Pantsuit Nation, edited by Libby Chamberlain

Pantsuit NationThese stories and photos are powerful. They are a more accurate representation of American greatness than any idealized non-existent past that some are eager to return to. America is already great, and these people prove it.

The first half of the book contains pre-election writing, and I can’t help but feel a sense of dread and impotent omniscience reading this along with the knowledge of what ended up happening on election day, and the continual trainwreck that has followed since then. The stories are hopeful and heartbreaking. It’s wonderful to see so many different kinds of people coming together in an attempt to stop a disaster. Up until about 8pm that night, it seemed to be a sure thing that Clinton would be the next President of the United States, and against all odds (and the majority of Americans’ votes) Donald Trump won.

The day after the election was terrible. I live in a small university town that is generally a pocket of reason in an otherwise notoriously under-informed backwater state. Close to my work there’s a small coffee shop that I walk to when I need to stretch my legs a bit. I usually get coffee and a bagel a couple times a week, and it’s always a bustling, vibrant place. Cheery faces with kind, hopeful demeanors. Youthful, artistic energy. That early November morning everyone was still in a state of shock, thousand yard stares on their faces, envisioning what kind of future we might have now that the worst possible candidate that has ever existed, was elected to the office of President of the United States by a minority of the voting public. There was a sense of hopelessness in everyone I saw. I think we all felt like we were just going through the motions of our lives, unsure what we were doing. No one thought he could win, the whole thing was an absurd joke, until it wasn’t. Now, everyone was on edge, and in the midst of an existential crisis.

Libby ChamberlainThe second half of the book is post election, and these events are still very fresh in my mind. It’s comprised of reactions to the news that our votes didn’t matter this year, and yes, Americans really are misinformed enough that almost 46% of them thought a reality television character was the best option for Commander in Chief. And for some reason that was enough to elect him to office. This is where the stories became the most emotionally powerful for me. People pull together, we regroup, we redouble, we protest in large and small ways, and we keep working toward the type of future that we want. It’s good stuff, and highly motivating.

As I’m writing this, Robert Mueller and his team are investigating  the Russian interference in our 2016 election, and it’s starting to look like Donald Trump’s presidency might be one of the shortest in the history of the United States. I am very eager to see this monomaniacal bond villain caricature’s tenure come to a quick and decisive end. Although, his line of succession is equally terrifying. Hopefully they’re all tied tightly into his many crimes, and will go down together, RICO style. It’s a beautiful dream, but I realize it’s most likely just a dream. In reality, powerful people often get away with it.

This is a difficult book for me to review because it keeps forcing me to imagine how things could’ve been different in the 2016 election. As they say, Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back with some perspective, I don’t think Clinton was the right candidate to defeat a monster like Trump. I’m a humanist, feminist, atheist and generally liberal leaning dude, but I pay enough attention to history to never call myself a Democrat or a Republican. I know how quickly these divisions can mutate into something they were never meant to be. Just look at the neo-conservative, alt-right takeover of the Republican party in the last ten years. I feel terrible for legitimate conservatives who have no representation in our government anymore. The GOP has completely lost its mind, and I fear that the DNC may be in the midst of a similar problem.

Personally, I’ve never been an avid fan of Hillary Clinton. I think her statements against the LGBTQ+ community in the past have been appalling (something she’s very recently started to change, thankfully). But she was undeniably the much, much better candidate of the two options that were presented to us last year, and I voted for her wholeheartedly.

I’m still very disturbed by both the DNC and the GOP’s behavior in the primary elections. The best candidates from each camp did not make it to the general election; the most incendiary ones did. The ones that banks and plutocrats knew they could leverage for their own benefit. I understand how necessary representation is, and I genuinely hope our next President is a woman. Girls and women everywhere seeing themselves reflected in such a powerful position, would carry an unknowable importance and a far reaching, generational effect. If Clinton had won, I would’ve been extremely pleased, but there would always be a sliver of disappointment that it wasn’t someone even better. I can only hope that the DNC stops playing the games they’ve been playing and realizes the only way forward is to let the people be heard with a candidate that is genuinely incorruptible and won’t cower to money, or dogma’s influence. That is, if such a candidate is allowed to exist within the realm of the established party in 2020.

Whoever that ends up being, whatever their gender, sexuality, race, religion, I do not care. I’ll support THAT candidate wholeheartedly. And in the meantime? Midterm elections are the most important thing we can put our energy into right now. We need better congressional and senatorial representation. I want a president who represents the people of this country, and I can’t accept that Donald Trump is an accurate representation of us.