On the night of the election, Marianne sat with her two daughters watching the vote results on television. Marianne, born in 1970, lives in San Antonio with her family. Eventually they all fell asleep on the sofa, the TV still going.
Marianne believed with 100 percent certainty that Clinton would win the election. Even in the moments before drifting off with her daughters, she was convinced that somehow the early returns favoring Trump did not provide the full picture and that Hillary would pull ahead. She had voted for Trump, although she preferred other Republican candidates to him. She thought hers was more of a protest vote than a real one.
Marianne is Catholic. Before settling down in Texas, she served in the military, rising to the rank of officer and living the nomadic life associated with that profession. She has a special-needs child. These characteristics are probably the most important contributors to her vote. She required a candidate who would promote a pro-life agenda, honor and protect the military, and come up with a healthcare model that is more affordable than the Affordable Care Act. She says when she was stationed in Australia she admired that country’s universal free health coverage but is unsure if such a system would be realistic here. She felt that of the two candidates, Trump would best represent these interests.
Marianne’s social circle—both online and in person—leans decidedly anti-Trump. The friend she and I share in common is particularly outspoken against Trump.
In the weeks leading up to the election, Marianne wanted to be honest with our mutual friend and everyone else about how she was voting. Silence felt like untruth in that it allowed others to assume her vote was for Clinton. She posted on Facebook what she believed was a respectful explanation of her choice. She wasn’t trying to convince anyone her vote was right; she simply wanted to be transparent.
The comments attached to her post began to roll in. She was called a racist, bigot, and woman-hater—and that was just by her brother. Suffice it to say, many people were unpleased with her. She believes several “unfriended” her because of that post.
She had to search her heart and decide what kind of role model to be for her daughters. She wanted to be the kind of woman who stands by her convictions even if doing so is difficult. She believed a demonstration of being a strong woman is more important than simply casting a vote for a candidate you disagree with because she’s a woman. Still, it is painful for her to realize people she considered friends thought less of her for her honesty or, worse, no longer wanted her in their lives.
Marianne tried to accept that some friends would be lost to her. But a small handful she couldn’t bear the thought of losing. She sent them private messages saying she hoped they could stay friends. She wrote, “All I think of when I think of you is love.” In their replies, they told her not to worry, that they still loved her.
The night of the election, Marianne awoke on her sofa in the wee hours to see the television screen declaring a Trump victory. She says she couldn’t believe her eyes.
A similar scenario played out in my own house. I, too, had gone to bed thinking the results would seesaw toward Clinton, only to check my smartphone at 3 am. I was equally shocked by the headlines in my news feed.
Marianne shook her daughters awake and showed them the outcome. In the privacy of their own living room, they indulged in a moment of celebratory hugs at the unexpected victory. But even in this brief display of jubilation, Marianne was aware that the source of her joy would be cause for heartache among many of the people she loved. Before, hers had been the losing candidate and now he would be president. This shift demanded that she take even greater care in how she handled inter-personal relationships. She would need to dig into her deep reserves of compassion, which was another behavior she could model for her daughters.
Meanwhile, in my home, I set my phone face down on my nightstand and tried to go back to sleep, dogged by a sense that the world outside my bedroom possessed a haunting unreality. I thought of my own family and friends who had voted for Trump. I wanted to find a way back to the love I had for them.