The Election

November 21, 2016

November 10, 2016. 11:31 AM ET  

I can’t even speak right now. It is 2 days after November 8th and I am still in shock. I will not be able to truly come to terms with the fact that a Trump presidency is now our reality until Trump actually leaves office. The past 48 hours has been a whirlwind.

November 8, 2016. 10 AM ET

I went into the DCCC office, ready to help with my co-interns on a day of phone-banking. We were reaching out to voters to remind them to vote, their polling locations and the competitive races in their districts. During the breaks, my co-interns and I went on social media and took Snapchat pictures; what is an election day without dog filters and voting day geofilters?

After a long day of talking to voters and leaving voicemails reminding citizens that their vote matters in this election, Nancy Pelosi stopped by the office to meet the volunteers. I had left early to prepare for an election night potluck at a friend’s house, but from what I heard she was amazing. She spoke about the magnitude of this election and thanked us at the DCCC for the hard work we’ve put in this election cycle.

From the moment I stepped into the office to the moment I left, I felt good. I was worried, yes, slightly, but I was also relieved that finally, this election will be over. This hysterical horse race and emotional roller coaster is finally going to end. We will all wake up tomorrow morning with Hillary ready to move into the office, to set forth her plans for the first 100 days, to maintain this nation as a leader for all Americans and to set the path of respect and good-faith in our government for future generations. This was not going to be another Brexit.

The universe sure showed me.

November 8, 2016. 10 PM ET

As the votes are trickling in with reports of a Trump lead, I brushed them off. The votes are not final. Surely Hillary will pull through in at least a few swing states.

As minutes became hours, as ballot counts went from 50% to 99%, as swing states declared Trump as the winner, as the sea of red engulfed the map, I furiously checked the dwindling paths to victories for Hillary on the New York Times website. I furiously refreshed, New York Times, and Politico. I turned on CNN and allowed the voices to make sense of what I could not. They couldn’t either. As 11 PM turned to 12 AM, it was over.

I didn’t want to believe that it was over, that our country could vote in a man who has proven to be everything but presidential, that such a man could win the presidency. A man who was running against a woman more qualified than anybody on the ballot was about to win because of voters who believe or do not care that he will bring back the values of the past: racism, sexism, xenophobia, which all are still alive today; in other words, “make America ‘great’ again.”

I lay down in bed as Van Jones, one of the panelists on CNN’s election coverage, spoke: “You have people putting children to bed tonight and they’re afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of, how do I explain this to my children? I have Muslim friends texting me tonight saying, should I leave the country? I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight.” I cried. Immediately. Tears blurred my vision as my mouth quivered into a distressed sob. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It wasn’t a cry after watching Marly and Me or Inside Out. It wasn’t a cry after a stressful week of studying, of midterms, of finals. It was a short cry of fear. Tears welling, tears running down my face, as fear and disbelief struck my very core. Fear of the unknown. And anger, centered in: “Why?”

The tears, the crying, happens in seconds and disappears just as fast. But it reoccurs over time, as the reality sets in, as I begin to consider the realities of my own life and the lives of others.

As time passed, I laughed that this joke was a reality, then felt distressed that this joke was a reality before I begin to cry again that this indeed is our reality.

November 9, 2016. 2 AM ET

I went out for a walk in the cold with my friend. Into the cold, dark night, with street lights illuminating the desolate roads and red-orange trees, I walked. Nothing changed yet everything changed. We walked to a nearby park, with a man-made pond, and sat on a set of curved stone structures. He spoke, “I am upset and scared. But I cannot imagine the emotions others of marginalized communities must be feeling. I cannot fathom how their lives will change. As a white man, I have privilege, the privilege of not being affected by a Trump presidency. But my best friend, he’s transgendered. I cannot imagine what he is going through at this moment and in the moments to come.” I broke into sobs, into my hands. I spoke, “He has not only captured the presidency, but there is also a Republican majority House and Senate. There are no blocks to him. There are no blocks to the amount of damage he and the Republicans will do in tearing down the rights and progress we’ve attained in the past 8 years. There is going to be a Trump presidency and there is a Republican majority in both chambers.”

Into the cold, dark night I said aloud, “Who will protect us?” From my friend’s mouth, the answer I knew returned to me, “No one.”

November 9, 2016. 8:55 AM ET

I hadn’t slept at all. My friend was driving me to the train station. At a red light, I looked out the passenger side window and made eye contact with a Latina woman. We smiled. Then tears ran down both our faces. Strangers were inexplicably tied together by this unreal reality. The thought of the progress from the past 8 years slipping away brought me down in the moment we had that connection. The thought that those I don’t know will be affected in ways I could never imagine brought me down in that moment. The thought that this impending presidency was a reality brought me down as I rode the train to work.  

November 9, 2016. 11 AM ET

I watched Hillary’s concession speech that morning at work. She walked out to that podium; she looked beautiful and strong. When she spoke, the strength in her voice made me ask, “Even after all of this, how is she so strong?” When she said, “I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it too.” The waiver in her voice and the understatement of disappointment we all felt shook me into tears again. I cried throughout the speech.

