What we heard instead was the sound of millions of hearts breaking.
So many of us, all over the world, believed that we’d wake up on Wednesday morning to the news of history made, that Hillary Clinton had, somehow, been elected the first female president of the United States. We knew it wasn’t going to happen on Tuesday night as soon as the electoral map started hemorrhaging Republican red, but her defeat didn’t feel real until the next morning.
It felt real, for me, when a few newsroom staffers began sharing their papers’ trashed front pages. The ones I saw were so elegant. Hillary’s face, in portrait or profile, with ‘Madam President’ written below. Those mock-ups made me wistful for what could have been.
And it felt real when Clinton delivered her painful concession speech. She apologized, as women do, for not winning this election. She tried, as women do, to make us all feel better.
“To all the women, and especially, the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” Clinton said, her eyes welling.
“To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable, and powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
American women and girls won’t have a champion in the White House come January.
Remember when the idea of a Donald Trump presidency was a joke? Remember when the Billy Bush tape was supposedly going to “end him”? But of course it wouldn’t, and it didn’t. That’s not the world we live in.
We learn, as children, that the bad guys aren’t supposed to win. Good always triumphs over evil, love over hate. And then we grow up and learn that bad guys often do win. They are excused and applauded and defended and supported. A sexual predator who believes women who get abortions should be punished is now President-elect of the most powerful nation in the world.
Sexism played a role in this election, to be sure. Sexism is the reason people didn’t take Clinton seriously. It’s the reason people minimized her qualifications. It’s the reason people didn’t like “something about her.” It’s the reason people found her “unlikable.” It’s the reason people didn’t like her voice. And it was largely because of sexism, not emails, that people found her untrustworthy.
But it was white supremacy that won Trump this election. Because it wasn’t just angry white men who saw something appealing in Trump — it was angry white women, too. Angry white women who are “just one of the guys.” Angry white women who say things like, “I’m not voting for her just because she has a vagina” as though that’s the reason people were voting for Clinton. Angry white women who value their comfort and safety over that of their fellow women. Angry white women who sold out because they believe they will actually be afforded protection.
As Clover Hope writes at Jezebel (emphasis mine):
Overwhelmingly, white people voted to preserve whiteness. Fifty-eight percent of white Americans, according to CNN’s exit polls, voted to make Trump the leader of the country. President Trump. Many of them, motivated by fear and ignorance, walked into a voting booth and put physical effort toward electing a racist, sexist tyrant who’s been proven to hate everyone but himself. Sixty-three percent of white men voted Trump. The toughest pill is that fifty-three percent of white women followed them.
On Tuesday, as I watched CBC’s coverage of the U.S. election, I was knocked out by American pundit Danielle Moodie-Mills. Her analysis was like a salve; finally, someone was saying it, on TV. Here are her comments, via Buzzfeed:
I do not believe that this is people saying ‘I couldn’t possibly have a woman in this role.’ This is so much bigger than that. This is about — and I will say it because I have literally nothing left to lose tonight — is that this is literally white supremacy’s last stand in America. This is it. This is what it looks like. This was black people being pushed out of rallies. This is a young boy with cerebral palsy having his wheelchair kicked. … This is hatred on a level that we have not seen since Jim Crow. So you want to talk about whether Hillary Clinton is likable, whether it was about emails — no. We underestimated, as Americans, how deep our hatred was of the other, how deep white uneducated Americans felt about the demographic shift. We underestimated that level of insidious, blind hatred. And what you had was a man who went around, he stoked every fire, he lit every branch, every branch, and just opened the floodgates.
As a Canadian, I am afforded the illusion of distance from this garbage fire of an election — but I am not naive. I know that kind of hate of The Other exists here, too. To say this election doesn’t affect us is wrong. The whole world should care about who is in the White House.
Right now, all I can offer to my American friends is my rage and sadness. My heart hurts for my neighbours to the south who no longer feel safe in their own country. It aches for the children who don’t understand why the bad guy won. It’s broken for all the people of colour, young and old, who are experiencing violence and hate at the hands of Trump supporters.
There’s nothing left to do but to keep fighting. Fight for those who are all out of fight. Fight alongside Indigenous people, people of colour, poor people, LGBTQ people, disabled people. Fight alongside them — but also support, champion and elect them, too. We can keep calling out racism and sexism. We can challenge the shitty opinions of our “friends” on Facebook. We can refuse to be bystanders.
People are going to tell us to get over our hurt, our rage, our fear. We don’t need to “get over it.” We need to decide what we’re going to do with it.
Hillary Clinton did not win this one. But another woman will. A woman who wants to make the world a better place for everyone.
I believe that, because I have to believe that.
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Illustration by Nicholas Friesen