I ordered two copies of What Happened, one for me and one for Older Son. Older Son worked tirelessly on Hillary’s campaign, specifically at the Hillary for America – East LA Office. He helped set the office up and helped run it for months leading up to the election. I, like many Americans, thought Hillary was going to win. And then I heard that Comey was reopening the FBI investigation into the emails. I was instantly terrified that all was lost. I remember calling Older Son in a blind panic, babbling about how we had just lost the election.
“Calm down, mom. Everything’s fine,” Older Son said. “Come work the week before the election, it’s GOTV and we’ll need all the help we can get.” I agreed to do it and I didn’t even know what GOTV was. It means Get Out the Vote and it’s a stepped up effort before an election to get voters to the polls. I spent hours, possibly days, calling people in Pennsylvania and Ohio and I can’t even remember where else. Busy signals. Hang ups. One man yelled at me that Hillary was a murderer. I greeted volunteers, showed them how to use something called a dialer which I still don’t fully understand. The office was packed, there were people in every corner of every room. The restaurant across the street sent over a steady stream of fresh, delicious burritos. There was a group of older women who laughed and dialed and spoke in Spanish and/or English to people across the country. They came every day and talked the best trash about Trump I have ever heard anywhere.
And the night of the loss, when I realized my fear had come true, I called my son and said, “Where are you? Tell me where you are, I’m coming to get you.” Normally I wouldn’t have called my adult son and talked to him as if he was 15 but he had only just turned 21, both his grandmothers had recently died (within two weeks of each other) and his country had just elected Donald Trump. If anyone needed their mom to come get them, it was my son. I hoped he would say he was anywhere but at the office I had worked at for the past week. But that is exactly where he was and so I went to get him. The office was nearly empty. I remember seeing ridiculous donkey shaped balloons and unopened champagne bottles and my son silently standing next to one of the volunteers he had been working with for months. It was so quiet. The TVs were all on with the sound turned off. People walked here and there but didn’t seem to be accomplishing anything.
We drove home in silence. We sat together on the couch in the dark for awhile. He eventually fell asleep, just keeled over and passed out from exhaustion. I covered him up, and then I went to bed and sobbed. That night I sorrowed not for my country and not for the vulnerable populations I feared would be persecuted. I sorrowed for no one but my son who slept on my couch even though he had his own apartment a few miles away. My sorrow was small and selfish, it went no further than a mother’s heart breaking for her child. He’d tried so hard, he’d wanted this woman he admired so much to succeed and instead…
Well, no need to go there. We all know what happened instead.
It took me almost a year to get up the nerve to read the first few pages of What Happened. If it wasn’t for this reading challenge, I don’t know that I ever would have read it, let alone finished it. I skipped the chapter dedicated to election night. I don’t know that I will ever be able to read it. I can’t look at pictures of the East LA election office without crying. All that hope. All those people. The ladies who laughed and dialed and talked the best Trump trash I’ve ever heard. All of it. I want to remember it fondly but I just can’t. Not yet. Maybe not ever. Who knows? I don’t. Read What Happened, it doesn’t purport to have all the answers but Secretary Clinton does make a genuine effort to reconstruct the election from her perspective. Let me know what you think.
And here is a picture of Chelsea Clinton getting up to give Older Son a hug. They met at a book signing and something he said prompted her to ask if she could give him a hug. I imagine if someone showed up in front of me and earnestly talked about how much they admired my mom, I would want to give them a hug, too. And here’s Kate McKinnon singing Hallelujah because it’s still sad and beautiful and I can’t believe she got through it without breaking down.
*Note from Felicia – I purchased an audio version of What Happened. I wanted to hear the story in Hillary’s voice and I found it to be extremely powerful. I cried, a lot.