The rhetoric on social media is clear: my millennial peers are not happy with the outcome of this election. Friends, colleagues, and former classmates are flooding Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat with posts exclaiming that president-elect Donald Trump is “not my president” and that it is “time for a revolution”. Like me, they feel angry, hurt, and blindsided by this election. Maybe we did not fully understand what was at stake, maybe we lost faith too quickly when Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race, maybe we assumed that others would donate their time and money to elect a president that best represents our values. Despite crushing disappointment, we can no longer be complacent and we will not wait to take action or make a stand again.
I should not have been blinded by this election outcome; I should have known better and I should have done more. On February 6, 2016, I laced up my sneakers and anxiously, excitedly hit the pavement in my New Hampshire hometown, canvassing for whom I hoped would become America’s first female president. Bernie Sanders was still in the race, but I had faith in my state and the rest of our nation.
On that cool, spring-like day I knocked on the door of a normal middle class home. A middle-aged White man opened the door and when I asked him who he was considering voting for in the 2016 New Hampshire primary he responded, “either Hillary… or that other guy”. At this point I assumed he meant Bernie Sanders, but I was hesitant to put words in his mouth. It seemed logical to me that someone would be undecided about two candidates from one party, not two candidates reflecting extremely different values and visions for this country. Then he proceeded, “you know, the one with all the money”. That was it. He was undecided between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump just days before the primary. What would become the 2016 presidential election unfolded in front of my very eyes: an America that is confused and divided.
My millennial peers were just as lost, desperately searching for signs of who to vote for just hours before the election or defiantly claiming that they would simply abstain from voting, refusing to chose between “the lesser of two evils”. These proclamations deeply unsettled me, but people like my grandfather, a simple, uneducated man who does not claim to be a feminist, yet firmly believes in equality for all genders, and who wholeheartedly believed in a Clinton-Kaine ticket, kept me hopeful. Every time I spoke to him throughout election season he expressed his excitement, through a quivering voice on the brink of tears, to see a woman take the Oval Office. He told me that in his 78 years of life he had never seen a more qualified candidate run for our nation’s highest office, and I agreed.
I am disappointed that respectively 17% and 13% of male and female of my millennial peers reported that they would not vote for either major party candidate in this very controversial and high-stakes election. I am confused by the thousands of Black and Hispanic voters who cast their ballots for Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections, but consciously chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton, the very woman who built her campaign on the basis of extending Obama’s legacy of progress for these groups as well as for those who are LGBT, female, and who represent many other marginalized groups.
I am a privileged, white, educated, middle class millennial woman, but I can empathize with the overwhelming sense of fear, uncertainty, and deceit many Americans felt during this election season. I understand the harm a Trump presidency will do to our country, and I am fearful for the millions of Americans who will lose healthcare when the Affordable Care Act gets repealed; for our Black and Hispanic neighbors who each and every day fear unnecessary incarceration and police brutality; for the millions of women who are terrified they will lose autonomy over their own body; and for the three to five Supreme Court Justice seats that may be appointed during Trump’s reign, making fundamental decisions that will impact our health, wellbeing, and rights for decades to come.
Together we must channel this fear to not make America great again, but maintain the greatness that is America. We will ensure that confused, divided Americans like the one I encountered in-person days before the New Hampshire primary or over the internet hours before the election are no longer conflicted, but ignited to continue to build an America that is united and works for all of its citizens. As President Barack Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek”. We will persevere and we will carry on the legacy that my generation, grandfather, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton had hoped for us. This time we waited, but we will not make that mistake again.