What Would Elle Woods Do? Is optimism possible in the wake of Trump's Triumph?
What Would Elle Woods Do?
I will preface all of this by saying; I’m willing to feel optimistic today.
I woke up with a massive post election emotional hangover. Not even because the candidate I voted for didn’t win. It was from reading all those angry and fearful Facebook posts last night. People are ashamed of our country. Not proud to be American. Moving. Defriending. Mad at Trump voters. Pointing fingers. If all this anger is coming from such passionate/liberal/open minded Hillary supporters who believe that love wins, where do we go from here?
Michelle Obama got cheers at the DNC this summer when she proclaimed; “We go high when they go low.” But last night, some of us Hillary voters went really, really low. In fact, nasty. That’s our primal instinct fear voice talking, and quite frankly, it’s somewhat justifiable given what we’ve heard (or seen) in the last year. For now, I say, let it out. But be willing to let it go.
A lot of people are in mourning right now. A lot of people are upset. I’ll admit, I’m sad and uncertain. It’s taking a physical toll on me – I woke up with a migraine. This isn’t how I thought it was going to play out. The #imwithher camp feels defeated, deflated, disgusted…like we lost something huge. Yes, sure. But that’s not all there is—There is something very sacred that we gained in the last 1.5 years (or perhaps, 8 years). We came together as community of people, worked together, supported each other and believed in what we could achieve together. And that was to elect a president that we both wanted and believed in. We still have those ideals. We still stand for what we stood for yesterday. That has not died. That has not been lost.
Standing on the other side of Election Day, we have to be who we said we were yesterday. What we do from today forward, will determine who we are as a nation. If we hate others who voted differently from us and feel ashamed and embarrassed to be American, well, that’s not very American. It’s actually saying, my vote was more important. My vote was right. Yours is wrong. I saw people even saying that Trump voters shouldn’t have the right to vote or if you voted for Trump don’t ever speak to me again. C’mon now. We don’t need to go out like that.
And finally, Hillary spoke. It was like a funeral where someone died too soon. People were crying; no, sobbing – like hand over mouth sobbing. It’s like we all melted a little bit. But somehow, with grace and dignity, she put it into perspective:
“We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America –- and I always will. And if you do, too, then we must accept this result -– and then look to the future.
Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. I count my blessings every day that I am an American. And I still believe, as deeply as I ever have, that if we stand together and work together, with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation -– our best days are still ahead of us.” –Hillary Clinton
I am willing to believe that that is true. I didn’t say I believe it today. But I am willing to believe it. And the slightest bit of willingness opens the door for a miracle to occur. Just be willing to believe we’re not totally f*cked. We're not.
For the last couple months I have said, “whoever gets in the White House, I will support them.” And I meant that. Until last night. To Hillary’s point, I owe Donald Trump an open mind and a chance to lead. I also think people who voted for Trump deserve that courtesy too. I refuse to believe what others so "knowingly" say about Trump voters: they are all bad people, dumb, racists and homophobes looking to edge me out of my country. It's just not possible. In fact, a lot of people who are very close to me, who I love and who love me, voted for Trump. And that doesn't make me want to banish them from my lives. Also, I used to date a guy in college who is now the president of the Log Cabin Republicans--he was, shall I say, very passionately vocal during this election. I haven't unfriended him. When I told my husband I used to date a Republican, he was like, "You have lousy taste in men." It's something we can laugh about. And also, not all Hillary supporters are "good people". If we really believe that, we're fooling ourselves. To that end, I extend an olive branch to EVERYONE who voted. At least you showed up for yourself and your country.
So, I’m willing to give this a go. I saw some humility in Donald Trump's speech last night and some parts even felt genuine. I’m guessing there’s part of him that’s scared shitless too – like, oh I have to lead a nation and not run it into the ground. If he has the ego everyone says he does, he might actually care about his approval rating. He needs us. He needs the Hillary supports—maybe more than we need him, actually. We need to keep working toward the good, not for Trump’s America, but for our America. I need to believe that we will be okay. I need to believe that this will work.
All the passionate supporters of Hillary can keep that energy and momentum going. We need to grow roots in the causes we started, and we’re going to have to work together. But right now, we might be a little depressed. Or a lot.
And then I ask myself, “What would Elle Woods Do?”
She’d cry, panic and get lost in her own disbelief. She’d isolate and lay in bed in a dark room drinking 32oz Big Gulps and eating dollar store stale chocolates for days. She’d sulk, feel sorry for herself and give up on everything, all while watching soap operas and screaming at the TV. Maybe even throwing things at it. But only for a week. There’s a limit to how long that can go on. Maybe a week?
Then her friends pulled her out of bed, forced her to get her nails done, where she would have a revelation. An idea. That turned into a goal. That turned into a plan. Something that she would work really hard for—like the type of hard where you blow off Greek Week to achieve: to get into Harvard. Against all odds, she got in. Elle Woods, welcome to Harvard. Like it’s hard?
That was the beginning of a long hard struggle. She went to Harvard, where she was mocked, singled out, told she wasn’t good enough, people didn’t support her. Rather than getting pissed and nasty, she bought a Macbook in a slutty bunny costume, got on the stair climber and started studying. She got one of the six coveted internship spots (resumes that are pink and scented are hard to overlook). She even earned the respect of her ex boyfriend’s fiancée. But then Callahan put the moves on Elle and she had a thought, “I’m not really a lawyer. This isn’t me. I was wrong. I need to go home.” She was ready to cave. It could have ended there.
She drove her Porsche to the Salon Bon Tempo in tears to say goodbye to Paulette (her friend who used to live in a trailer) and explained why she was leaving. “It’s no use, no one’s ever going to take me seriously,” she said.
Elle was overheard by one of her earliest doubters; a female law teachers who never thought Elle would make it. She turns around and says, “If you’re going to let one man ruin your life, then you’re not the girl I thought you were.” Actually instead of man she said “Stupid Prick”. But I’m not going to say that. We can go high.
If we leave, move, unfriend—then that’s not the America I thought we were…
Elle was ready to leave, but she got challenged by her teacher. She realized it would have been a mistake to go now. This was her wake up call. She saw her worth in that moment and she stood in her beliefs. She changed into her pink dress, marched into that courtroom in her Elle Woods authenticity, pushed Callahan out of the way and proceeded to win her court case, against all odds, mopping the floor with Chutney’s perm curls. Don’t donate your pantsuits just yet….
You might be like, way to oversimplify. But if we look to Legally Blonde, we can maybe rejoice in the possibility of a silver lining in this election outcome? It’s the setbacks that really cause us to see our worth and work toward what we want. We have to regroup and recharge and honor the path we have cleared and celebrate what we have done together. We just have to keep moving forward and never give up. Ever. The #imwithher movement will continue. We’re stronger together. We know this.
But we also know, we’re going to have to get more involved on a local level and take more aligned action, at the individual level. I know I could have done a lot more to support my party and my candidate for this election. I did one shitty hour at the phone bank yesterday, to call people to urge them to vote for Hillary. And if I’m being completely honest, I really did it because I thought she was going to win and I wanted to pat myself on the back today for my contribution. Whereas now I’m like, I could have done that 6 months ago. I didn’t do much. At all. And that’s my fault.
There is hope. I’m seeing more people come around on Facebook. The tone and sentiment is improving. I’m seeing optimism or at least, willingness to be open. I am willing. I voted for her, but I’m willing to work with him and my fellow #imwithhers if it’s at all possible to make America great again.
For all of us who are hurting today, honor your sadness. Identify your fear and call it out (just maybe not in overly angry ways on Facebook). Take comfort with your friends and neighbors, you’re not a lone. We’re in this together. Today, eat those chocolates. Stay in bed. Eat more chocolates. But then, let your friends pull you out of bed and take you to get your nails done.
Because we need you. Don’t move. Don’t unfriend. Don’t give up.