I cried the hardest when she was speaking to me.

When she said, “To the young people in particular… This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” She was speaking to me, to my generation. When she said, “To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion… and to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” She was speaking to me, to the countless women and young women. She is our champion. And I am as proud of her as she of me. And as much as I believed in her, she believes in me, in my generation, in the generation after me. Thank you, Hillary.

November 9, 2016. 12:40 PM ET

We had a meeting with all the staff members in the DCCC building. We were dejected. This loss felt massive and I felt that maybe all that we’ve done meant nothing. But as we spoke we reminded ourselves of the small victories throughout the nation; our work made it possible for these small victories that will prepare us to spring back in the next elections.

We shared our reactions, stories, fears and tears. We talked about the children who we’ve spoken to, the fear they expressed and the uncertainty of the safety for their loved ones. The comfort they found in the words of children who told them, “It’s going to be okay, tía.” It was cathartic. It was moving. It was motivation. The energy we pooled together in that room will not stay in that room, that energy will fuel us for the next two years. Mid-term elections -- watch out! We’re ready to give it our all and more.

November 10, 2016. 2 PM ET

Come hell or high water -- it looks like we got both this election. It will be a long four years, eight years of work vanishing right before our eyes. I am afraid. I am terrified. For those of us who are already vulnerable -- women, transgendered, disabled, people of color, LGBTQ+ -- who will protect us? We are already targets; who will protect us? Where will we go? To those who have nowhere to turn; there is little left of solace. For us, I fear. And I am angry. I am angry that I need to fear, fear, fear. Fear for what will happen in these next four years. What basic human rights and dignities will I see slip away from my life, from the lives of others? As I was ready to take on this world with plans from my time in DC, I am thrown back. Come hell or high water, we will survive, but at what cost? At what cost?

Coming to DC for the UCDC program has been one of the most life-changing decisions I have ever made. The first month at the DCCC, I knew I was going to come back to DC to work in politics. The rush, the day-to-day changes of campaigns, and the rewarding work of research spoke to me; I hadn’t felt like this in a long time. Now three months in, after this election, this anger has solidified my desire to work in DC even more. I am angry and I will put this anger to use. I will give it my all in helping the Democrats in the mid-term election and in the next presidential election. I am angry and I am ready because we are stronger together.

“Our best days are still ahead of us.” -Hillary Clinton

November 20, 2016. 4 PM ET

It’s almost two weeks since the election. I went to visit the White House and the National Mall today to refresh my mind of the history America has made and endured throughout time. Unfortunately, I stepped outside under-dressed for the whipping winds and biting cold, but I walked on. I walked to the White House and saw construction for the inauguration was being set up, obstructing the path to direct photos of the White House. I moved on across the street to the White House gift shop; there I felt that I had entered an alternate universe. There was Trump-Pence inauguration merchandise in the front of the store. I had almost forgotten from where I stood in front of the inauguration construction site to this storefront that this was indeed was happening. It was jarring to say the least. I left hurriedly after a quick perusal. The wind hit me in the face and the cold nipped my ears when I opened the door. The combination of the weather and sight I just saw did not help with my growing light-headedness. I walked in almost a daze to the Washington Monument, then to the Lincoln Memorial before I gave in and found a bench to rest. 

A young couple with their child walked by and sat next to me. I glanced over and saw safety pins upon their coats glittering in the sun. I had almost forgotten the safety pin I put on this morning. We exchanged smiles as their son ran into the pile of leaves to play. All around us were kids, throwing leaves into the air, laughing as the wind picked up the red and orange foliage. People living their lives. People visiting from other countries. Just people going about their day. We began to talk about the election, the recent speculation over potential cabinet members, where we’re from, what we’re doing, how we’re coping, their son, and what the future holds. The husband leaves to chase after their child and the wife puts a hand on my shoulder, smiles, before they both leave.

Almost two weeks has passed and everyday things happen that remind me that this is actually happening. Yet at the same time, strangers come together and remind me that that too is happening. News outlets have tried to normalize this election’s outcome and that is not the correct call to action. I have accepted that this is our reality, but I refuse to accept complacency. As the sun filtered in and out of the clouds, President Obama’s words rang true: the sun will rise. 

headshot of Lydia Xia

Lydia is a fourth year pursuing a double major in political science and legal studies. She spent her first three years at Cal exploring the legal field, from her presidency in Law in Practice to working as a JusticeCorps member at the Oakland Superior Courthouse. Although these experiences brought her much personal growth, she realizes a career in law may not be for her. Lydia is looking forward to finally exploring the field of politics beyond her coursework. While she is in DC for the fall 2016 UCDC program, she will be researching the causes for political partisanship, specifically the role of money in causing the divide. She is excited for the new experiences awaiting her in DC. "I am really thankful to the Matsui Center for providing me with this amazing opportunity."