Opinion: Finding hope after 2016

headshot_Abigail Miller

Abigail Miller

My ears are hot. My face is warm. I’m excited. You’d think we were waiting for the Grammys to start, or possibly even attending them, but no, we’re waiting for the first Democratic debate to begin. 

We’ve been waiting for about 5 minutes for the debate to start at The Little City Grill where the Portage County Democrats are holding their debate watch party, and I’m not alone in my excitement. 

As the debate starts, the air in the hall is full of hope. Attendees aren’t talking amongst themselves or checking their phones; they’re listening to each candidates’ every response and taking notes.

Nineteen-year-old me wouldn’t have even come to this watch party, let alone pay attention or take notes. This upcoming presidential election feels like a do-over. It feels like a chance for me to take things more seriously than I did in 2016.

I didn’t vote in the primaries, I never watched a single debate and I never once had an open dialogue about any of the candidates with my friends and family. While I did vote in the last general election, that was pretty much the extent of my contribution toward trying to keep Donald Trump from becoming president.

Although I barely did anything to help Hillary win in 2016, it was genuinely shocking when she didn’t. Since her loss in 2016, and Obama’s last day in 2017, I’ve felt misrepresented and hopeless. How can someone so dangerously divisive have the authority to speak for me and my friends on an international stage? 

I began to feel hopeful again the day after Trump’s inauguration. I will never forget sitting in the top bunk in my dorm room, during the middle of freshman year watching all those women fight for my voice. The Women’s March brought tears to my eyes and gave my voice a second wind. We may have lost sight in 2016, but the march proved if we all come together, we will be heard.

Since then I’ve felt hopeful that maybe, and unfortunately, we needed Trump’s presidency to wake us up and get us involved. I’m not saying I support him, but I can’t help but question that without such a divisive administration, would all of those women (and men) have marched in January 2017? 

As easy as it would be to dwell on the darkness that came out of the 2016 election, I’ve chosen to focus on the greatness that grew out of it.

I’m focusing on the record-breaking 125 women that were elected into office during the midterms last November and the light that was shed on sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement.

The hope I got from those events has brought me to this watch party. During the debate, Portage County Treasurer Brad Cromes tells me that Trump’s time in office, while painful for many, has forced our country to step back and take a look at who we really are.

“What makes this race particularly important and unique,” he said, “is that it really sets up a struggle between the America that we thought we were when President Obama was in office and the America that we have recognized that we are since President Trump has been in office.”

 With that realization, we can move forward with the many Democratic candidates on the television in front of us. As the debate ends, I remain excited and know there’s hope for 2020.

Abigail Miller is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected].