I remember the moment I cried on Election Night in 2008.
Standing alone in the student center at George Washington University, having spent countless hours and weekends working for John McCain, everything I thought I knew about the world and the people who lived in it was collapsing. How could America, the land of capitalism and opportunity, convincingly elect a man who bragged about his ideas on redistributing wealth? How could they repudiate a war hero like McCain, who had spent his entire life serving his country?
In tears, I called my 80-year-old grandmother - it was sort of random and to this day I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe I hoped her age and experience would provide some comfort. She stoically reminded me that we fought hard, but that the country - and life - would go on.
She was right. The country is still here. As am I. (So is she, by the way. 88 years old. She voted for Trump.)
I cried on Election Night 2012 in Boston, watching Mitt Romney take the stage to deliver his concession speech, standing in a sea of disillusioned Romney supporters. We had become so convinced of the righteousness of our crusade, that history was on our side, that losing - decidedly - didn't seem possible. Again, the mythology I had built in my world had collapsed.
Elections are brutal things. We all have our own individual constructs and perceptions of the world. How it should be run, who should run it; who should hold power, how that power should be leveraged; we select our protagonists and our villains. Then on a single Tuesday in November, we vulnerably open ourselves up to the rest of the country, which either signs off on our world view or tears it to pieces, which feels akin to getting hit by a truck.
I'm not going to put my political feelings on last night in this column. Just some advice.
For those of you who find yourselves feeling hit by that truck this morning, in complete shock and disgust about how Trump could possibly win: I've been hit by that same truck too. Twice. It's not pleasant. The best advice I can give you is that eventually the anger and the frustration and the urge to rebel will subside. Life returns, while altered, to normal. It takes some time. There will be more political fights to come, and I'm sure you will win some of them.
For those of you who find yourself in elation that Trump won: congratulations. Enjoy the moment. He truly pulled off a historic victory, and he has empowered millions of voters who, until yesterday, felt like they had no voice or say in anything our government does. It's a stunning rebuke of the policies of the past eight years, which is a validating feeling for Republicans and conservatives who have fought so hard. But keep in mind there are many fights to come.
But for those of you who are neither disgusted or excited - maybe just confused or anxious - let me ask you: is a Donald Trump victory really as shocking or as scary as the media is making it seem? Do partisan caricatures of how awful, incompetent, uneducated, and dangerous the opposing candidate is ever pan out? Or is it just election season hyperbole that, when the dust settles, looks more like rhetoric than reality?
The one thing we can all agree on is that Donald Trump's victory last night is a historic turning-of-the-page in American politics. When disgust with our politics is already at an all time high, that might not be a bad thing.