Election night I saw my daughter, fifteen, go to bed in tears, and at four in the morning, she was up again, in tears.
Tuesday morning, she went with me into the voting booth, and fiercely, triumphantly pushed the button for me in what she felt certain would be a historic election of our first woman president. As we went through all the state and local candidates, I showed her how to do a write-in for a candidate with no scruples for whom I could not vote. I am in a swing state, and I did not do that for President.
I let my daughter’s enthusiasm stand in for mine. I am not a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton, who has been in political leadership almost my entire adult lifetime. Because of this, she has a large grasp on world affairs, she is brilliant, and she is clear-minded. She is also centrist (yes, I am a Sanders supporter, much more socialist than most of my family), a political insider, and a machine candidate.
My initial and largest hope for this debacle of an election was that the United States would finally break the hegemony of the two-party system. I yearn for a system which allows people to find a platform they truly wish to support, which would ask all parties to negotiate. Instead, we have this: an election in which the majority of us voted as a “vote against” instead of a true vote for.
Like much of America, I am happy about somewhat stronger voter turnout. Yet I am terrified at what draws people out of their doors to vote.
From her debut on the national political scene in Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for the presidency, Hillary Clinton has evoked a visceral public reaction. Even twenty-five years ago, I knew this was not because of who she is, but because she broke expectations of what a first lady should be.
In my corner of the world, people didn’t like that she chaired major policy initiatives such as analyzing health care delivery in this country. First ladies before Eleanor Roosevelt did nothing but decorate the White House, themselves, and the arms of their spouses. After Eleanor, they were allowed to speak out for children and do community service. But they were not allowed to put their brains and know-how to draft and propose policy, as Hillary did, and the public made her pay for it.
For more than two decades, Hillary has gotten slammed in part because she is what I am trying to be in this world—a strong, outspoken, intelligent woman. This gets all mixed up with valid critiques about her liaison to power, her lack of frankness and duplicity, and whatever people feel like about her actual political positions, but it is separate from it. Hillary has always been more vulnerable precisely because she is a strong woman.
I believe this same attitude, a kind of disruption of the norm, has made sure Barack Obama got more hate, more scrutiny, and more opposition as President than he would have if he were white. I am unshakeable in this, and I also realize it cannot be proven to those who do not share my viewpoint. So let that rest.
To the instinct that drew people out of their doors to vote against an entrenched political establishment, I can resonate. I too yearn for more authentic leadership, bipartisan work across the aisles, less rhetoric and more compromise, less money and patronage.
I see and feel acutely the urban-rural divide. I decry the polarization and lack of political dialogue in this country, which I believe has been intensely aggravated by our little social media bubbles as well as the ridiculous insistence by both Fox and CNN news that they are not biased. (Why not just be truthful and have the conservative, liberal, and centrist news sources labeled that way as happens in Europe?)
I have very strong opinions on the environment, immigration, the disparity of wealth and poverty, international dialogue and the role of America in the global community, anti-militarism, and overturning institutional racism. At a macro-level, these seem more important and more life sheltering.
But I get that others see it differently. My 85-year-old mother who shows up weekly at a clinic to give women options for the adoption of their unborn children could not vote for a pro-choice candidate. My in-law voted for the Supreme Court, and who would be choosing the nominees. My uncle voted for the iconoclastic Trump who said anything he thought, and the freedom of that. A cousin feels the sexuality stuff has gone way too far, and that somehow a Trump vote would rein that in.
However, I am furious at the existence of a Christian community that elevates some of these concerns over others and uses them as a litmus test for the legitimacy of one’s faith. I hate the Christian world (mostly white and comfortable) that assumes a monolithic Christian political opinion.
Each one of these very different concerns, “right” and “left,” has some valid biblical basis. There is no Christian platform. There are just different platforms that fervent, rooted Christians support. To put God unequivocally on my side is to replicate the abuse I have endured my entire life.
Could I have voted for Hillary Clinton if she had said sordid, sexually violent comments about men? Racist comments, and then corrected them? If she had no electoral experience at all? If she was narcissist and inflammatory?
And would I have done that because she, on paper, represented my personal political perspectives? I am so glad I was not faced with this dilemma, but most conservative Christians I know who were voted for their guy, so perhaps I would have done the same thing.
It was hard for me to understand how moral Christians I know were able to jettison so many of their values in the end to back Trump. Many young people I know could not, which is why many millennials opted not to vote in this election at all. I’ve heard from them, shocked and afraid, all day this day after.
There is a kind of terror at this unmasking of America; at what brought people out to the voting booth. “I have to look in this electoral mirror and see what my country is, and who they would vote for,” writes one. “This overturns all the justice I have worked for in my life. I can’t think about the life of my children.”
Yet when I look ahead, at the shadows of what might come, I realize I will still count on the loving nature of the Christians I know. While I know some granite-hearted, ideology-first believers in Jesus, most of the ones I know have a strong capacity for love.
If I have been deluded by my own fears, and things go well, I will let down my guard and accept another term of political compromise. That’s the breaks. If others have been led by their ideology over their compassion, I trust the Spirit to be working on them.
But if my worst fears about Trump unfold, and we move toward dictatorship, overt racism and sexism, and increased poverty and world isolation because of his leadership in “making America great again,” I will be calling them all and asking them to step out of their comfort zones (comfortable in every way) to join me in courageous, costly witnesses to the way of love. Because I only believe in political perspectives that cost one something.
I expect us all to show up.
Politics are murky and struck through with power and ugly principalities. But compassion is never misguided. That is where I hope to stand.
Dee Dee Risher is a writer and editor who lives in Philadelphia. Her recent book, The Soulmaking Room (Upper Room Books), talks, appropriately, about faith, authenticity, and grief.