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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

From Yes We Can to I Think We Should: A Millennial Female Pastor Reacts the morning after Election Day

I'm not a pantsuit person, but I wore my own version of one yesterday - white ripped jeans and white blazer - in support of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first-ever female major party presidential candidate in America.

I wore my "pantsuit" to a polling place in Orange County, which until this year hadn't voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 1936.

I took a selfie with my "I voted" sticker and told the world: "I'm with her."

Risky stuff, especially for the pastor of a fairly conservative Lutheran congregation in Orange County. Risky stuff, for someone who tries to be moderate and votes split ticket. Risky stuff, for anyone who's anything of a public person.

I did it primarily because, as a female leader myself, I felt a real urge to solidarity. This was an historic moment. The posts of women with their daughters, black and white and Latino and Asian and Native American and young and old and differently-abled - they moved me to tears. For the first time, it seemed OK to be proud that there was a woman running for president. I'd never really been an apocalypse-NeverTrump person. But the hope for women I saw in Hillary's supporters this past week, that's what encouraged me to go public.

Hillary never brought me to tears.

I know that's a dubious mark for president: can you inspire me? Can you make me cry?

I have to be honest, she left me feeling flat. At the DNC, fired up by Rev. William Barber II and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) - moved to stand by Michelle Obama - Hillary, and Chelsea, left me cold. I didn't disagree with the words they said. I wanted Hillary to win.

But that ineffable something: it was gone. Yes We Can! became ... I think we should.

Still, those who complained about both candidates didn't move me either. We had a woman for God's sake. She was inarguably smart. I didn't doubt her sincere Christian faith. She was the right vote. I was proud to be #WithHer as an Evangelical Lutheran Christian.

I trusted The Washington Post. As a former journalist, I put my faith in the free press. The Post dedicated its editorial board and opinion writers to the defeat of Donald Trump. His supporters were whack jobs. It was all a joke, right? Prominent Republicans kept saying they were voting for Clinton.

And this is where it all turns upside down.

On Election Night we had our church small group over and we turned off the TV. Our small group was pretty divided, so we prayed for America. I was reminded of the faithful friends and family who'd supported Trump. Reminded of that first debate when he seemed the only feasible Republican choice. The Washington Post predicted landslides. Georgia, Arizona, Texas(?!) all in play.

I still trusted The Washington Post.

Small group ended and I turned on CNN. Dana Bash was white as a ghost. Clinton was trailing in Virginia. Georgia wasn't even close. Trump was winning across Florida. The electoral map they'd predicted was completely wrong.

The ones I didn't trust had called it.

Trump was in Minnesota the day before the vote. Clinton eked out a win in the state that hasn't voted Republican since 1972, by a mere 43,000 votes.

Nobody in the mainstream media predicted that. At all.

Clinton was so confident that she hadn't been to campaign in Wisconsin since the primary.

Trump won Wisconsin. Trump won Pennsylvania.

The only ones claiming these victories before Tuesday night were his pollsters and the far right media.

I had spent months reading journalism that was being proven completely wrong - or at least drastically out of touch with a big portion of the electorate.

As the returns streamed in, I wasn't crying or even primarily afraid. I was gut-checked.

How had traditional journalism been so wrong?

I felt betrayed by the sources I'd defended and trusted to a fault.

I didn't go to bed. Couldn't go to bed until it was over. Like a good Vikings fan - or Cubs fan - I had to see things through until the end.

Clinton headquarters in New York City was deserted. Clinton supporters: brave women in their white pantsuits who put it on the line for Hillary, they were there and they were crying. But the inner circle was long gone.

Campaign Manager John Podesta came to the stage and gave an exceedingly bizarre and patronizing announcement at 2:20 a.m.

He told Clinton supporters to go home. He said it wasn't over. They were still counting votes.

He wasn't being honest with them, because maybe at the same time, Hillary called her old friend Donald. She conceded. She told Donald she was conceding. She made time to call him. She didn't extend the same courtesy to the millions of women who put her candidacy on our backs and went to war for Hillary Clinton, sometimes at great personal risk and with real-life consequences.

The race changed for me in that moment. Donald Trump wasn't my champion but clearly Hillary Clinton wasn't either. She didn't care about me. I was sitting there up all night waiting for a way to process the results no one except Trump's team predicted, and the only one I got to hear was an exceedingly conciliatory Donald Trump.

The criticisms rolled around in my brain. She was phony. Elitist. Didn't have the stamina.

She didn't provide a counter-narrative. She was tired? Only supports the claims I'd dismissed out of hand. The only one to speak to Hillary's supporters on Election Night 2016 was Donald Trump, and that spoke to me loud and clear.

It felt like a betrayal. And maybe I betrayed myself in that moment, when I allowed myself to criticize Hillary in the same way she'd been criticized by so many others, so many times unfairly, so many times in the past.

My friends and fellow Clinton supporters were posting and texting early in the morning. They were devastated. Promised to resist.

My own numbness, that betrayed feeling, still sat on top of any other emotions for me.

