Around 6 a.m. on November 9, 2016, I went into my nine-year-old daughter’s bedroom and sat at the foot of her bed, weeping while I watched her sleep. I’m not a person who cries a lot. And if I do, I tend to be both furious and alone. But that morning, all bets were off.
Looking at my daughter in her little bed with her little stuffed bunny, brown hair covering her face, I knew I had failed her. We betrayed our daughters (and sons), allowing a dimwitted reality television host with a raft of sexual assault allegations against him to win the White House. My three kids had been worried about the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency since he descended that golden escalator, but I had soothed them. It could never happen, I said. Totally sure of myself.
I had to wake them up and admit I’d been wrong. That things aren’t fair. That when powerful men are involved, sometimes there are no consequences for bad behavior.
It was a terrible lesson. And I had to keep learning it. From the hideous show trial for now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to writer E. Jean Carroll’s all but dismissed account of sexual assault to the entire Jeffrey Epstein saga, the past three years have been blanketed in misogyny and frustration.
I’ve gotten so used to disappointment that I’ve turned into one of those people who are skeptical of even minor good news. Oh, a heartwarming acceptance speech at an awards show? I bet that person is a fraud. A cute moment captured on video? Rehearsed. A woman on the rise in national polls? No chance. I don’t want to fall it.
When Hillary Clinton conceded, I mourned her administration, what could have been. But I also felt a deeper sense of loss. I’d dreamed that I would see a woman elected president, and I worried that we had convinced an entire generation of men and women that a female president was unelectable. If this woman couldn’t win against this man, who could?
And I’m not alone in this fear. “There’s no way they’ll elect a woman,” an older friend tells me when I run into her at Starbucks. “Americans aren’t ready for a woman president,” a neighbor fumes in the elevator one morning. My mother-in-law worries that former vice president Joe Biden has a better chance against Trump, whatever his foibles. At night I lie in bed and stare into space, thinking about farmers in Iowa and whether they’ll ever take a chance on Elizabeth Warren or even Kamala Harris or Amy Klobuchar. I try not to personalize this. The last election wasn’t about how I felt, and this one isn’t either. It’s about voters in six swing states; it’s about ironworkers in Michigan and housewives in Milwaukee. This is not about my heart.
But last month I registered a shift. In me. In the people I know. Even on Twitter. An odd thing has happened. For the first time since the presidential election, some of us have started to feel…hopeful?
The sensation is so novel I didn’t recognize it at first. But it began with that old nemesis of mine—polls. After months of ambitious plans, hundreds of photo lines, and countless appearances, Elizabeth Warren surged ahead in them. At last a woman whose hard work seemed to be noted and appreciated. The first primaries are still months from now, but for a lot of women, Warren presents a chance to finish what Geraldine Ferraro, Margaret Chase Smith, and Shirley Chisholm started. For a lot of us, the fact that we’ve never had a female president still stings. Even prim and proper England had Margaret Thatcher. (Yes, I know.)
Sure, Clinton had her problems, but those issues paled when compared with her opponent’s deficiencies: the harassment and assault allegations, his numerous bankruptcies, the grift. I’m not here to relitigate 2016, but the stark fact was that one candidate was qualified and the other didn’t know who Fredrick Douglass was.
Then the Ukraine news broke. As reports trickled out, we learned that Trump has been pushing Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden. Even moderate Democrats backed impeachment proceedings. And in the time since, I have sometimes wondered: What would happen if we didn’t all get dark and doubtful again? What would happen if we decided to hold the Trump administration accountable for once? Stranger things have happened.
There’s an expression in politics that “Republicans fall in line and Democrats fall in love.” As much as I hate the idea, I think there’s some truth to it. But I’ve held off on following my heart. I’ve been burned, and it’s so much easier to just assume the worst than hope for the best. At least that's how I felt until now.
For the next few weeks, the Trump administration will have to answer for their actions. And in the meantime, women continue to run rings around him. Harris is on the cover of Time magazine! Warren, with her focus on child care and student debt, makes me feel warm inside! I can’t help it. I feel...almost optimistic.
This election will take place 13 or so months and several million news alerts from now. And I am not blind to the realities of our current moment. Abortion is on the chopping block. Immigrants' rights have been trampled. Our president just asked China to interfere in our elections from the White House lawn. I’m not delusional, but I am hopeful. Because for the first time in a long time, some determined part of me feels like we’re at the beginning of something.
Molly Jong-Fast is the author of three novels. Follow her on Twitter @mollyjongfast.
Originally Appeared on Glamour