Reasons to Hope One Year After the Election

In my memories, the sky was grey and cloudy on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016. I can picture, clear as day, walking through my campus; listening to people around me talk about the results of the election and looking up at the impending storm. That is, of course, only my recollectionin reality, the morning of Nov. 9 may have been cloudless and sunny (through some research it seems like the day was overcast, though perhaps not the “moment before the storm” darkness that I imagined).

Why do I remember that morning in that way? Pathetic fallacy, I suppose. Nov. 9, 2016, was a dark day, emotions-wise, for a lot of people, so in my mind I’ve equated the emotions and the weather.

I’ve written before about the moment I found out that Donald Trump won the electionI heard loud, bewildered shouting in the middle of the night, and assumed the outcome that was a growing possibility had turned into reality. In hindsight, I wish I had stayed up to watch the full coverage of the election, even though it crept into the darkest hours of the night and then the early hours of morning (and even though I had a journalism assignment due the next day).

At the time, I think very few people had an inkling of what was about to happen. When the world woke up on Nov. 9, on the morning I remember to be grey, a lot of us asked the same thing: What now?

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As I wrote in my post after the election, I had been ready to write an article about the first female president of the United States. Accepting not just that I wouldn’t be writing that article, but that I would not be seeing that realityfor at least four years, and likely longerwas disheartening, to say the least. But it was not only Hillary Clinton’s loss that made Nov. 9 difficult; it was who she had lost to, and the policies and rhetoric that were about to take centre stage in the Oval Office.

Watching Clinton’s concession speech made me cry but I was determined to move forward with an attitude of hope. “I looked at my reflection in the mirror and promised myself that I was going to keep fighting for what I believe in, and supporting others who are doing the same,” I wrote.

That bleary morning turned into another night, and then another day. Time passed. In January, Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I won’t list everything that has happened since then because, unless you disconnected your cable and Internet after the election, you likely know what has happened next. There were, in short, a lot of reasons to be concerned, fearful and angry.

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But there were also reasons to be hopeful. One of the best examples of this was the Women’s March the day after Trump’s Inauguration (pictured above). The sheer number of women and men marching in solidarity both in the U.S. and around the world was nothing short of incredible. The message of the marches was loud and clear: Trump can try to limit womens’ rights, but women will not be intimidated by this—they will fight for what is right.

The ACLU was also a strong force in standing up for equality, freedom and human rights. “President Trump has been in office for 42 weeks. We’ve sued him and his administration 56 times,” the organization tweeted yesterday.

Another source of hope came two nights ago. It was Election Night in America all over again. I had an eerie sense of déjà vu as I curled up on my couch and watched the news. The music, the graphics, the anticipation building up to the results. I allowed myself a smile when the journalists said certain races were too close to call, thinking of the failure of many to accurately call the election last year.

But the feelings of déjà vu ended when the results starting coming in. It wasn’t just that Democrats secured two major victories in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jerseyit was there were historic wins for representation and equality.

Danica Roem, an openly transgender woman was elected to the Virginia state legislature. Not only this, but the incumbent Republican she beat, Robert Marshall, actually called himself the state’s “chief homophobe” and previously introduced a controversial “bathroom bill.” Roem had an incredibly classy response to a question about her predecessor. “I don’t talk about my constituents. Bob is my constituent now,” she said. (Mic. Drop.)

Virginia also elected its first two Latina delegates. Another notable victory included Ravi Bhalla, who is Sikh, being elected mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey (interestingly, Bhalla has called himself “Everything Trump hates”). He is the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey. Vi Lyles was elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, the first black woman to hold that post. The list goes onyou can read more about the historic wins in this Vox article.

Today marks one year since the morning many of us woke up worried about the future. There are, of course, still reasons to be worried. But there are also a lot of reasons to be hopeful. In the year since Trump won the election, people looking to make their voices heard have mobilized into movements. On Tuesday, voters showed a rejection of Trump’s rhetoric in favour of acceptance of the very people who Trump speaks out against. The newly elected political representatives now have the power to create real, positive change in America.

This is progress. This is a reason to be hopeful. And it is a reason to keep speaking out and speaking up as we continue to live in the world that was made a reality on this day last year.