Jeffrey Lord suddenly made sense. Corey Lewandowski was still a jerk, but maybe he wasn't all wrong. The firm truth held by traditional media was cracking. You could feel it. They'd missed something huge (Freudian slip?)

You had to at least consider the fact that there's something major out of touch in traditional media.

I heard Hillary was speaking in the morning and I still wanted to hear it. My 4-year-old waited to go to preschool and Tim Kaine came out and I saw the supporters stand and unexpectedly, my hardened heart burst open and my eyes filled with tears.

You could see he meant it. The coalition he wanted to build. The Christian faith that didn't mean hatred or racism or sexism. The hope for America's future.

I was surprised I was crying. I thought I'd moved into investigation mode. What happened? What did I miss? I was ready to listen to facts and move on and then I was crying.

I went to the bathroom to grab a Kleenex and Hillary was coming up. Improbably, she was smiling.

Women have to smile. Smile tho' your heart is aching.

People tell me they love my smile. It's their favorite part of my sermons. Just kidding.

So I get why she was smiling. But it just seemed incredibly disingenuous. Out of place.

We wore pantsuits when (my) generation pretty much universally hates them. We did it for you. We put stickers all over Susan B. Anthony's grave. We lined up behind you. We forgave the instances of elitism or classism - the inability to admit wrongdoing - the closed tent - the nonexistent media access for much of the campaign - the dishonesty.

We told people we supported you - we made it public in places like Oklahoma and Mississippi. We defended you to a fault. We went along with the dismissal of anyone who supported your opponent.

It was a real gut-check moment in America. What had I been defending?

Hillary Clinton smiled. It was the smile of a woman who'd sacrificed everything to be first. It was a smile of the difference between her generation and my own. It was the smile of a woman born at a time when women weren't expected to work outside the home or participate in athletics, much less run for president. It was the smile of a woman who played the political game inside a box that had been smashed open.

My friends heard a heartfelt speech from a heartbroken woman. They're not wrong, and yet neither am I when I say that again I felt nothing when I heard her speak. Tim Kaine broke my heart and Hillary Clinton froze it. Maybe she had to. To become impervious to survive as she has.

I remembered the way I felt in the debate after Donald Trump's Billy Bush video went public.

Trump physically intimidated Clinton. He spoke derisively.

And she handled it. She took him down on knowledge and policy.

I felt the same way then though. I wanted to hear her say : AS A WOMAN HEARING THIS VIDEO MADE ME FEEL ________. I wanted to hear her claim the moment - as President Obama did in Charleston and after the killing of Trayvon Martin.

But maybe she couldn't claim it. Not in that way. And maybe it was unfair to expect her to. Just like the traditional media, Clinton's time had passed her by. She won at a game whose rules had been rewritten. She straddled two worlds.

Our first female candidate had to come from her world: an established, elite, wealthy, impervious world - a battled hardened realist.

Our first female president would not come from that world.

In a wry way, to this millennial feminist, I get it. It makes an odd kind of sense.

So here I sit today with President-Elect Trump, in the odd position of hoping my gut feeling that he didn't mean anything he said was an accurate one. Normally we are hoping the President will keep his promises. With Trump, you're hoping the status quo prevails and he keeps none of them.  I'm hopeful a lot of it was insincere posturing for votes.

I'm hopeful an obstructionist Republican party will begin to govern and get things done.

I'm hopeful that a new resistance movement will arise from the 2016 autopsy of the Democratic Party, whose machine and operation was proven wrong today in a multitude of ways.

I'm hopeful that resistance will privilege non-white leaders as well as female leaders, as well as inviting non-college-educated whites, rural whites, and Evangelical Christians.

I'm hopeful that with the removing of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - America's two favorite scapegoats - we'll be forced to talk and to listen to one another. I'll miss Obama, but I'm not shortsighted enough to think that this election means his presidency didn't matter. It did. A LOT.

I'm hopeful again that in 2016 it is Morning in America and the sun is shining on places that have been left in the dark for far too long. It's a light that exposes as well as brightens.

I'm thankful that I got up this morning and I got to go to my office, as a Pastor in a large church in Orange County. Hillary's loss doesn't mean I'm not a Pastor anymore. My support of her doesn't mean I'm not going to use this moment to listen to those who voted differently.

I have two Post-Its on my desk that remind me of the bridge between my former role as journalist and my current role as Pastor:

Comfort the Comfortable - Afflict the Afflicted: reads one, with a huge X through both

Comfort the Afflicted - Afflict the Comfortable: reads the other. I'll keep trying to do that, even as Jesus alternately afflicts and comforts me.

I worship a God who transformed death into life. America is still transforming. I will never stop seeking God's will for our country. I will never be afraid to speak God's voice into politics.

I will support America's President.

If it turns out Trump's rhetoric was for real, I'll be the first to sign up for the Resistance.
If it turns out his conciliatory tone was more truthful than the raging Twitter-holic, I'm hopeful he'll bring real change to a system that has certainly been divided and broken.

Good Morning, America. I'm grateful to wake up here, still.