Choosing love and kindness in the wake of the election

Illustration by Herbie Hickmott

Illustration by Herbie Hickmott

The Morning After

by Lucy Vernasco

By 4:15 p.m., our only trace left in the Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Clinton campaign office was the 3-foot-tall “H” drawn on the chalkboard behind the counter.

It was the week after the election, and our phone-banking card tables were in their final resting places in the former café’s basement alongside chairs, clipboards and Clinton-Kaine signs. The realness struck me in a way it hadn’t before, and I really questioned whether the place had ever been a campaign office at all.

As a member of Hillary Clinton’s Pennsylvania team, I can say that Nov. 9, 2016, was one of the worst days of my life.

I’m devastated, not only because we didn’t elect Hillary, but because hate and anger won. Since the election, my grief has transferred from numbness to hopelessness and depression. Now? I’m angry. I’m also worried that complacency is beginning to spread and Americans are going to accept the president-elect as “normal.” But acceptance will only set us back further.

This election has put things in perspective for me. It’s taught me that even though most Americans voted to continue a progressive movement with Hillary Clinton, there are many voters who feel disenfranchised and left behind who made their voices heard by voting for the president-elect. If we really do want to continue the progress we’ve made, we need to reach out to Trump voters, listen to their perspectives and stories, and learn why they feel the way they do.

Despite my initial anguish, I’m not dashing away to Canada, escaping back to the liberal bubble of San Francisco or off to work in a fluorescent-lit office in Manhattan. I’m staying right here in Philadelphia to continue the work we started, to protect our most vulnerable from the president-elect’s policies and to support local progressive candidates.

In that spirit, just days after the election, I attended a breakfast at the Urban Affairs Coalition with a friend and fellow activist. The theme of the event was, fittingly, “Where do we go from here—chaos or community?”

We all have choices to make right now about how we move forward. In the past week I’ve received messages from friends and acquaintances asking what they can do or, more often, saying, “I don’t know what to do.”

I’m going to hold on to the fact that Nov. 8, 2016, was one of the best days of my life.

I nearly skipped down Broad Street before casting my ballot, and I had more butterflies rustling in my stomach than during my date the previous week. Never before has a woman’s name appeared in bold font on a major party’s ticket. Despite the results, casting my ballot for the first woman president made history. Nobody can take that hope and glee away from me and from everyone else who cast a historic vote for a platform of progress.

Anytime I do feel despair, I look at the Hillary Clinton poster in my room that says, “When you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.” Hillary wouldn’t want us to spend our days sulking. She would encourage us to get back into our communities, support our most vulnerable and find the courage to “do the most good.” Hillary would want us to organize and to fight back—not with violence but with love and kindness.

Lucy Vernasco was the Pennsylvania deputy digital director at Hillary for America.