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What Happened and Moving On from the 2016 U.S. Election

You may have noticed that I’ve written quite a few blog posts about the 2016 U.S. Election and the presidency of Donald Trump. I even wrote about the fact that I write about Trump so much, after a friend commented on the fact that all of my posts seemed to be centering around American politics. In that post, I concluded that I would keep writing about Trump because his actions, words and policies have serious impact on the world. I’ve continued doing this; but it’s not just the current political climate that I find myself writing about. I keep coming back to the election.

The 2016 Presidential election was the first time when I truly felt engaged in politics. Some of the campaigning period overlapped with that of the Canadian election, so the combination of both really sparked my interest. Although I wasn’t old enough to vote at the time, I began to consider which candidate I agreed with most and which policy issues I felt most strongly about.

After a few years of continually asking my dad to explain the Electoral College to me, I finally understood it enough to be the one to answer my friends’ questions. I devoured articles about the primaries and brought up politics every chance I could. I was fascinated, and so excited to finally feel like I had a good grasp on what was happening in the political sphere around me.

I think though, more than this, I felt a connection with Hillary Clinton. I don’t ever remember a specific moment where I realized I identified with her, other than watching her speeches and realizing how intelligent and qualified she was. I admired her for being a strong woman in an area dominated by men; in some leadership positions I’d held in high school, I was among the few females represented. Mind you, I didn’t experience what Clinton did—rampant sexism and blatant misogyny—but regardless, I developed an appreciation for her leadership.

The day after Trump won, I wrote about the bewildering, blistering reality of watching Clinton’s concession speech. It was sometime in those days afterwards, when the smoke was clearing but the headlines were still confounding and conflicting, that I turned on Twitter notifications so that I got updates every time Clinton tweeted. I still have them turned on; it’s not often that a tweet pops up, but when it does, I smile because I remember her campaign and what she fought for.

You can probably assume, based on all of this, that I was thrilled when Clinton announced she’d be releasing a book. I had already read Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, which contextualized many of the articles I’d read about Clinton’s loss and helped better shape my understanding of the election. Now, as I type this, What Happened, Clinton’s account of the 2016 election, sits on my bedside table. I’m not very far into it (and you can surely expect a post about my thoughts when I’m done), but so far I’m really enjoying it. I’ve written and read a lot about the election, as I’ve established; but I still jump at opportunities to learn more and think more about it.

It seems that I’m not alone in this curiousity. Quoting a tweet that says that Clinton’s book has sold the most copies of any nonfiction release in the past five years, Nate Silver wrote, “The notion that ‘nobody wants to re-litigate 2016’ is sort of a myth…”. I’m sure that not everyone who purchased or read What Happened supported Clinton; many probably read it out of hatred or so that they could argue about or dispute its contents. But still, a lot of people remain stuck on the campaign trail. This could be because the results of the election came as such a shock to many people that there were some psychological reasons for their inability to move on.

I have to wonder as well if it is partly because of the new inhabitant of the Oval Office that many people still think so much about the election cycle. After all, Trump is still holding campaign rallies (yes, even though he already campaigned and won). In many ways, he is still talking and acting like he’s on the campaign trail, leading some to believe he is already campaigning for the 2020 election.

The 2016 U.S. election was historic. We saw the first female leader of a major party and we saw a stunning defeat that many of us didn’t predict. There has been no shortage of things to reflect on in the wake of Nov. 8. What role did voter suppression play? What role did the media play? What role did Russian interference play? Should the Electoral College be abolished? Politicians, journalists, researchers and citizens are still searching for the answers to these, and many other, questions.

Reflection is good; action, I think, is better. I am excited to continue reading What Happened, not only to gain a better understanding of what really did happen but, more importantly, to learn how Clinton is moving forward and how she suggests the rest of us move forward, too.


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America, You Great Unfinished Symphony

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan was, in many ways, a recipe for success. It was simple, catchy, and it articulated his clear ideas for the country he wanted to lead. Many, including the authors of Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, have cited Hillary Clinton’s slogan as an epitome of the problems that ravaged her campaign: it failed to capture her version for America. She had policy ideas—scores of them. But Trump had those four words. Make America Great Again. And now, for better or for worse, he has the presidency.

Of course, whether America was ever truly great is up for debate. If America is great now, at this present moment, is also debatable. And is America any greater than it was before January 20, 2017, the date of Trump’s Inauguration? It is a sign of these politicized times that even calling America “great” (a word which is arguably one of the most elementary adjectives in the dictionary) is a charged discussion. It is a discussion which matters nonetheless, though. If you believe that America is currently great, you’re not going to want to change it; but if you believe that some aspects of America are great, but need some work, then you are more likely to attempt to improve it.

