Betsy Butler, Catherine Hooper and Alison Knowles all thought they would turn on the TV this morning to see Hillary Clinton become President-elect of the United States. Instead they woke up to the reality of a Donald Trump presidency, and have spent the day grappling with feelings of shock and disappointment as they pondered how Tuesday night’s results will affect them as women.
Butler, who is executive director of the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) and campaigned for Clinton in Ohio, choked up as she recounted what it felt like to realize Trump will be president of the United States.
“I walked for five days in Ohio,” said Butler, who was a state assembly representative in 2010. “I served in the legislature. And I served in Bill Clinton’s administration, too. You’re going to make me cry.”
Butler’s current organization, the women’s law center, advocates for legislation that deals with gender discrimination, campus sexual assault, and reproductive rights. She said it was too early to know what a Trump presidency will mean for these women’s issues.
“There are too many variables,” Butler said. “Who is he going to make as his Attorney General? Is he really going to defund Planned Parenthood? I want to give him the benefit of the doubt … but some of the things he has verbally expressed, I just don’t know.”
One thing is clear to Butler: Californians will not let reproductive rights for women fall by the wayside. “If the Supreme Court takes Roe v. Wade out, we will not go back,” she said, referring to California.
But she acknowledged women in less liberal states may not fare the same if Roe is overturned and individual states pass more stringent abortion laws.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere at the Clinton campaign headquarters on Grand Avenue in Oakland was a stark contrast to the upbeat mood yesterday. Fewer than ten volunteers were left to pack up the remains of their effort to put Clinton in the White House.
Bright rays of light filtered through a large window in the center of the house, hand- painted with the campaign’s logo. Campaign signs were piled next to the front door, and volunteers were stacking the remaining folding chairs.
Catherine Hooper led the Oakland headquarters as the staging location director, and looked as though she had just seen a ghost as she directed the remaining volunteers. Tears welled in her eyes as she spoke about her reaction to the election.
“Waking up this morning as woman was a hard thing to do,” Hooper said. “Even if the result is not enormous policy changes that affect women, I think the damage is done.”
She said she is most worried about who will fill vacant Supreme Court openings, and how that will affect the progressive work accomplished by President Barack Obama in the last eight years.
After the Entertainment Weekly audio recording of Trump was released in early October, in which he described sexually assaulting women, Trump’s position dropped dramatically in the polls. But it was not a big enough hurdle for him to overcome. According to CNN, 53 percent of white women voted for Trump, making them one of the largest demographic groups to vote in his favor.
His popularity among white women did not seem to surprise Hooper. “I think there’s a very large part of this country that is incredibly ill-informed, and I don’t think that’s their fault,” she said. She worries that media has become part of a culture of immediacy, sacrificing facts for clicks.
Alison Knowles, a local book editor from the Lake Merritt area, couldn’t hold back her distress after learning of a Trump presidential victory. She said her night was filled with emotion, tears and struggling to reconcile her hopes with a new reality.
“I feel like racism and sexism won last night,” Knowles said.
On Election Day, Knowles posted a picture to her Facebook page of herself and her 5-year-old daughter, Addie, a Cleveland Elementary kindergartener. In the picture, Addie wore a t-shirt with large script reading “Future President.” Knowles says the hardest part of the result was telling her daughter that a woman wouldn’t be president for at least four more years.
“It’s very hard to explain to little kids why people don’t think a woman would be good enough, when I want her to believe she can be anything she wants,” Knowles said. “And to have to tell her that we always strive to be nice to people and not make fun of people who are disabled or different from us. But yet that’s what won.”
Across the city, women echoed each other’s concern. On Election Day, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said a Hillary Clinton presidency would be best for the city of Oakland. “Having a woman elected would be tremendous for the city of Oakland,” Schaaf said. “President Obama’s administration has worked so well with us and other major cities, and we hope the next president will continue to do so.”
But on Wednesday morning, Schaaf released a statement acknowledging Oakland residents’ frustration with the election results. “As the Mayor of one of America’s most diverse and progressive cities, I understand the shock and dismay so many feel about a Trump presidency,” Schaaf said. “I assure all Oaklanders that our government will continue to protect all its residents and we will continue to defend our progressive values.”
In an interview with the New York Times in May, Trump suggested he thought Oakland was more dangerous than many international war zones. “There are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world,” said Trump. “You go to places like Oakland. Or Ferguson. The crime numbers are worse. Seriously.”
“Let me be clear,” Schaaf responded to Trump’s accusations in a tweet on May 18. “The most dangerous place in America is Donald Trump’s mouth.”