On the eve of Election Day 2016, it’s hard not to feel embattled, embittered, and more than a little bit exhausted. Just look at the many events of the last two months. We’ve had a reality-TV star–turned–presidential candidate stoke racism and xenophobia and promote violence (e.g., threatening to ban all Muslims in America and build a wall along Mexico); repeatedly demean his opponent (“nasty woman,” never forget); and broadcast his relentless misogyny on a global platform (including spewing misinformation about abortion and boasting of grabbing pussies). And, frighteningly enough: It has earned him even more support. In fact, it’s spawned a movement and set the stage for quite possibly a new right-wing media company.
As much as we’d like to believe that tomorrow will bring relief, we know Trump & Co. aren’t going anywhere. Should Hillary Clinton trounce him, we’ll be looking down the barrel of, as Samantha Bee so eloquently put it, “a tsunami of misogyny.” But there’s a flip side to the repugnance of this political season: interactions that have fortified us, moments that have strengthened us, and a visceral motivation to fight even harder for what we believe is right. This election’s taken its toll. But it’s taught us, too.
We asked some of our favorite people—writers, activists, artists—to reflect on this political season, to not only recount the most horrifying moment of the election to date, but also, more importantly, to share what gives them hope. And, it turns out, there’s a lot to be hopeful about. Pussy grabs back. And it starts at the polls.
EMILY REMS, managing editor BUST magazine
For me, the most horrifying moment was the point in the third presidential debate in which Trump said as a rebuttal to Secretary Clinton’s eloquent defense of a woman’s right to choose: “If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it’s not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”
This kind of fear mongering isn’t only completely inaccurate, but it is also calculated to make women exercising their rights to make deeply personal decisions regarding their own bodies sound like evil monsters. The fact is, third trimester abortions are extremely rare, and when they are performed, it is either because the fetus is not expected to survive outside the womb because of drastic abnormalities, or because the mother’s life is in grave danger. There is no “ripping the baby out” in the ninth month. The child is delivered, and is either already deceased or passes away shortly after delivery because of the aforementioned abnormalities. NOBODY has late-term abortions simply because they don’t feel like being a parent. The circumstances that necessitate this kind of intervention are devastating and deeply personal. So for Donald Trump to use such graphic, disgusting, dishonest scare tactics to justify his plans to overturn Roe v Wade and rob women of their right to choose—that was beyond horrifying to me.
In my 15 years working in feminist media, I’ve often had people say to me, “Women and men are equal now. The war has already been won. Why don’t you focus your energy somewhere else?” But interestingly, nobody has said that to me in the last year, I think because the blatant sexism on display during this campaign has been so high profile. If anything, I think Donald Trump’s long campaign of ignorance has energized the women’s movement in a way we haven’t seen since the riot grrrl heyday of the ’90s. It’s a really exciting time to be a feminist, because regardless of what happens on election day, we know there is still plenty of work left to do and we are united in our renewed passion to get the job done.
EMILY ROBINSON, actor (Transparent) and writer/director (Virgin Territory)
I’m 18 years old and this election has already given me gray hairs. I’ve named them: “He Who Shall Not Be Named One,” “Two,” “Three,” and “Four.” I keep thinking I’ve had “the moment” where it’s all just too much and I break down. Unfortunately, this election seems to be so terrifying and anxiety-inducing for me that it hasn’t been one moment, but a series of many. That being said, October 20th, the day after the third and final presidential debate, I was sitting in my car about to walk into a meeting and I just started crying. “I’ll keep you in suspense,” he said. With that one sentence, Trump had casually questioned the very fiber of our democracy. It is all-too-easy as it is to make the comparisons to Hitler and talk about his relations with Russia. But now he has threatened to “lock her up,” in the words of his supporters, banned an entire religion, claimed to have grabbed women by their pussies, and disavowed our democratic process.
While I’m very enthusiastic that this historic election is the first in which I can participate, I’d much rather that the candidates not value one-liners going viral over elaborating on their policies. After all, this is the interview process for the highest American office, not some new reality TV show. I’m really hoping that we’re able to learn from this election. With the -isms and -phobias more blatant than ever, I truly hope civil rights and social justice come to the forefront of this next presidential term. Let’s use this horrifying mess of an election cycle to continue to move our country forward and not back to the years before the 19th Amendment. (Like seriously…the fact that #repealthe19th trended on Twitter is scary AF.)
Having our first female major-party nominee is no small feat. Although America’s just playing catch-up to many other nations in regards to race and gender equality, the progress we have made is not to be discounted. The fact that young girls can look to Hillary Clinton and realize they really can become president when they grow up is a win in and of itself. The teenage girl who sits next to you on the bus every day might very well become the next “nasty woman” to get things done.
