Finding Hope

Life / 09 November 2016 / by Josh Hudnall
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

finding-hope

This is a long post. I hope you’ll read it all, but if you want to skim, please start here.

The last 24 hours have been hard. Like so many of our friends, Al and I started the night full of hope. Of course, we knew the margins. What seemed guaranteed only a few weeks ago, now looked to be a fight to the finish. But we believed that there was no way America could turn its back on the values so interwoven into the fabric of our lives.

Equality. Honesty. Hard work. Possibility.

Love.

Brexit was our cautionary tale. Fate had delivered on a silver platter a vibrant display of the dangers of a disgruntled faction taking their protest to the polls. We couldn’t possibly do the same thing only months later, could we?

Still, we knew the risk. Trump had surged in the polls following the spurious disclosure that the FBI were looking at more emails. What seemed like assured victory had diminished to a small, but significant, lead. Still, hope.

We joked, and laughed. We held our breath when yet another state was called for Trump. We breathed a sigh of relief when Clinton would edge ahead. If we fainted from this unhealthy pattern of breathing, I don’t remember it. But we had fun.

For Al and I, politics are a major part of our lives. Local politics dominate many of our days and many of our discussions. Our jobs place us right in the middle of the political maelstrom. Sometimes we must take sides. Often we try to stay neutral. We try to change our world for the better, and feel the very real effects brought about by our elected leaders, never more acutely than at the local level.

But we’re passionate about national politics as well. So last night was the culmination of months of anticipation and agony.

We felt the Bern.

The first time I heard the name Bernie Sanders was Aug. 14, 2015. The algorithmic geniuses at iSideWith.com matched my values with this white-haired dude that I knew nothing about. I’m a researcher, so I did what I do best: I jumped down the rabbit hole. I wanted to learn more, so I researched and started following his campaign. Bernie’s rise in popularity paralleled my growing interest in him and his politics.

If you have done well in whatever business you are in, it is your duty to send the elevator back down and try to help bring up the next generation of undiscovered talent. -Kevin Spacey

Of course, nothing is 100%, and though the more I learned, the more I liked, I had my disagreements too. I believe it’s ok—no, great—to be really, really rich, as long as you get there ethically, and you give back in great proportion. I believe that corporations can do a lot of good, and I believe regulation should be employed only when necessary. I believe in the merits of a free market, though I concede that it is not perfect. I generally believe that taxes should not be too high, though I believe the rich should pay a hell of a lot more than they do now.

My first ever vote in a primary—or, in our case, caucus—went enthusiastically to Bernie Sanders. Allison volunteered to be an alternate delegate at our convention. It was all very exciting.

I voted for Bernie in that caucus because I believed in his vision. I believed in it enough, more than I believed in any other candidate’s vision.

But I also voted strategically. I believed—then and now—that he was the absolute best option we had for beating Trump.

And, by that point, I knew that above all else, we needed to defeat Trump.

When the GOP sends its candidates, they’re not sending their best. They’re criminals. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. –Catherynne Votelente

The seeds of demagoguery had long been sown. In his running announcement he derided illegal immigrants as rapists. 1 He quickly followed suit with derogatory comments about women, minorities, Muslims, the poor and the weak.

For months it felt like every time he opened his mouth, he managed to find yet another person or group to attack.

I was raised a Republican. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were daily rituals. And though it’s been a few years since my fealty has waned, I’ve usually found some common ground with GOP candidates. 2 But this was different.

Whatever commonality existed between his policies (it’s hard to call them policies more than talking points) and mine were overshadowed by who I believed this man to be.

Racist, misogynistic, hateful, selfish, self-aggrandizing, insecure, volatile, bullying, pathologically lying … the list goes on.

Donald Trump was all these things. He is all of these things. So no matter how much I agreed with him on any particular point (of which there were not many, especially compared to other candidates like Romney, McCain or even any of the three Bushes), I simply could not stomach the idea that this man could attain the presidency.

It would be an affront to everything that we as Americans hold dear.

Elites take Trump literally but not seriously; average folks take him seriously but not literally. –Steve Schmidt

Eventually it became clear that our election would be a Hillary / Trump face-off. 3

Hillary was never our first choice, Al and me. We worried about Benghazi. 4 We discussed the emails. 5 I mentioned to Al how I felt like Hillary was extremely dishonest, and she rightly corrected me that this was more perception than reality. Simple research reveals she lies less than many politicians generally considered to be truthful. 6

The revelation that the DNC had acted improperly to ensure a primary win for Hillary was a tough blow. It hurt. Our candidate, Bernie, had been cheated, and we with him. And yet there he was, being more magnanimous than we could muster the strength to be.

