I marched because the election catapulted me out of a sleep I’ve been in for 25 years, ever since I got out of college, got a job, and set about living my life. I was marginally aware that the Democrats were running sucky candidates until Bill Clinton came along, but I always thought that the most interesting thing about Bill was Hillary anyway. I thought he was stupid for getting tangled up with an intern, but I was furious that Kenneth Starr spent $2 billion investigating nothing. Not furious enough to pick up the phone and call my representatives, had I known who they were, which I didn’t. But furious enough to occasionally mention it to my friends in Princeton, or to mix it up a little if I ran into a Clinton-basher.
Then came Bush, who I didn’t like but didn’t much care about. I thought Gore won in 2000, but I never called a representative, never wrote a letter to the editor, never engaged politically with anyone who could actually get anything done. And 9/11 when I felt a surge of patriotism and a quasi-respect for Bush which was fueled by what a terrible situation he had been handed. I was mad about the WMD, but not mad enough to call anyone, and I don’t hold it against any Senator who voted for the war. The pressure on them was intense, and their constituents were blind to any issue except the smoking crater that had once been downtown Manhattan.
And then came 2008, and the stock market crash and the resulting recession. Hillary was my candidate from the beginning, and I hated and resented Obama for taking her shot at the Presidency. (Not, mind you, enough to do anything beyond put a Hillary ’08 sticker on my car.) I didn’t decide to vote for Obama until I was in the voting booth, and I still think she would have done a better job. I know that he tried to be a good President, and how he was treated by the Republicans was infuriating, but again, I never connected politically with anyone who could do anything about it. I really just didn’t pay much attention. I was just so busy.
And then came Trump. I thought he was a joke at first, but I think I came to realize earlier than any of my immediate circle that he was going to get the nomination. He was really connecting with people, giving them permission to say things they had had to abandon speaking out loud because the parameters of polite society had turned against them. But all of a sudden people who had always felt that “Castro opened the jails and sent the worst convicts” or that “Muslims all know who’s a terrorist and who’s not” got a second wind with Trump, and were free to speak their hate and racism out loud. People who were sick of “white people getting the shaft” stopped feeling like an aggrieved minority and started feeling like their feelings were not just valid, but laudatory. People who I actually know to be racists and homophobes suddenly got all interested in trade agreements and the economy as their excuse for voting for him and because he’d “clean out the government” and “help get us back on top.” People who I know aren’t racists suddenly got willing to overlook a whole lot of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and tremendous, disqualifying character flaws because he’d “run government like a business” and “shake things up.”
But it was all going to be okay, because Hillary was going to win. Her vision for America was bright and beautiful, the “scandals” had been disproved so many times they didn’t even sting anymore, the email thing was annoying but not insurmountable, and she was better qualified than anyone ever to run for President. The debates cleared up any lingering doubts I had. I dismissed Bernie early on and was annoyed by those who stubbornly clung to him. I thought they’d get on board just as I had eight years earlier, especially since the alternative was so alarming. I just knew that the country that I loved would never allow this screaming bully, this autocratic con man, this unqualified, constitutionally illiterate man who was endorsed by the KKK to become President.
November 8th was one of the top five worst days of my life, and people who think it’s because Hillary lost aren’t even getting into the top ten reasons. That night brought an anxiety, a dread that I’ve never felt in my life. Because people laugh at him, but I knew that he was going to try to do everything he set out to do. He’s absolutely going to try to defund Planned Parenthood and overturn Roe vs. Wade, taking government into a place in my life and my daughters’ lives where it doesn’t belong. He’s going to try to make Muslims register, he’ll dress it up as something else but he’s going to do it. His appointment of Betsy DeVos is an attack on the public school system that has educated all of my children and that I consider a bedrock of society. Don’t even get me started on his attempts to intimidate the free press. The wall. The ACA, which he’s absolutely going to do his best to kill and then blame on the Democrats. Tweeting about nuclear proliferation. Taking the call from Taiwan. His kids. The Obama wiretaps. Russia.
I repudiate it all. The white supremacist chief adviser, saving a seat for Breitbart in the front row of the press conference, the “alternative facts,” the hate crimes he wouldn’t denounce, the endless, endless, endless lies and gaslighting, the emboldened racists, homophobes, misogynists, the Twitter tantrums, the way his elevation is making government officials everywhere display an unprecedented contempt for ethics and decency – just no. If he does something positive that doesn’t come at the expense of one of the groups he’s targeted, then I’m all for it. But I’m watching very closely. More closely than I’ve been watching in 25 years, because I feel deeply that he has potential to do tremendous, irreparable harm to my country, and I won’t stand for it. Not from a petty, Twitter-driven, narcissist who doesn’t care about being President any more than he cares about the people he’s President of.
I marched because I want to be counted as being against something that goes far beyond Democrat and Republican, far beyond men or women. I marched because I want him, and every elected representative in this country, to know that I’m awake now. And in four years, if it’s the Democrats – who are by no means innocent lambs when it comes to legislative shenanigans and partisan bullshit – threatening what I want for my country, then I’ll be marching against them.
I’m a patriot. I’m late to the party, but I’m all-in on the future of my country.
So that’s why I marched.
And then after the march, there’s moving forward. People ask me every day what they can and should “do about him,” like now that he’s in, it’s too late. Let’s wait for 2020. I think it’s always too late and never too late. It’s too late right now, because too many hate crimes have been committed, women have already died because their state legislatures have been able to pass draconian abortion restrictions, the defunding of ACA is already well underway, too many people have been sentenced to too many years in prison for non-violent drug felonies, too many people have died at the hands of the small percentage of racist police officers who should have been weeded out of police work or never been allowed into it. And yet, it’s never too late because we can start now to find and support candidates who will uphold our legislative agenda without weakening our position as a strong trade partner and while honoring our international agreements. Stop me if there should be an American flag waving gently in the background, but I feel like in America it’s never too late. If a person gets involved right this second, even if they’ve never done a single thing before, if enough people do, we can turn back this scary tide. It will be too late for some people and we’ll grieve for them, but it won’t be too late for others.
Maybe I’m an optimist, but I still think we got this.