was announced, CNN reported that Hillary Clinton had called Donald Trump to congratulate him on his victory. All of the swing states – the Rust Belt – had gone with him. And then, President-Elect Trump was addressing his supporters.
His tone was even, as he told the room full of people that this nation owed Secretary Clinton a debt of gratitude for her long service to this country. He spoke of healing, and he spoke of our nation coming together. As he should. But I just don’t know how the man who spearheaded the birther movement and the chant, “lock her up!” can speak with any authority about healing and coming together. But the states turned red, and now he is our President. So we have to make it work, for all of our sake.
Obviously there is a lot of economic pain in this country, and a desire for a big change from a sizeable portion of our citizens. But you can’t simply vote for parts of a person, you are voting for all of the person. And this was not just about the economy – I worry and hope that we have not normalized the hateful rhetoric that came out of this campaign, and pray that we as a country support the rights of ALL Americans, always. As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech the next day: The American Dream is big enough for everyone.
What a gracious speech, and classy way to end her campaign. No wonder she won the popular vote. Thank you Madame Secretary. I’m still with Her.