A heartbreaking and radicalizing moment for women in politics

Gitika Nalwa/Staff

On Election Day morning, I proudly put on my “I’m with her” t-shirt, crisp black blazer with matching black pants, and an “I voted” sticker. For the past year I had been convinced Hillary Clinton, a woman I practically worship, would be our country’s first woman president and would usher in a new era for women in politics. I was overflowing with pride when I voted for her because her intelligence, poise, compassion, dedication and perseverance never cease to inspire me. I was more than ready for history to be made.

By about 8:30 p.m. that evening, I had realized another kind of history would be made.

As a young woman who aspires to go into politics, Tuesday night transformed the way I see the world as I attempt to grapple with the consequences. Donald Trump has used this past year and a half to infuse brazen sexism into our vulnerable political discourse. So many of my fellow Americans, including fellow women, voted for a well-known misogynist over one of the most qualified candidates in history. Donald Trump is largely unpredictable, but one of his few consistencies is his deeply rooted disrespect for women. It is impossible to know how much sexism played a role in this disgraceful campaign, but the fact that so many voters were able to either embrace or ignore the sexism of Donald Trump is alarming. Even though many inspiring women were elected to Congress on Tuesday, the fact that so many American voters would openly embrace sexism over the empowering message from potentially the first woman president is disheartening. I am utterly heartbroken and feel as though my country doesn’t believe in me. My idealistic belief that the American people would repudiate such blatant intolerance is shattered. I am left feeling confused and unimportant.

Many of my tears were due to the fact that Hillary Clinton had gotten so close, overcoming countless obstacles, but still came up short. From being criticized for keeping her maiden name to being constantly questioned about her appearance to being called a “nasty woman” on a presidential debate stage, Hillary Clinton has gracefully persevered. If she had won the presidency, it would have proven to me that even though it would be excruciatingly difficult, women could still reach unprecedented heights in American politics. Instead I felt trapped underneath an impenetrable, yet severely cracked, glass ceiling.

The possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency gave me hope that people would begin to see women in politics in a whole new light. On a number of occasions, I have been told  with the best of intentions that I look like I could be a politician’s wife or a first lady when I wear my favorite blazer or a nice dress. However, I have no desire to be either of these things. The reason people see me as a future politician’s wife instead of a politician is because people have not seen enough women fill these roles. Electing more women to Congress and shattering that glass ceiling are both critical to obtaining this kind of world. This is why Tuesday night gave me some hope for the future. A record number of women of color will be sworn in as senators come January, including California’s own Kamala Harris. The presidential election results may have shown our country’s strident intolerance and bitterness, but the election of all of these inspiring women reflects the very best of America. Maybe one of these women will be our country’s first woman president.

This presidential election has made me question my faith in my country and shaken the idealism I feel for our political process. I now find myself constructively and hopefully channeling this pain and anger to building a better future. I usually keep my dream of running for office and being elected to Congress, an institution I revere, to myself because I am dogged by constant self-doubt.

But, as of Wednesday morning, I don’t really feel this way anymore. I am more committed than ever to running for office because I fervently believe we need more women in politics and a new generation of women must pick up where Hillary Clinton left off. I am no longer afraid to proudly proclaim my ambitions, regardless of how “unlikable” it makes me seem. I want to hold a position of power and will not rest until I reach that goal.

Even though Hillary Clinton lost Tuesday, she did so much to clear the way for me and all the other women who will follow in her footsteps. Thank you, Hillary Rodham Clinton, you will always be one of my heroes.