On the night after the election, I protested outside of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. Hours before I had learned online that an anti-Trump rally was scheduled for that night. Desperate to be doing something, I put on my black John Steinbeck t-shirt and headed to the protest. I wound up standing behind the police barricades across the street from Trump Tower in an overwhelmingly young crowd.
We chanted, “We reject the president elect,” and “Not my president.” Everything we shouted, except for “Love trumps hate,” was oppositional. I was one of the most negative people at Trump Tower. I screamed all kinds of profanities. I flipped my middle fingers at the cameras, the helicopters, and, most of all, at the people I saw staring out of the upper floor windows of Trump Tower
I don’t own a Nasty Woman t-shirt or a T-shirt with a big “H” on it. I didn’t even have an “I’m with her” button to wear that night. As I screamed “I hate Trump!” I wished that instead we were chanting, “We want Hillary! She’s our president!”
‘I was for Hillary, but I was never truly with her. I knew in some detached way I would vote for her. That seemed like enough. But I was not active in my support for her—none of my college friends were. Our generation failed in this election.’
The lack of positive chants for Hillary sums up how my generation and I reacted to her campaign. In this regard my faults are those of my generation. Just 55 percent of us who qualify as young millennials (those of us ages 18 to 29) voted for Hillary Clinton compared to 60 percent who voted for Obama in 2012, according to exit polls by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Most surprising to me, 37 percent of us voted for President-elect Trump.
I was for Hillary, but I was never truly with her. I watched the debates, and I defended her in conversations. I knew in some detached way I would vote for her. That seemed like enough. But I was not active in my support for her—none of my college friends were. Our generation failed in this election.
I blame myself for blindly adopting a dismissive attitude towards her. My generation has been disastrously impressionable. Influenced by word of mouth and the media, my college-aged peers and I recited the same circulating phrases heard from others. “She’s a politician. She’s a robot,” we said. These offhand statements were thrown around whenever Hillary’s name came up. They created a blanket of apathy that we all fell under. As early as September, a George Washington University poll found that only 38 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 believed that Hillary Clinton was “honest and trustworthy.”
I know there were serious flaws with Hillary as a candidate, but blaming the Hillary Clinton campaign for everything that went wrong with Hillary as a candidate is not fair and never was. What we didn’t like about Hillary as a poster child was only relevant as long as someone like Bernie Sanders was still in the race. In hindsight I can’t help wondering what would have happened if people my age had held on to the energy we brought to the Sanders campaign and channeled it towards Hillary.
In the mania over Trump, we didn’t honor Hillary, her campaign, and her long, passionate fight for issues that we care about. She was a candidate for women’s rights, for education, and for racial equality. She was the candidate against destroying the environment, and against Trump’s xenophobia and hostility to immigrants. I know my generation cares about these issues—they are issues to be excited about.
I’ll have four years to regret my decision. Trump’s election is the first national setback that my twenty-something friends and I have had to face as young adults. I was in kindergarten when planes hit the Twin Towers. I was too young to understand the Iraq War. I’ve never been treated as having a disadvantage because of my gender. Naïve me!
I am only a few years younger than my grandmother was in 1968 when she moved to San Francisco, protested the Vietnam War, got a job in City Hall, and fought for equal rights. She raised my mom, who grew up to become a public defender for underrepresented kids in Juvie. I come from a line of social justice advocates, but when I think about my own passivity this year, I find it embarrassing to compare myself and my generation to my grandmother and her generation. This election was a frightening wake-up call for me.
Madelin Orr is a junior at Sarah Lawrence College.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.