STACEY PATTON, writer and DAME’s “How It Is” columnist
I am most horrified by the fact that we have become a country that has to settle on choosing between "the lesser of two evils." What does it say about a country that settles for any measure of evil and that the primary motivation for electing one presidential candidate is to keep the other out of the White House because he is scary? What gives me hope is the possibility that regardless of who wins, this election may be just the inspiration this country needs to spark some radical change from the ground up.
SARA BENINCASA, writer and comedian
The most horrifying moments were when Trump incited violence among his supporters, whether alluding casually to “the second amendment people” taking care of Hillary, or in any other instances where he whipped them up around gun rights and then commanded them to monitor polls. He’s a racist, sexist demagogue and he follows that playbook really closely. And in the manner of a true narcissist with a personality disorder, he believes he invented said playbook. I imagine there will be sad and bad moments on Election Day and I would not be at all surprised if some of his supporters commit violence in his name. I’m heartened by the fact that Pro Publica and citizen journalists, poll workers, actual nonpartisan election watchers, and hopefully local and state law enforcement are committed to ensuring a fair and honest election as we have experienced in countless general election cycles for many, many years. In fact, according to Columbia Journalism Review, 300 newsrooms intend to help monitor voting problems.
The best moments have come in the form of sharp humor by intelligent persons of conscience. There are the bigger examples, like moments on Saturday Night Live, but there are also hilarious moments on Twitter by folks who are lesser-known but still incredibly funny, and who are willing to puncture Trump’s hubris and to answer his call to evil with a call to laughter, joy, and civility.
HOLLAND TAYLOR, actress, and author and performer of Ann, the one-woman show about the late, great Ann Richards
There having been increasing moments of escalating horror as Trump’s appalling character reveals itself more and more... and he becomes ... MORE popular! The shock for me, and the bad news, is actually about our population. The fact that we have gone from being a frontrunner in the world for education down to 28th in a half century says it all. We are now dominantly ignorant and uncultivated. We are a nation taught only how to consume. Only a fraction of public schools offer art class, music class, and civics, which were standard when I was a kid. Too many of our people lack understanding of the world and of history or even values, it seems, if Trump is their candidate. It’s hard to believe that such a big percentage of the country wants to turn it over to this mentally insufficient “strong man” who will “take care” of the country while they wander the aisles of Walmart sucking on their supersize sodas.
Not long ago I changed my will to have almost all bequests go to schools I admire, not colleges—high schools. If we don’t have schooling as our top priority, we are finished already. Our spending as a nation is the most depressing thing about us: over half our budget for defense, when our only real future is our children.
M.G. LORD, writer and political cartoonist
What horrifies me: The third-party voters—particularly since the most progressive legislation in this country has occurred when we had centrist presidents, LBJ for example. Who could take Gary “What Is Aleppo?” Johnson seriously? Or do these voters want anti-vaxxer Stein to unleash a fresh epidemic of small pox? And if I may add, the saddest detail for me is Susan Sarandon’s apparent early onset dementia. Her movie, The Hunger, had been one of my favorites. But because of her malicious, unhinged rants, I can never again bring myself to watch it.
EMILY MCCOMBS, Huffington Post Editorial Director, Parents
I have actually been politicized by this election. While I’ve always been a fierce defender of social justice and fought for equality, I’ve avoided electoral politics. Partly because I didn’t feel informed enough about electoral politics and because trying to engage with mainstream politics and especially the inherent sexism of it all left me too angry and emotional to function. Partly because eight years ago I was just about to start getting sober and didn’t have my life together enough to open my mail, much less vote. But it was also because, having come from a red state and now living in a blue state, it didn’t seem like my vote really mattered.
This election has been different. These candidates are different. Trump actively wants to harm people I love—my gay, lesbian, and transgender friends; my friends and my son who are not white; and women like me. Hearing Trump’s uninformed, inflammatory description of what he thinks abortion is was a low point of this election for me, as was hearing his suggestion that the women who are accusing him of sexual assault are looking for their “10 minutes of fame.”
If something good comes out of this it’s that I know there are lots of other disillusioned citizens like me who will be exercising their right to vote for the first time on Tuesday. I’m 33 and I’m with her.
MARTHA PLIMPTON, actor (currently starring in ABC’s The Real O’Neals), writer, and activist
It’s hard to pick one horrifying moment that beats any of the others. They all sort of come at a person one after the other, to the point where the true horror is in the brief silence when you realize that one of our two major parties has decided that there is no greater wrong than to elect a woman president. Better for the whole thing to fail than let a woman hold the highest office in the land. Whatever it takes, apparently.
My hope for the future is entirely reality-based: we will have one. And it will include us having a woman in charge. We are clearly that slow in this country, that having a woman president is going to be a big deal.
