If you scroll through images of Hillary supporters, you will find face after face gazing at her with a transfixed expression that’s a combination of pride, joy, gratitude, awe, and relief. I look into those faces and I see what I’m feeling myself.
In 2008, the day after President Obama was elected, I was in Chicago with my husband and some friends who were visiting from New Jersey. Something incredible had happened: It was like Superhappyjoyland. Everyone was laughing and smiling and being extra nice — spontaneous conversations about music, art, food, life, the election with strangers in elevators, in restaurants, in cabs, on the sidewalk. It was like every single person in Chicago had been told they had 100 years to live.
People were happy and inspired and excited. A cloud had lifted. In one of the most politically cynical cities in the world, where the people know better than most that politicians are fallible beings who often fail to deliver and mess up in myriad ways, there was still a tangible, beautiful sense of the possible. The entire city was enveloped in great expectations.
That feeling will always stay with me. Seemingly an entire city enveloped with optimism and joy and awe that we had a new president who was full of optimism for what can be — and who had just made history.
I am seeing the same sort of excitement now as I saw then.
There is a profound gratitude among many of her supporters, myself included, for what Hillary has weathered to get to this point; an appreciation for the hurdles she’s had to navigate. There is a personal cost to being first, and her willingness to bear it is not lost on us.
It is a joy that she has won the Democratic nomination — and it is a relief. Every time an eminently qualified, talented, competent woman tries to be first, but fails, there is celebration for her attempt and alongside it the crushing sting of being reminded that women are still not considered equal.
This was a very big moment for Hillary’s feminist supporters, and on their faces I see the sort of unreserved smiles that signify a win. An undiluted win. An achievement that does not have to be couched in “we’ll get ’em next time.”
They — we — look at her in a way that conveys not just admiration for an esteemed public servant, but connection with a person who gets us; who validates us; who is fulfilling our fervent desires to see a pragmatic progressive woman get one step closer the presidency.
It isn’t just because we’re looking at a woman: It’s because we’re looking at this woman. At Hillary, who has promised to be our champion, and who has long been so.
These are the faces of people who are optimists; who know what is possible and have faith that Hillary will do everything she can to get us there.
Millions of her supporters are politically active Democrats, who work within our own communities as advocates for political solutions that will improve people’s lives. We don’t view her as a savior — someone we expect, or who is even capable, of solving what ails us on her own — but as a role model, a leader, a reflection of the commitment we have ourselves to making the world a better place.
We look at her, and we are able to see some part of ourselves.
And what could be more inspiring than that? People looking at the person they want to be their president, and not seeing some distant elite who is out of touch with the rank-and-file of her party, but looking at her and seeing themselves.
That is the best of American politics. And you can see it all over her supporters’ faces.
(Photos: Hillary for America)