Tuesday of this week was Election Day, which means that Tuesday was the day last year when Donald Trump was elected President.
I felt a twinge in my stomach as I was going through my Facebook memories that morning. I saw the picture my family took shortly after my wife and I had voted for Hillary. Three of our faces were lit up with the smiles of people who had executed their civic duty 1 and who had played a part in electing the first female Commander-In-Chief (it was only three smiling faces because Shayna just looked like she wanted to go back home).
I remembered feeling a sort of nervous excitement. It wasn’t just that I was part of something bigger than myself, a movement that was going to continue the progress that had been made over the previous eight years. It was the fact that I knew that our country was at a turning point at that moment. Election Day 2016 was going to mark a new chapter in our country’s relatively short lifespan and my family and I were a part of writing the new chapter. Both of my children were going to be able to point to our new leader and see a woman in the highest position of power in our country. My daughter was going to have a new concept of the possibilities available to her and my son was going to be able to understand that women need to be seen as leaders too in order for our country to truly succeed. In my vision, not only had a woman finally reached the “top,” she had done so against an opponent who was unapologetic about using racism and misogyny as core aspects of his political platform. It just couldn’t have gotten much better than that.
Of course, we know that’s not how things turned out.
I processed my feelings about the election results in a blog post the following morning. I wrote a letter to my children begging them not to give up hope about their futures and not to be scared if they saw adults having trouble handling the moment. I reminded them of the strengths they had already begun to demonstrate, even at their young ages, and the fact that they were poised to use those strengths to speak up for their values as they grew older.
On Wednesday, the day after this year’s election, I felt like that hope from 2016 had been justified. It was an off-year election this year, so there weren’t as many major races to watch. I focused mostly on the governors races in Virginia and New Jersey; one state was finishing out the tenure of Chris Christie, the governor who could not have fallen lower in public opinion, and the other had a Republican candidate running on a platform of xenophobia similar to Donald Trump’s from 2016. The Democrats won each election, though, as well as a number of other races where progressive candidates beat opponents trying to push the same agendas of racism and sexism that Trump ran on last year.
Let’s be clear: I’m fully aware that the election results earlier this week will have a relatively small impact with regard to the rest of the country. Democratic governors in two states, one of which has already had a Democratic governor for the past few years, are not going to have much influence on whether or not the federal government decides to slash Medicaid funding as part of a new healthcare bill. They won’t be able to stop a bill that forces middle- and lower-class families to give the government more money in order to replace enormous tax cuts for the wealthiest businessmen and corporations in America. What they will be able to do, however, is ensure that their states continue to move with the times by vetoing bills that discriminate against their citizens or by working to ensure that undocumented Dreamers can remain in the country under DACA.
This year’s election may not have the same wide-ranging influence as the national elections for president or seats in Congress but it was never supposed to. This election was all about the nation’s response to the first year of the Trump presidency. It was about people choosing to speak out against the rhetoric of hate that Trump used to get elected and demonstrating that we are better than that. It was about citizens saying that they were unhappy with the choices that were made last year and that they were not going to allow the same mistakes to be made again.
Last year, I wrote that my children should be hopeful and ready to fight. This year, I get to tell them we took the first steps back in the right direction.
1. The memories also included this exchange:
Me: We did it! We fulfilled our civic duty.
Eitan: Hahaha, Daddy said doody!↩
Featured image credit: CC0 Creative Commons