Reporter's Notebook

Processing the Pain of the Election
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Readers who voted for Hillary Clinton and readers who voted against Donald Trump articulate their shock, disappointment, and fear in the wake of the presidential election.

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The Guilt and Pain of a Clinton Supporter

Megan, a reader who voted for Hillary Clinton, shares a powerful confession:

I’ve been thinking about the election a lot for the past two days, and the idea that I keep coming back to is that in some ways this is my fault.

It’s my fault because I voted for Clinton when she ran against Obama in the 2008 primary, but I didn’t tell anyone because she was the unpopular choice. I wasn’t embarrassed about my decision, but being a real liberal seemed to mean voting for Obama. So I voted quietly in the primary, felt my disappointment quietly when she lost, and seamlessly joined the Obama supporters in the general election.

It’s my fault because I voted for Clinton when she ran against Sanders in the 2016 primary, and I didn’t tell anyone because again she was the unpopular choice. She was even more qualified this time around and I had a greater appreciation for the depth of her public service, but being a real liberal seemed to mean supporting Sanders. So I voted quietly in the primary, and rarely mentioned my preference for her.

It’s my fault because during the long months of the primary and the general election I didn’t tell anyone how strongly I felt about Clinton. I didn’t put a sticker on my car, I didn’t put a sign in my yard, and I didn’t wear a T-shirt. My loudest statement of support was the tiny pin I purchased after the convention, at a time that it felt safe to be a Clinton supporter.

It’s my fault because when I ran into people who were voting for Trump—at the grocery store, in the gym, in my neighborhood—I changed the subject because I didn’t want to get into an argument. I told myself that it wasn’t worth it and that they wouldn’t change their minds.

It’s my fault because though I knew my mother was genuinely torn between the two candidates I didn’t engage with her. I didn’t want to know that she actually thought there was a real choice to be made.

It’s my fault because I never once asked my sister what she was thinking. She’d supported the Tea Party in the past, and I assumed she was leaning towards Trump. I didn’t want to know.

It’s my fault because my father and I had a massive fight about Clinton over Easter, and in an effort to preserve our relationship I stopped talking to him about politics. If we didn’t talk about it, then I didn’t have to deal with the possibility that he was sexist and racist in a way I’d never considered.

It’s my fault because I capitulated to the expectation that I not express my emotions publicly. I’m upset right now, and it isn’t lost on me that expressing this upset is potentially disqualifying. It isn’t lost on me that saying I’m angry will make me vulnerable to the accusation I’m too emotional. I’ve spent a lifetime calming down. It’s something that I try to do when interacting with men professionally, and it’s something that I try to do when I interact with men personally. And every time I do this in my private life, I normalize it and make it harder for women to succeed in public life.

And it’s also my fault because when I did support her, I did so in a provisional and caveated way. I said things like, “I realize she’s not a perfect candidate” and “I’m not arguing that she isn’t flawed.”

Brian Snyder / Reuters

After the shocking election of Donald Trump on Tuesday, as people continue to process their emotions, work through their exhaustion, and manage their anxieties, I’ve seen many of my friends and colleagues turning to poetry. James Fallows, in his note “First Thoughts on the Election,” ended with a poem by William Butler Yeats, “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing.” And Megan Garber interviewed the editor of Poetry magazine about why poetry seems particularly resonant at this moment.

On my social media timelines this week, screenshots of people’s favorite verses have been welcome oases at which to rest. And I’ve returned several times to a favorite poem of mine, “As I Walked Out One Evening,” by W.H. Auden, especially these verses:

‘O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.


‘O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.’

I asked some of our readers on the Disqus group known as TAD to send me the poems they turn to when dealing with change and hardship. A couple of staffers submitted poems as well. Here are a dozen of their responses (with only brief excerpts of the poems, since we can’t reproduce them in full due to copyright concerns):

“Differences of Opinion,” by Wendy Cope, begins:

He tells her that the earth is flat—
He knows the facts, and that is that.

Full poem here.


“The Place Where We Are Right,” by Yehuda Amichai:

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.

Full poem here.


Walt Hunter, a poetry professor in Greenville, South Carolina, writes:

Ellen Girardeau Kempler

A reader in California sends a photo of a discarded piñata of Donald Trump she saw yesterday:

Here’s “Trash Day on the Left Coast,” a photo from my morning dog walk. We also passed two women (separately, not together), crying.

Most of the Atlantic readers in this massive discussion thread are also distraught over Hillary Clinton’s loss. From the most up-voted comment, by Terri:

The United States of America has elected a man president that is more suited to being the dictator of a Banana Republic than the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. And those that elected him they knew exactly what they were doing. Give Trump credit. There was no deceit. His bigotry and misogyny were on full undeniable display as was his ignorance, his pettiness and his vindictiveness. This is what close to half of the electorate wants as its leader. There is no other conclusion.

Another reader, Kat, voted third party:

While I agree Trump’s unsavory aspects appeals to Alt-Right miscreants and undoubtedly won him some votes, they are a minuscule portion of the electorate compared to women. The fact Trump won despite his reckless and bigoted remarks, which undoubtedly cost him millions upon millions of votes, only shows the weakness of the global capitalist vision that is at the heart of the DNC.

People need living-wage jobs in a nation state that preferentially serves their interests as citizens. Many of the more rarified, post-Marxist leftists out there don’t seem to even believe in social democracy, or refuse to accept that social democracy requires social cohesion, labor protectionism, etc.

A lot of the hard core Critical Race Theory types may find themselves aligned going forward with libertarian capitalists of the NeverTrump variety. I mean what common ground do Bernouts like me have left with some of you except for a few social issues like reproductive choice?

I also asked some readers in this discussion thread how they’ve talked to their kids about Trump’s stunning victory. Jim via hello@:

The morning after the election, I spent part of breakfast reassuring my 7-year-old son, who is scared that because Donald Trump will be president, his friends will have to leave the country just because they are Mexican. In our carpool, I needed to do the same for two girls, 9 and 8, who are afraid their father will likewise have to leave because he is Latino.