For the past three months I campaigned for Hillary Clinton. I voted for her. I was at Javits Center in New York City on Election Night, thousands of us prematurely jubilant and chanting, prepared to splash champagne and celebrate her victory.
Hillary chose the massive and modernistic Javits Center for her celebration because of its glass ceiling. Which she would symbolically break that night by becoming our First Female President.
Then something happened. Voting results started coming in. Hillary was ahead, Trump was trailing. Then suddenly Trump was gaining. Things grew quiet in Javits Center. Thousands of us watched the numbers change. Trump was suddenly ahead. Then a red-faced man stood up on a chair and shouted. "JESUS CHRIST! TRUMP IS SURGING!" People screamed. I saw black women kneel and pray.
The rest is history. Hillary never appeared that night. At 2:30 A.M. her campaign manager John Podesta appeared onstage and solemnly announced that there would be no fireworks, no celebration. I think he said, "Go home and pray." By then Hillary had called Donald Trump and conceded. Thousands of us stood in the streets at 3 A.M. stunned and literally speechless.
America is still asking itself WHAT HAPPENED? After a good long cry, I set myself the task of finding out how the polls that predicted Hillary's victory had been so mind-blowingly WRONG. I've talked to friends in Florida, in Iowa, in Texas, in Michigan. I reran documentaries by political watchdogs like Michael Moore warning us that Trump would win the election. I've talked to a senator. And to hardhats working on construction sites.
Now I understand that EVERYTHING was wrong, not just the polls. Like many East Coast Liberals, and West Coast liberals, and liberals of my beloved homeland, Hawaii, we have not been listening closely. Our country has been in existential crisis for years. Long before 9/11, Americans of the heartland have been crying out for change.
That's why this Presidential race transmogrified into one long, extended nervous breakdown. The gang fights and blood baths at the rallies, the club-swinging SWAT teams in the streets. Meanwhile, only one bombastic big mouth with over-bottled hair seemed to hear the deep rage pouring out of rural America. Only Trump seemed to heed the burning frustrations of the Heartland.
Suddenly this Cro-Magnon of a billionaire became the voice of America's Rust Belt, its Root-Worm Belt, its unreconstructed flood towns, its dead factory towns, its unemployed, its uninsured, its disenfranchised, its uneducated, and perennially ignored. And, importantly, its disabled veterans, young men and women who sacrificed their youth, their limbs, their futures for wars they didn't want and never understood.
Somehow Donald Trump became their champion. He crapped all over our government. He crapped all over the status quo. He became a force for pandemonium, promising to purge the 'garbage in Washington,' bring in fresh blood and start to heal the living scars of towns across our country. This beast of unknown phylum had hit a chord with voiceless Americans.
I'm not sure America desired Donald Trump as much as it desired CHANGE. The chance to repudiate the status quo. Americans wanted to be HEARD. In their eyes the Democrats offered nothing. Hillary Clinton was 'recycled.' She had been part of Washington's elite 'back-scratchers' for decades. She had not 'worked enough for rural America.' Plus there were too many blips in her moral codes. The email chronicles, the disappeared funds of millions of dollars in the Clinton Foundation.
Trump attacked her with a vengeance, blaming her and her 'establishment chronies' for the psychic and fiscal carnage in America. It may be that Trump needed the unemployed and the disenfranchised as much as they needed him. Forgotten America gave him a platform, a cause. And Trump gave them a VOICE.
Then I learned something I already knew, but had not paid attention to. Marching alongside rural America were the New Millennials. Strange bedfellows? No. Because young, smart, ambitious Millennials also wanted CHANGE. Drastic change. That's why they, too, voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Male, female. Whites, Asians, Blacks, even deracinated Native Americans. Their message?
"The average middle-class white voter has gone the way of the woolly mammoth. Voters today are younger, smarter, more culturally diverse, more progressive and global in their thinking. Our current government has not kept pace. It's an 'old-establishment' corpse waiting for a coffin. It's time to give the corpse a proper burial. Bring in new flesh and blood. Trump will do this. His renegade-ethos is what gave him the election."
Inevitably, I asked Millennials how they felt about Hillary's failure to break the glass ceiling and become the first woman President. A young female attorney looked at me and shrugged. "I voted for Donald Trump. Sure, he's a bully and a bigot. But he's smart. He'll make important changes. The Democrats should have offered someone fierce and new, not Hillary Clinton. We need more than a vagina in the White House."
My daughter, Anita, and son-in-law, Robert, voted for Trump. When I asked my daughter why, she reiterated the young attorney's response. "Hillary represents the old establishment. The same worn-out rhetoric. America is dying for new, radical changes. I voted for a President, not a vagina."
Still, I am sad. I think of important issues Hillary fought for during her decades in politics. Higher wages for women, higher education for underprivileged children, more subsidized child care centers, more support for HIV patients, more research on the HIV virus. The right of every woman to a legal abortion. These were milestones we cannot forget.
Hilary's election to the Presidency would have been a culmination of the Equality we women marched and fought for in the 1970's. She did not win, but she has paved the way. One day a woman will be elected President. But not today.
As for Donald Trump. How will he settle into the role of President? Perhaps the way a fakir settles on a bed of nails. Extremely cautiously. Or perhaps his gargantuan ego will prevail, and throw America into chaos in the first one hundred days. My most fervent hope is that he keeps his promise to the Heartland. That he creates millions of jobs and brings our people to their feet.
Meanwhile, I think of the way he garbles English, how he turns sentences into tossed salads with the gravitas of a Nobel recipient. How will he communicate with World Leaders? How will they react to the flying buttress of his Day-Glo hair?
I think of his temperament, how it swerves from feigned prissiness to projectile-vomiting rage. How will he control it? We can only pray.
And if the gods are good, he will begin to learn restraint, and maybe gray his hair. And most importantly, surround himself with experienced, level-headed advisors who understand Diplomacy.
Time will tell. For America, each day is now a leaping. Pray the net will appear.
I love you all. Mahalo.