The Emotional Journey of the 2016 Election

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I am buzzing with excitement. Election Day is here! I have traversed the full spectrum of emotions over this exceedingly long election cycle. When did this start, again? Was it 2012?

I began the whole episode in a kind of denial. After working to elect President Obama, I felt a kind of exhaustion and dissatisfaction with the fact that his election did not change the entire world. I had naively believed it would do just that. I thought racism could officially die its long-overdue death. I thought the whole world would be made new with the possibilities. That Republicans would be eager to work with our new President who had the closest thing to a mandate I remember emerging from an election in my lifetime.

When that didn’t come to pass (and in many cases, rather, the opposite effect than that I had imagined), I kind of hung up my political shoes. Though I had grown up imagining being the first female President of the United States, majored in Government, and gone to law school, all in the service of this dream, suddenly I found myself avoiding politics altogether. I couldn’t even watch This Week with George Stephanopoulos, a show I have taped weekly since I first got a TiVo (remember those?).

When Hillary Clinton announced she would run for President, I was excited, but then even that excitement faded. I didn’t really even pay attention throughout the Democratic Primary process. I knew enough to know that I wanted Hillary or Bernie to win the nomination, but I pretty much left it at that. When my then-five year-old son told me on the eve of the California primary that he wanted Hillary Clinton to win the because “she would be the first woman President ever!,” suddenly I was awoken from my political slumber.

From that point forward, I was all in, and being all in, I was shuttled onto the high speed train of emotions that inevitably follows. There was the great pride and hope that I felt attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where I watched with a tear-soaked face as Hillary accepted the nomination of the Democratic party as the first woman of either major political party to do so. There was the elation when, following the Convention, the polls started to shift and it seemed like Hillary had all the momentum she needed to win the election.

There was the dismay as the Republican candidate continued to make statements that denigrated group after group of people in this country (from the disabled to veterans, Mexicans to Muslims, and women of just about every stripe). I hit rock bottom sometime in the days following the emergence of the Access Hollywood tape wherein Trump bragged about assaulting women. At that point, I spent a few days feeling seriously depressed. Was this the true state of affairs? Had I, despite my feminist leanings, somehow failed to realize that this deep level of sexism still existed? I had genuinely believed that sexism, of the twenty-first century variety, was more sub-conscious and insidious, and rarely, if ever, so blatant and disgusting. Had I been wrong this whole time?

I spent the next week querying every male with whom I felt close enough to discuss this. I asked them, “Is this kind of thing normal? Do all men talk like this?” The answers I got were confusing and tended to cut along generational lines. I heard everything from “No one talks like that” to “Every time I am in the company of men when women aren’t around, they talk like this.” I walked away confused and disheartened. Wherever the truth lay, it was definitely worse than I had imagined. And I felt worse than I remember ever feeling due to politics (even more depressed than I’d felt when Walter Mondale lost overwhelmingly to Ronald Reagan, when I was five and living in a home where my mother had been passionate about Democratic politics).

I started to feel a bit better when the outrage about these statements swelled and seemed to come from women of all walks of life. When Michelle Obama gave powerful voice to her outrage and said she had been “rocked to her core” by the statements, I felt like I wasn’t alone.

Of course, these better feelings were complicated by the fact that Trump refused to really apologize and, rather, threatened to sue the women who alleged that he did exactly as he said he did; all while claiming that “no one respects women more than [he] does.”

Around this time, I began monitoring the daily polls obsessively, which had the effect of making my emotions even more susceptible to wild swings. When James Comey, Director of the FBI, sent a letter to members of Congress, nine days before the election, saying that his Bureau would be looking into additional emails which might have an effect on their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server; and then, two days before the election, said the search of those emails had been concluded and did nothing to change his previous finding that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted for anything having to do with the server, the wild emotional swings were only intensified.

But now, we’re there. We have arrived at the day that we’ve collectively been looking toward for more than a year. And, despite my wild mood swings, I have watched Hillary Clinton be incredibly steady in the face on unbelievable pressure. I still can’t believe that she managed to debate— three times!— an opponent whose next move is always literally unpredictable. She didn’t even lose her s*** (publicly, at least) when, just when it looked like she had just about made it to the finish line, after working at a break-neck pace for over a year, that the FBI Director was stepping in and ignoring precedent to stay out of the realm that could be accused of affecting the outcome of elections in a way that could easily be perceived as damaging her chances. She just kept working.

And, I am confident, that this is exactly what she will do if she is elected President. Because it’s what she has done her whole career.

This is a historic moment. And I know that, regardless of the outcome, I am going to be an emotional mess for a bit when it’s over. Because it’s either going to be a massive relief and celebration, or the opposite. And, either way, I have at least six months (if not a lifetime) of pent up emotions inside that need to come out in order for me to totally move on.

Happy Election Day! Go Vote!!

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