Last night, Donald Trump won the presidential election. Hillary Clinton is likely to win the popular vote, bringing back painful memories of the 2000 election. While this offers a small degree of comfort, it doesn’t change the facts: she lost the Electoral College. Republicans swept both the House and the Senate, and this victory could have major implications for the Supreme Court. We will be relying on American institutions – and the party that nominated Trump in the first place – to keep him in check.
I genuinely hope I am wrong about the implications of this election. I hope LGBT Americans are not forced into harmful conversion therapy – a ‘treatment’ endorsed by the GOP and Vice President-Elect Pence – and I hope they don’t have their families torn apart. I hope women do not lose their right to reproductive health care. I hope this country doesn’t become a more dangerous place for people of color and other minority groups. I hope the lives of people with disabilities don’t become more difficult. I hope the fight to save our planet isn’t set back irreparably. I hope a country founded on religious freedom does not become a country of religious discrimination. I hope our country of immigrants does not become a country of exclusion.
It isn’t easy to be hopeful. America has elected a racist, sexist, homophobic man who was glowingly endorsed by the KKK has repeatedly praised dictators for precisely the qualities that make them dictators. Whether his supporters voted for him because of these qualities or in spite of them, this is the reality of the man who will soon take the highest office in the United States, and we have to come to terms with it.
There has already been a lot of speculation over how this happened. Some blame Comey for dragging Clinton’s emails back into the spotlight a week before the election. Others blame the DNC, wishing for a world in which Bernie Sanders had been the party’s nominee. Still others blame the “secret Trump vote” – Republicans too ashamed to admit they support this man but still willing to vote for him. The list goes on: the media, the Clinton campaign, Wikileaks, third party candidates. Assessing fault may help us strategize and fix some of these problems moving forward, but right now, it really doesn’t matter how we got here. This is where we have landed.
Trump has threatened a world in which it is dangerous to speak out against him. He has repeatedly threatened to jail his political opponent, sue the women who have accused him of sexual assault, and jeopardize free press. Coming from a man with clear authoritarian leanings and a temper so volatile his campaign reportedly took away his Twitter access leading into Election Day, these threats should not be taken lightly.
There are few words to describe how I felt as the results came in last night. I think ‘betrayed’ comes closest. The country I love told me it doesn’t love me back, and that’s going to sting for a while. Today, those feelings are still there: the hurt, the fear, the grief. But I am also determined.
As a white person at Harvard Law School, I am sitting in a place of great privilege, and I will use that privilege however I can to keep the people I love safe. As I talk to friends and family members about the very real ways in which a Trump presidency will put us at risk, we are not just grieving: we are sharing love, making plans, and holding onto hope.
Even before the election, many left-leaning Americans started talking about leaving the country. As usual, the most popular escape seemed to be Canada – the country’s immigration site crashed last night. While I recognize this impulse – particularly when it’s coming from people in the groups most directly threatened by a Trump administration – running away isn’t the answer. I love this country. I love the values of freedom and democracy upon which it was founded, and I will keep fighting for those values – now more than ever.
In their remarks today, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke with incredible grace and dignity. They maintained their messages of equality, dedication, and strength. They rooted for the success of America, and they encouraged us to do the same. Most importantly, perhaps, they encouraged us to continue fighting for progress and supporting our fellow citizens.
Journalist Mary Beth Williams said it well in a tweet last night: “Here’s what happens. We never stop. We never give up. We fight for each other and protect each other.”
Now more than ever, it is vital to stand up. I still believe we are stronger together; I still believe love trumps hate and still share Hillary’s vision of a country of love and equality. She won’t stop fighting, and neither will I.
Come on, America. We’ve got work to do.