AMANDA M. WILS, writer
My mother died in April after eight years of chemotherapy to treat terminal cancer. Less than a month later, after I’d written something about losing her, I received a message that read, “If my daughter was a corporate whore supporting Hillary like you I’d die of shame too.” My car was vandalized as well (four times), but there was something especially cruel about that message, and it left me kind of breathless and sick. My mom was extraordinarily proud of me, but that’s not even the point.
From where I sit right now, a week out from Election Day, it’s hard to have much hope for the future when it comes to politics. I’m afraid of what has been unleashed this election cycle. I’m afraid that it won’t suffer being shoved back underneath its rock. But young people are what give me hope for the future. Every generation gets more tolerant, more open-minded, more used to diversity as a normal thing that they take for granted. My generation (I’m an older Millennial) supports marriage equality, strong legal protections for LGBT people, a woman’s right to choose and access to contraception, etc., at higher rates than do my parents’ generation (they’re young-ish Baby Boomers).
I also think it matters that we are getting more diverse as a country. My parents are pretty liberal, but all it took was me growing up with folks who didn’t look like me or practice their faith like me or always speak English to just accept that people are still people. It wasn’t a sophisticated kind of understanding about race or religion or cultural identity. I was just a kid who sat next to other kids in a classroom, and all of us hated homework, and all of us complained about school lunches, and all of us had siblings or parents who were annoying sometimes, and that was enough. The fact that we’re an increasingly diverse country, that kids will grow up with friends whose skin is a different color, with kids who are gay or trans, with kids whose parents are from another country, and that all of this will just be normal, that gives me hope. These kids will hopefully grow up and not have to waste so much time arguing about basic human rights, and they’ll be able to focus on the environment, the economy, and all of these other things that older generations largely refuse to deal with because we’re too busy yelling at each other about the degrees to which one person is more human—and therefore more deserving of rights—than another human. I am putting a lot of trust into these kids, and I think they’ve earned it.
MICHAEL KASDAN, Director of Special Projects for The Good Men Project
I’d have to say the most horrifying moment is a dead heat between 1) the weekend when the #TrumpTape story broke and the follow-on stories of his past victims coming forward, plus the reaction of Trump and his Band of Deplorables (aka “Surrogates”); and 2) the slowly dawning realization that he was consistently calling upon and calling to white supremacists, the KKK, and neo nazis, and the consistent reaction by so many to deny what is plainly true.
Hillary’s performance at the three debates was inspiring in many ways, but her Reno speech was the moment I fell in love with this candidate as a leader, as my candidate. Because she called out hate directly and said, “We’re better than this.”
What gives me hope is, still (amazingly!), people. People like the likeminded badasses in the secret pro-Hillary groups on Facebook. People who choose hope over hate. People—men, women, conservatives, liberals—in the #StopTrump Task Force I participated in, who came together to work for the kind of America we should all aspire to be.
MARILEE LINDEMANN, associate professor of English and executive director of College Park Scholars at the University of Maryland, co-founder of one of the many secret Facebook group for Hillary supporters
The most horrifying moment for me happened this past week, as I watched congressional Republicans and the director of the FBI collude to hijack our democracy and place a stunningly unqualified man in the Oval Office. I’m 57 years old, have followed politics closely my entire adult life, and I’ve never seen anything like it. It has saddened me to watch Secretary Clinton have to gut her way through the campaign against such an unworthy opponent, but the denouement is terrifying. Even if she wins, it’s clear Republicans are prepared to treat her as illegitimate and to continue smearing, obstructing, and just generally refusing to govern. They seem not to care that we have a country to run and a dangerous world to navigate. (It’s funny that I’m answering this question without mentioning the toxic stew of misogyny, racism, ableism, xenophobia, and know-nothingism that has been served up over the several months of this race. And by “funny” I mean I can’t believe I’m not even horrified by that stuff anymore. I’m just overwhelmed.)
What gives me hope? Well, no matter how this race turns out, no one can deny that this country still has a lot of work to do on sexism, misogyny, and a host of other matters of difference. We are not nearly as far along the road to equality as most people naively thought we were. Painful as it’s been, I’m glad to have had some of those illusions dispelled. I’ve been heartened to see men admit they had no idea how much sexism women deal with on a daily basis—from body-shaming and discrimination to “locker room talk” and sexual assault. My hope is that some good will come from the public display of Trump’s grotesque misogyny and the obvious gender biases in media coverage of the campaign. I hope we’ve all learned something about how outrageous it is to demand that women be “likable” above all else. Mostly, though, I find hope in the faces of all the kids—boys as well as girls—who have grown up watching this campaign and know from having seen it that a woman can be a major party candidate for president. Here’s hoping they’ll learn a woman can also win the presidency—fair, square, and finally.