It was around the time I spoke with Allison that the rollercoaster of my post-election emotions took a sudden dive. In the 48 hours after the election, I had felt confused and frightened and powerless. Then I began this project of interviewing women who voted for Trump and I started to feel optimistic. I might somehow wrap my brain around this after all. Or, if not, at least I was being productive. I was making lemonade from lemons. Just like Beyoncé.
I hate blaming Allison because I liked her very much. In fact, that was the problem.
The first three women I interviewed were so different from me. They were all politically conservative and had been their entire lives. Of course they voted for Trump. This was not such a departure.
Allison was different. She has always been a democrat. She voted for Obama.
Allison lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, who is both an engineer and an immigrant from India. She’s lived a lot of other places—Michigan, Arizona, and India. She was born in 1980. Before becoming a full-time mom, she worked for 10 years in higher education. That may help explain her three masters’ degrees. (Three!)
She grew up with a single mom. They were on welfare. She is a survivor of sexual assault. She describes herself as “97 percent pro-choice” (holding 3 percent back because she wishes women who opt for abortions received emotional support). She believes in equal rights, including marriage equality. It is not her concern which bathroom a transgender person uses.
When she voted for Obama in 2008, she wanted the “change” his campaign promised. She hoped it was more than a slogan. She was tired of domestic policies like the social assistance programs on which she grew up that breed low expectations of people and keep them stuck in a cycle of poverty. She was sick of foreign policies that fuel the industry she believes war has become.
President Obama may have intended to transform many aspects of our government but given the nature of the political system he was capable of only so much. Perhaps his health care reforms are emblematic of what he was up against. He did what he could to make sure more Americans could become insured, but his failure to address the very nature of the system has meant that the cost of the insurance is still out of reach for many of those who need it. Allison is disappointed that President Obama did not fundamentally alter a system in need of radical revisions.
Talking to Allison, I was forced to confront my own feelings about “the way things are.” If I’m being honest, I’m not all that satisfied with many aspects of our domestic and foreign policies, or the degree of “change” that has occurred over the past eight years. Maybe it’s unfair to expect such substantial alterations in such a short time, but I can’t think of any significant differences besides marriage equality and a less gloomy economy (and the fact that we had our first black president, which alone is huge). I think Obama is a fantastic human being, but I’m not sure even he is satisfied with the degree of change his presidency was able to usher in.
Allison says she’s the first to admit that Trump is not a particularly likeable guy. She thinks he was “pandering to the base” throughout his campaign. She hopes much of what he suggested, such as a ban on Muslims, was “just talk.”
To Allison, the vote for president was between two things: keeping things as-is or hurling a stick of dynamite into the status quo.
It’s horrible what washes over me when I finish my conversation with Allison. For one brief and terrifying moment everything in the looking glass makes perfect sense. But it’s like the bright flash from a nuclear explosion, offering a single moment of clarity, before a dim and bleak aftermath. I’m left gazing at an ugly path of destruction.