The election party I went to felt wrong from the moment I walked in.
There was a band playing music that sounded like nothing, and there was popcorn with the character of styrofoam. The beer was good at least, but the TV screens felt small for the crowd.
Some friends and I walked up shortly after the polls closed in NC (except for Durham county), and there was already a hint of bad news. It didn’t look good for Deborah Ross in the US Senate race.
The biggest cheer came when they called the Wake county transit referendum in favor of the For vote. Others were false alarms as we saw the percents and compared them to the number of ballots counted.
When they started calling states for the electoral college, there were some cheers, but mostly tension. After the music ended, and we could actually hear the people talking on screen, we left the bar and walked back to my friends’ house.
In the time before I left, we talked and watched as the results came to a standstill. The six of us kept going over the states that were left, the ones she couldn’t lose under any circumstances. It hurt when North Carolina went red, but there was still a path. And then Ohio went, and Florida, and the walls along that path closed in.
One friend wanted to be the voice of optimism, and so he asked “How bad can it get?”
And we answered.
“What are we going to lose?”
And we answered again.
I left at 1:30 and came home. The AP called the race about an hour later, followed shortly by the rest.
There’s going to be data. They’ll match votes to demographics on a national, state, and county level. They’ll draw maps and charts and graphs so we can see the lines. They’ll ask questions, a lot of questions, and the data will answer some of them.
There will be think pieces. You’ll read about technology and its role in distancing us from older generations and those in rural, underdeveloped parts of the country. You’ll hear about divisions – racial, socio-economic, geographical, generational – and the extent to which they’ve grown, or the extent to which they’ve always been there. You’ll take a good hard look at the opinions of everyone you respect, and several from people you don’t. You’ll do so because you’re reading this, because you’re my friend, because you want to understand. I need to understand. We all need to understand what went wrong.
What did we do wrong?
The worst part of tonight has been confronting my most tenuous expectations and realizing that I was overconfident.
I thought I knew the bare minimum of what I could expect. I knew how a lot of Americans felt, but I didn’t believe they would win. I didn’t think the people I believed in would lose so badly, that we could be so taken in by the polls and the forecasts and the messaging and wind up so unprepared for a defeat of this magnitude.
I don’t think we’re ready for what’s going to happen. I don’t know what the plan is now. I’m not sure anyone bothered to come up with one.
I knew that the stakes were high. We all knew, and yet now I don’t know the extent of what we stand to lose.
Donald Trump isn’t prepared to be President of the United States. I didn’t believe that before, and I don’t believe it now.
What I do believe is that the people who support him and the people who will surround him are prepared. They have been preparing for this for eight years. That is what will rob me of sleep for the foreseeable future.
I voted for Hillary Clinton.
I believed in the Hillary Clinton who only wanted to do good. The woman who cared more than anyone, who wanted to do the most good for the most people.
I feel remorse for her. There is a sorrow to knowing that she will diminish now. I’m not sure that we will hear from her again in any meaningful capacity after this morning.
If you couldn’t find it in yourself to respect her career, her service, her character, there’s probably not a lot I can say to you.
I respect her, though. I would say I even admire her. And it’s hard to imagine what she must be going through. I feel for her, and I feel for all of the women that voted for her, too. I feel for my cousin Maggie, and for the mothers of my friends at the party last night, and for everyone else that has been inspired by Clinton to have ambition, to serve others, and to lead us forward into a better history.
It’s been hard to think of myself tonight. Given how I’ve felt lately, I’m tempted to say that’s for the best (though I will regret staying up to this hour).
I’m thinking too much about the people who are worse off than I am, though. I’m thinking about people who are frightened about what happens next.
My gut reaction is to be frightened, too.
I will say again that whatever confidence we had in ourselves is a splintered shield upon the ground.
It didn’t work. None of it worked, none of what we relied on to get our message out there. That message of love, of unity, of hope, of progress.
It’s terrifying to think more than half of the people who voted didn’t hear that, understand it, accept it, make peace with it.
But we can’t afford to be scared. Our only choice is to be brave. We will be brave while we regroup and search for a better way forward. There are too many people who are depending on us, here and around the world.
It starts now by facing reality and asking the right questions.
Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States of America.