My sister-in-law, with whom I co-house, is a fundraiser for Democratic, pro-choice, women candidates. So naturally, elections in general are big deals in her house. And an election featuring the first-ever Democratic, pro-choice, woman presidential candidate? Well. She plastered an “I’m ready for Hillary!” sticker on the bumper of her electric vehicle days after Barak Obama was elected to a second term. If there were an “I was frickin’ born ready for Hillary!” sticker, that would have been on the bumper instead.
Out of love for her, the Bernie Sanders advocates in her house did not cover over it with a “Feel the Bern” sticker. And though dinner table conversation was lively during the run-up to the primaries, once Hillary was the party nominee, the whole family was all-in. My brother-in-law made it a point to connect with local campaign offices whenever his work took him out of state. And when he and their son went on a Northeastern college tour, they spent nearly as much time walking precincts as they did touring campuses.
For each of the presidential elections that have taken place during the near-dozen years we’ve co-housed together, her household has hosted a huge election-night watch party. In addition to tasty food and drink, the parties feature multiple screens in multiple rooms, each carrying a different news organizations’ live coverage. My brother-in-law (whom I have lovingly dubbed in these pages my Know-It-All-Brother-In-Law, and yes, the shoe fits) rigs up a custom spreadsheet á la David Wasserman’s epic 2016 National Popular Vote Tracker. This past November’s spreadsheet included results for the 2008 and 2012 elections, against which he plotted each state’s results as they came in.
A jovial mood prevailed early in the evening, the assembled buoyed by an electric sense of anticipation: we were about to witness something historic. Again. And then the night wore on. Too-close to call swing states began to be called, one by one, in Trump’s favor. The bright mood gradually began to dim, and not even a pause to watch Samantha Bee’s brilliant election eve herstory lesson, “Let Hillary Be Hillary,” would rouse us. Dispirited clumps of folks began to shuffle away, negotiating internally with various of the five Kübler-Ross stages of grief. Most of us had never taken a Hillary win for granted. But at the same time, a Trump win–given his toxic combination of buffoonish, uninformed bluster and calculated menace–was simply unimaginable. And yet there it was, the perfect storm Trump win, beginning to emerge out of a surreal haze.