If you want my opinion—and I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you do, if only to express disagreement in the comments: I agree with the latter declaration. I think that there are aspects of America that are great—ideals which, if recognized, have the potential to create positive change. But you only have to read a few of the posts tagged “politics” on this blog to know that I am not pleased with the Trump administration (and “not pleased” is putting it lightly).

In theory, I think that the founding principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence have the power to pave the way to greatness. Fundamental equality? Unalienable rights? The pursuit of liberty and happiness? I’ve written before about the hollowness of the word “liberty,” but I digress. These ideals, if recognized, would make a great society.

“If recognized” are important words. Many of Trump’s policies challenge concepts like equality and unalienable, universal rights, making these things not tangible parts of society but instead unequally distributed privileges. In reality, America is not great because it has not fully realized these ideals. Maybe it is great in spite of the absence of them, though, because as we are seeing more and more, where there is trumping of rights (see what I did there?) there is triumphing of the Constitution. The ACLU, for example, is making America better. Good, even.

In case you didn’t understand the reference in my title of this post, it comes from the “death monologue” from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stunningly genius musical Hamilton (spoiler alerts ahead, but if you don’t already know how the musical ends that means you haven’t listened to the soundtrack which means you need to skip this paragraph and listen to it ASAP). In the musical, Alexander Hamilton, America’s first treasury secretary, is killed in a duel with Jefferson’s VP Aaron Burr. In a beautiful and heart wrenching moment, the duel freezes right before Hamilton is shot. He launches into a monologue, one spoken earlier in the musical.

“Legacy, what is a legacy?/ It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see/ I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me/America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me/You let me make a difference, a place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise up”

That’s only part of the monologue; I could dissect the entire thing word by word, second by second. But I will focus on what I titled this post: “America, you great unfinished symphony.” I’ve already skirted around the word “Great” and whether or not it truly applies to America, present day or at any other time. Let’s talk about the idea of America being “unfinished”; an idea which makes me think of Barack Obama and his legacy which Trump has been steadily working to dismantle. Obama has lived to see the seeds of the garden he planted, and they’re being ripped up, some of them before they had the chance to grow. He wrote some notes in the song of America, but the choir has retired.

Unfinished. Healthcare, moving backwards. Women’s rights, moving backwards. Acceptance, tolerance, moving backwards. No one would claim that Obama “fixed” America; some argue that Obama actually paved the way for Trump’s success. Trump constantly claims that he was not aware how difficult certain things would be—“Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated,” he claimed. Certainly some of his supporters believe that Trump would be able to be successful, if it wasn’t for the crooked Democrats and biased liberal fake news outlets who are holding him back. Trump’s work is unfinished, some would say. I would agree, I just don’t think he is the person to fix things.

Perhaps my favourite part of this line from Hamilton’s monologue is the word “symphony.” America is an overture; harps and flutes singing while trombones blurt out the foundation. Independence. Equality. Liberty. Happiness, or at least the unrelenting pursuit of it. These are the underlying notes of the symphony of America, finely tuned notes sung since America broke away from Great Britain so many years ago.

With the election of Donald Trump, the great, unfinished symphony of America is both dying out and playing in a more chaotic manner. Things are happening left, right, and centre. Where to look? Look right at Trump’s actions. And then look at the people resisting. The people helping. The people caring. The people refusing to give in. These are the people who make America great, and who are going to make it an even greater symphony. The symphony of America may never be finished, but members of its orchestra can be relentless in their pursuit of greatness, of fundamental freedoms and equality. It may never be fully great, or a finished symphony, as Hamilton’s character sings. But that is up to Americans to decide.


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Hillary Clinton and the Paradox of Female Success

If you are successful, people like you. Right?

Not always.

“The more successful and ambitious a woman is, the less likable she becomes,” said Hillary Clinton on Thursday the Women in the World Summit in New York.

Clinton is, of course, no stranger to this paradox of female success. She was one of the most qualified individuals who has ever run for the president of the United States. And yet, every step of the campaign, from the primaries to the debates, she was dogged by uneven standards. These standards allowed Donald Trump to do things like brag about sexually assaulting women, and still become the president of the United States.

