Yesterday morning, after waking my roommate up, the first thing I did was blast music. I walked out of my room, plugged my phone into a set of big loud speakers, and started blasting the festive music: “Rockin’ In The Free World” by Neil Young, “Born In The U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen, and some high energy hip-hop music from the likes of Rae Sremmurd and Young Thug. For nearly two years, everything was building toward this day, and it was finally here.
I’m 23 years old, so our election four years ago was my first chance to have my voice heard. But between a lack of willingness to register elsewhere while I was away at school, and issues with my absentee ballot, the 2012 election didn’t work out for me. But for this election? I was ready for this one.
Until somewhat recently, I was not too political of a person. I avoided some of the more contentious topics, by and large; but in this cycle I found myself fully-invested. Graduating from relatively-progressive Penn State, and working on a day-to-day basis in New York City, I was constantly engaged in the political process. I heard the punditry, the surrogates, and the opinions from all sides. I fully dove in, and I knew what I wanted. I knew what seemed right. I knew what kind of country I wanted to live in.
By the time I got to my local polling station yesterday, I was flying high. The sun was out, the volunteers were smiling, and spirits were high. Voices were being heard. This was a great thing. I stood in line, anxiety-ridden, but confident. My vote would count, and from all I collected, the majority were with me. I completed my ballot and grabbed not one but two ‘I Voted’ stickers on it. I felt great.
The rest of the day sort of simmered by. I got some work done, occasionally checking Twitter for updates, but nothing too notable popped up. A video of Trump being loudly jeered at his polling place briefly caught my attention, but, mostly, it was the calm before the storm. Nothing led me to fear a Black Mirror-esque twist at the end. I ate Chipotle for lunch. Everything was normal. But the night wasn’t far behind.
As the results started coming in, immediately, something wasn’t right—I knew it, and everyone else knew it. The Upshot started projecting some not-so-promising numbers, and all of that happiness, all of that excitement from earlier was gone. In its place were nerves. Some on Twitter compared the feeling of last night to last week’s World Series finale. No, it’s not fucking like that. Sometimes there are things in life that are more important than sports. At that point, with concerning number after concerning number, biding our time with hope until the end of the night was all we could do.
We woke up this morning to a gloomy New York City, whose feeling was post-apocalyptic. Our new President-elect’s rhetoric over the past 16 months has been nothing short of disgusting. It is hard to accept the reality that last night was–and is–real. I walked down the street this morning, and the desolate feeling felt like something out of The Road.
But, as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both noted in their remarks this afternoon, one of the hallmarks of our country’s democracy is the acceptance of a peaceful transfer of power. As anger-inducing and purely upsetting as it is, the country that we may have thought we lived in, at least in November 2016, does not exist.
Obama and Clinton both gave incredibly emotional speeches this afternoon. Clinton, at The New Yorker Hotel, made clear that she did, indeed, call Trump to concede the race last night, and would offer to help in the transition however she could. The pain in her voice was clear. But as anyone who’s followed this thing all the way through knows, though, she’s strong. I was incredibly moved by her words–and hopefully, so, too, was another demographic.
"To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful & deserving of every chance & opportunity in the world."
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 9, 2016
"This loss hurts. But please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it." —Hillary
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 9, 2016
This isn’t over. Whatever change was induced last night that will begin in January? That’s temporary. Four years is a long time. But it’s also a long time to think about just how badly we, as a country, fucked this up. We will have options in 2016. Between Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and the incandescently likable Tim Kaine, there are already a handful of incredibly inspiring people that can make this thing right.
And who better to remind us of that than our current inspirational President. “Stay encouraged. Don’t get cynical. Don’t ever think you can’t make a difference,” Obama said during his remarks today. For damn sure. We can make a difference. We will continue to make differences. There’s a roadblock now, but that’s never stopped us before.
On the way out of my apartment this morning, I grabbed my favorite book Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, to read a little bit on the train. I needed to remember how bad things were once before, and then how good art, good thinking, and cooler heads eventually prevailed. “So it goes,” Vonnegut so often repeats. His words ring true, even 47 years after its publication. There’s always a path forward—and now we must keep going, until we find it in the fray.