He knew that nothing mattered more than defeating Trump.

So we jumped on the train. Hillary would be our president. There were complications, concerns—like a far-too-cozy connection to Wall Street and troubling accusations about her behavior in the wake of alleged assaults by her husband—that have never left our minds. Yet there were many issues—like the email server—that quickly faded away, or at least we wished they would.

I wasn’t enthusiastic at first. I felt like I was voting against Trump more than I was voting for Clinton. But that changed. The more I learned the more I acclimated. Hillary was undeniably the most qualified candidate to ever run for the office. Her experience was top notch. Her approval ratings—always low during a campaign—soar during her times in office, showing she is an effective leader.

For the most part we agree with her politics.

And we had the opportunity to make history again. The first female president of the United States. On the heals of the first black president? That’s a big deal.

As election night wore on, our moods darkened. Trump’s “paths to 270” grew while Hillary’s chances seemed to slip away. It looked like we were in for our second loss of this election—and this one would sting a million times more.


Today the world is a little bit dimmer. Like seeing through a gray film, the colors that shone so brightly are not quite so vibrant now. It won’t stay that way forever.

I’ve held Al in my arms multiple times in the past 24 hours, the tears flowing from her heart breaking mine. She loves deeper than anyone I’ve ever known. She cares about every single Mexican, Muslim and marginalized person Trump has attacked. She takes it personally when he insults, objectifies and devalues our fellow humans, and it doesn’t matter whether or not even he believes his own rhetoric, though I believe he does.7

She knows, as I do, that strong borders don’t matter if we don’t take care of the people inside of them. She knows that his empty promise to bring jobs back to America means nothing if Americans are not free to be who they are. She knows that even if he could Make America Great Again™8, it would be worthless if it took a fascist to do it.

This is not a case of Republican vs. Democrat, this is all about a bad candidate. I firmly believe that most Trump supporters will ultimately be disappointed and embarrassed by whatever legacy he leaves.

If the main lesson liberals take away from this is that 48 percent of the country is racist, things aren’t going to get better. -Tim Berners Lee

It’s easy to lay blame. I can think of a lot people, situations, decisions and circumstances to blame. But that’s not helpful anymore. Or it’s not helpful right now. Maybe we should revisit some things before we do this again in four years, but for now, blame doesn’t matter.

All that matters is moving forward and trying to prevent as much damage as we can.

Al asked me where hope is. Of course I didn’t know how to answer. I felt hopeless too. I wanted to be strong for her. I wanted to say it would all be ok. But in that moment, she wasn’t the only one wondering what we had left to hope for. I gave the best answers I could. But somehow they felt hollow.

The weight of the future too heavy for words to hold.

I believe we’re in for some darkness. Some things are going get worse before they get better. I think our economy is less stable today than it was yesterday. Trump is going to do some of the things he promised. And he’s going to renege on many, many more. It’s hard to know which will be worse. Maybe his presidency will be largely underwhelming. Maybe in four years we’ll just wish it was.

Still, I have hope.

My hope is in the 50% of Americans who voted against hate and fear. It is in our children, who at 13 and 14 have more love and compassion and wisdom in their hearts than I even know how to express.

I take heart that we have made it through much worse, things like slavery, civil war, World Wars, legal racism, legal sexism, depressions and recessions, 9/11, terrorism and we have emerged stronger every time.

I have hope because every time we take a step back, we always take two steps forward. And because the future of our country is in the hands of adults aged 18-25, who voted overwhelmingly against Trump.

The presidency may turn out to be the crucible in which Trump is refined into a better version of himself. But I have hope that if he is not changed by the immense pressure of the office, good and decent Americans will fight him at every turn.

The trajectory of humanity, always aimed toward something more.

I find it encouraging that the vast majority of Trump supporters did not vote for him because he is terrible, but in spite of that fact. 9

I am full of hope because no matter how bad Trump is, humanity is better. We are not the sum of our mistakes but the culmination of our triumphs.

I also find myself grateful that Trump has unwittingly exposed many dark tendencies within each of our own lives that we now must choose to deal with.

When hope feels lost, I simply remind myself:

Fear may have won the battle, but love will win the war.