Certainly, there are some key reasons why Clinton lost: failing to campaign in certain states, FBI Director James Comey releasing information about the investigation into Clinton’s emails just days before the election, and the controversies over her involvement in Benghazi, her private email server, and her husband’s affair.

Still, “a candidate guilty of Trump’s many transgressions should have been decimated by a competent opponent” such as Clinton, Lauren Heuser wrote in The National Post after the election. Again, there are several factors which caused Trump to succeed. Disenfranchised voters, fear mongering, and fake news all played roles of varying importance in Trump’s win. But there was something else at play in Trump’s win, and in Clinton’s loss: sexism.

Clinton was (and remains) undoubtedly ambitious. Before becoming the Democratic nominee, she had already achieved a high level of success in the political arena. And this, as she said on Thursday in New York, made her less likable. But as Heuser points out in her op-ed, Clinton was not just disliked by men. Heuser quotes Hadiya Roderique, a student who studies gender, who says that “Women buy into the patriarchy as much as men.” In fact, a 2010 study by two Yale professors found that women and men were equally likely to “have negative reactions to power-seeking female politicians.”

Many women still have problems with other women’s success, even if they do not explicitly admit it. Misogyny is something that affects women, but it is also something that some women contribute to, even if it is internalized. Women did not have to support Clinton, simply because she was also a woman. However, the fact that some woman had problems simply because she was a woman is indicative of the larger issue here.

You shouldn’t admire someone (or vote for them) just because they are successful. But ambitious and successful women being continually held back by what should be perceived as positive traits demonstrates that something needs to change. As devastating a loss as she endured, Hillary Clinton remains an inspirational symbol in the fight for female politicians and leaders to be viewed as equals to their male counterparts.

Clinton was poised to break the glass ceiling. Instead, misogyny prevailed. What happens next is up to us. 


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Finding Hope After the U.S. Election

It was late at night and I couldn’t sleep; words like “Pennsylvania” and “Florida” were running through my mind.  I heard screaming, and I couldn’t tell if it was outside my building, on the floor below me or in the hallway, but I knew: Donald Trump had won. He was in the lead when I went to bed. I didn’t stay up to watch the number trickle in and watch CNN make their predictions because I had a story day for journalism the next day. I was ready to write about Hillary Clinton being the first woman President.

I eventually fell asleep and woke up to a text from one of my friends: a string of sad face emojis. Without having seen the official news confirming what I already suspected, I replied with a string of crying emojis. I didn’t cry, though. Not yet. I got dressed (in a black sweater, to “mourn America” as I jokingly texted my friends), ate breakfast, grabbed a copy of the Toronto Star and headed out.

The paper must’ve been printed before the final numbers were in, because although it featured a photo of Trump, the headline didn’t officially proclaim his victory. I’m sure it was a different front page than the journalists had imagined printing after the election. I was setting out to write a very different article than I had thought I would be writing that day.

As I walked around campus, the election results were all I heard people talking about. A group of friends who were walking in front of me started swearing profusely about it. I had half a mind to stop them, press record on my phone and ask for an interview, but I decided against it. When I did find people to interview, they almost always groaned when I said my topic was the U.S. election.

I kept interviewing, kept writing, and eventually submitted my story. Then, I collapsed on my couch, opened YouTube and typed in the words that I still couldn’t wrap my mind around: “Hillary Clinton concession speech”. I watched it, and it was only then, almost 12 hours after I heard the screaming, that the reality of the situation came crashing down on me.

It was then that I understood the true meaning of Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” quote from the Democratic National Convention in July. As I watched Hillary elegantly concede the dream of being the first woman President of the United States to a man who ran a campaign based around racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, hate… it was then that I cried.

I cried, and then I grabbed some tissues, and wiped away my raccoon eyes. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and promised myself that I was going to keep fighting for what I believe in, and supporting others who are doing the same. I reminded myself that losing the election did not have to mean losing hope. I thought of Pantsuit Nation, the secret Facebook group that Hillary mentioned in her speech, and I thought about all of the other women and men across the world who were feeling the same way as me.

In her concession speech, Hillary said that nothing has made her prouder than to be the champion of the young women who put their faith in her. Although I’m Canadian, and couldn’t have voted in the election, nothing has made me prouder than to watch Hillary Clinton fight for what she believes in, and to watch the positivity and hope that she continues to inspire in others.