This Was the First Election My Daughter Could Vote In, It Has Destroyed Her

Hillary Clinton supporters
Supporters of Hillary Clinton watch state-by-state returns at her election night rally in New York. Diana Shaw Clark, a lifelong Democrat was among the mourners as Clinton lost the presidency to Donald Trump early on Wednesday morning. Carlos Barria/Reuters

If the British poet William Wordsworth was right and poetry is “ the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings... recollected in tranquillity,” you should expect no poetry from me.  

Powerful feelings, yes. Tranquility—no. Not now, and possibly not ever. I don’t have the words to describe how I feel because I have never needed such words. In the wake of the Brexit referendum, when Britain voted to leave the EU, I could say I felt alienated, estranged, betrayed and gutted.

I could not have known that what I was feeling then was nothing compared with what I’m feeling now.

I had hoped that hours after the final tally, hours after Donald Trump was declared president-elect of the United States, I would have got enough of a grip to articulate something. But reality defies my best efforts to come to terms with it and find the terms for it.

Is it because we know too well the character of this man, and so we know he represents a chilling contrast to President Barack Obama, the man we elected twice to steward our country through two wars, a global recession and the stark manifestations of climate change?

Is it because today stinging tears of horror, disgust, and fear mock the tears that came in gleeful cascades as we celebrated President Barack Obama’s first victory eight years ago?

Is it because my son, motivated by patriotism for a country that worked so hard, so consciously and overcame so much to elect our outgoing president, is about to become a naval officer under entirely different—entirely antithetical—circumstances?

Or is it because my daughter aged just 18 cast her first vote with optimism and trust, and has since called me, choking on great, breath-sucking sobs, partly for her future and our planet, but largely for her dearest friend, who is Muslim?

I am not the only mother who feels helpless to ease her child’s plight or pain. This is not the world we want to send our children into—one riven by hatred, belligerence and blatant, boastful indifference to the rule of law and the common good.

I have no interest in the punditry that has ensued nor in the ongoing dissection and analysis of the results. My only interest is in working with others who feel similarly disheartened, to rectify this.

I called my son at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and told him to carry on as he has been all along, to become the kind of leader that he would admire and that our country needs. I told him he can be sure that his father and I will work tirelessly to make things right.

We won’t be alone. And that is a start.

Diana Shaw Clark has lived in London for 17 years. She has spent her time in the British capital organizing Americans living abroad in support of Democratic party candidates.