November 10, 2016
Kathy Francis had thought it was finally going to happen. Francis, 65, who recently moved to Carroll from Vail, met Hillary Clinton at a campaign event before the Iowa caucuses.
“I was able to shake her hand and say, ‘Future Madam President,’” Francis said after voting for Clinton during the February caucus.
It was something Francis, who has been politically active for years, has waited to say for a long time.
Tuesday night, when she sat around the TV with her husband, Richard, 66, and several friends, she hoped those words would become a reality and that she would see the first woman elected president in the United States.
And although the night ended up with a result she’d feared, at first she’d been hopeful. Early stages of the election-night electoral vote count had Republican President-elect Donald Trump in the lead for a time, but when Democratic candidate Clinton pulled ahead, Francis and her friend Rikki Sorensen, 62, who was visiting with her husband Peter, 67, threw their hands in the air and cheered.
“Trump has made the whole campaign about fear,” Francis said. “Fear of people who aren’t just like me. Fear of powerful women.
“I don’t think we should live our lives in fear. I think we should be brave, and we should help people. That’s what’s always made America great — helping other people, and tolerance.”
What does that mean, exactly — make America great again? Francis and her friends asked.
“I’m a white man, I’m 67, and I don’t remember when America was great,” Peter Sorensen said. He’s a Vietnam War Navy veteran and a Republican who voted for Clinton because of Trump’s comments about veterans and prisoners of war and his draft deferments during the Vietnam War.
What greatness is the country trying to get back to? they asked.
“Do we want to go back to when we had slavery? No,” Francis said. “Before women could vote? No. When the schools were segregated? When black people couldn’t vote? When black people were lynched?”
Rikki Sorensen grew up in upstate New York and has heard about Susan B. Anthony and women’s suffrage all her life.
“My grandma would say how proud she was that she could vote,” she said. “I can’t imagine what Susan B. Anthony would be saying about all this.
“It’s so vulgar. It should never be that way.”
On a smaller level, the group said it was difficult to see Iowa, which voted for Barack Obama in the last two elections, stand behind Trump this year.
“Things have changed in Iowa,” Francis said. “Iowa wasn’t a fearful state, and now we are.
“It is sad. We are feeling very sad.”
Although she had been excited about the thought of a female president, Francis didn’t vote for Clinton because she is a woman but rather because she believed in her ideas.
“We’re so far behind in the U.S. as far as leadership for women,” she said. “When President Obama was elected, the rest of the world said, ‘Finally, maybe America is getting rid of prejudice. Maybe.’”
“The hatred that has been lying under the surface has sprung up,” Rikki Sorensen said.
Sorensen, who admitted that at first she didn’t support Hillary Clinton because she wasn’t a fan of Bill Clinton, changed her mind as the campaign season wore on.
“I learned more about her, and I admired her more,” she said. “She is a strong woman. She’s gone through a lot.”
Now that the election is complete, though, Americans need to move forward, Francis and her friends agreed.
“It’s made the divisions deeper and so much more hurtful,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way. We need to work together.”
It won’t be easy, she added.
“How do we make peace when it’s all over?” she asked. “How do we survive? How do we work with each other, when it’s all about not just animosity but hatred?
“We must get beyond that and say we’re still Americans and we’ll still work together.”
Throughout the night, Trump’s electoral vote count continued to climb.
“I think it’s done,” Francis said at one point. “I never dreamed it would go for him. That’s pretty hopeless.
“How are we gonna heal all this mess?”
Her voice shook as she spoke about “all these people in these red states who think misogyny is OK and who think racism is
OK and who think homophobia is OK.”
“The voices of sanity weren’t as prevalent” during this election, Francis said.
A little before 2 a.m., she watched as Trump’s electoral count tipped over 270.
“This was pretty discouraging, but this is America,” she said. “We’ll survive.”
Does she still expect to someday watch as a woman is finally inaugurated as president of the United States?
“Well,” she said, “my grandmother lived to be 95.