WASHINGTON — Wednesday brought a blue tragic morning, and 59 million people share my sorrow. We the women are shell-shocked and gobsmacked. Hillary Clinton even won the popular vote — salt in the cut. If a bright shining leader of her generation came so close to being the first female president, only to lose, what woman will win the White House in our lifetime?
There are two Americas. Women leaned toward Clinton. Black women were her strongest supporters. But men elected Trump — meaning mostly white men, with some help from Latinos. Sex, power and privilege. That’s the deep story of this election. The nation was just about ready for a woman president, after the first black president. It’s a shame President Obama didn’t quite get there for her to make — or break — history, too.
Watching election night returns at the festive National Woman’s Democratic Club, suddenly I had a sense that we had hit an iceberg around 9. The hullabaloo hushed. The world is crumbling around us, a voice at my table said. But polls said Clinton had a comfortable advantage over her rambunctious trash-talking opponent, New York’s gift to humanity, Donald Trump. (Didn’t the Titanic captain say, “God himself could not sink this ship?”)
“If she (Clinton) loses, it’s not her fault,” said Hanna Sherrill, 30, who earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience. “She’s done everything she can. People wanted a reason to distrust her.” Hanna volunteered on the Clinton campaign in two key states, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
With Donald Trump in the center of the public square in 2017 — all of 2016, too — we have lots more public “discoarse” to look forward to: It won’t be pretty, folks. His lieutenants, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, will lead the rabble. If you like Barack Obama, enjoy his eloquence up until Jan. 20. Then darkness at noon.
“How can this be the same country that elected Obama twice?” asked Adrian Bondy, 30, a neuroscience post-doctoral student and a family friend. He and I stayed late at the Club, until the last dog died.
This heartbreaker brings us back to Al Gore in 2000, who also won the popular vote but lost the prize. I remember Clinton declaring then, we need to get rid of the ridiculous frock-coated Electoral College, an 18th-century relic. State by state does not reap fair and square results at the end of the day. Did someone say rigged?
Political obituaries are flying fast through the air. What we hear: The former secretary of state and senator was a “flawed” candidate. Obamacare was a bust. “Less educated” whites are not getting ahead, angry at Washington’s institutions. Clinton’s private email server at the State Department and FBI Director James Comey’s clumsy malfeasance made her seem secretive and untrustworthy. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican congressman who hounded her with a smirk, was a persistent enemy who did some damage. She’s not “likable.” And don’t forget, Clinton’s an elitist — while Trump represents the common man.
But let’s be real. Those things, perhaps perceptions, hurt Clinton, but the real reason she lost is getting lost. She lost because this country is at war with itself, even rural and city dwellers set apart. Trump, the New York City boy, shrewdly stoked the divides — racial, ethnic, religious and especially ratcheting up the anti-woman rhetoric. He loved the classy campaign chant, “Lock her up,” as if Clinton was a Salem witch. No decent Republican stopped the vilifying.
Earlier in the evening, the man on my left was the German deputy ambassador, Boris Ruge, who told me that Chancellor Angela Merkel believed Clinton’s election would be a major step toward promoting the equality of women. Clinton, who mended a hundred fences around the world after George W. Bush’s wars of choices, was more than worthy. The world knew it more than we did.
Wisconsin going red was a personal slight. Michigan made the Upper Midwest neighbors a blow to Clinton. Who knew?
The millennials we heard from were, like, wtf? Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court, too?
Adrian summed up: “The dark truth is that a lot of people liked his (Trump’s) racist, sexist message.”
Yet more than half of us voted for a worthy woman to be president. Cold comfort in American democracy.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
IMAGE: U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton attends a campaign rally accompanied by vice presidential nominee Senator Tim Kaine (not pictured) in Pittsburgh, U.S., October 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo