On Nov. 8, 2016, I fell asleep early, before the doubt crept into anyone’s mind, before the results came in. I fell asleep sure, as I was sure about anything, that I would wake up to the making of history. If I had had any doubt in my mind, I would certainly not have found the peace required to sleep at such an important moment.
Sometime around 4:00 a.m., I awoke to my TV blaring, still showing the same pundits usually on during primetime trying to explain — if not understand, themselves — the results of the election. It was so shocking. So unpredicted. So confounding. Still half asleep, I struggled to even catch my breath. It was quite literally a gut punch, immediately sending actual, shooting pains to all parts of my body. Deep in my bones, I felt a pain so visceral, so raw, that tears still fill my eyes and my chest still feels hollow just recalling that night, even two years later.
When I was first introduced to politics during the 2008 presidential election, I remember remarking to my parents that I didn’t like then-Senator Barack Obama, because “He was trying to take the presidency away from women.” Of course, I eventually grew to fall in love with Obama, but even then, I was thirsting for a certain recognition. I longed for an explicit, loud recognition and celebration of femininity and my womanhood. The only way to quench my thirst for this recognition was for it to be loud enough to turn enough heads: the election of the first female president of the United States.
Suffice to say, eight years later, deeper into my feminist awakening, I was positively desperate for my country to send some signal — any signal — that my identity as a woman was a gift, not a flaw, as it most often was growing up in conservative Indiana. When Secretary Clinton appeared to almost guarantee a final conquest of the last frontier, I was elated. Finally! Finally, this country would see all of the things women uniquely offered to leadership. Finally, little girls would be able to look up to a woman in the Oval Office and dream big dreams. Finally, I would be seen as fully human, capable of the same successes as my foremothers.
And then the worst happened. Our broken system diverted the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton, arguably the most qualified person ever to run for president, to someone clearly less experienced, less qualified and exhibiting less humanity. I was simply hopeless.
In the last two years, I have felt a similar, though not quite the same, hopelessness. I felt hopeless after the administration signed a grotesque executive order to ban Muslim immigrants from the country. I felt hopeless after evil people marched the streets of Charlottesville screaming “Jews will not replace us.” I felt hopeless after hundreds of people in Las Vegas and many students in Parkland, Fla., were slaughtered. I felt hopeless when children were ripped from their parents’ arms and placed into cages. I felt hopeless when the overturning of Roe v. Wade was all but guaranteed after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, and again when our government chose to confirm an unsuitable man to the highest court in the land after hearing the tragic testimony of a woman credibly accusing him of sexual assault and attempted rape. Now, I feel hopeless in the days after 11 Jewish congregants in Pittsburgh were massacred while they worshipped.
While there have been many more hopeless moments since that painful night in 2016, I still have hope. There are few places to find hope or joy in these dark days, but there is so much hope to draw upon from the hundreds of women running for office up and down the ballot, ready to be elected tomorrow. They will pick up and carry the torch of righteousness America dropped on Nov. 8, 2016, and uphold the legacy of our foremothers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton.
From Stacey Abrams in Georgia to Gina Ortiz Jones in Texas to Rashida Tlaib right here in Detroit, women, especially women of color, have put their foot down to limit the damage this administration can do to the American people and stood up to be the next leadership of this country. Instead of employing respectability politics and leaning into the already broken system, these women have decided to just take over the whole thing. They are ready to reject the same old advice the same old Washington consultants give them, which is to just basically conform and contort yourself into some half-priced, bargain bin version of a male politician. They are embracing their femininity and experiences related to their female identity to inform their political choices and strategies with understanding, experience and, most importantly, know-how.
They are ready to fight to make Washington work for the American people again, not to give huge tax cuts to the rich and corporations. They are ready to fight for health care and education, especially for those that need it most. Finally, for all of the little girls and boys, and even some of us in our college years, these women are the beacon of hope for the future of this country — our futures.
So when you go to the polls — and please, vote! — tomorrow, keep these women in mind as a unique, improved type of leadership able to fill the void in this country by holding this immoral administration accountable and working on behalf of the American people. While I am literally a card-carrying Democrat excited about the possibility of a wave of Democratic candidates on their way to Washington, I am most hopeful about the pink wave coming to defend all of us.
Marisa Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.