Some nice and exciting things did happen for me in 2016. An unexpected trip to St. Barts courtesy of my friends Dan and Jessica, which included private jets and a 171-foot yacht. Good times in Rehoboth Beach, evenings at the theater, and dinners with friends. It was also the first time in nearly 50 years I didn’t have and wasn’t looking for a full-time job.
For me 2016 was really about only one thing: the presidential campaign and working to elect Hillary Rodham Clinton. Everything else fades into the woodwork. Being without a full-time job allowed me to be intensely involved. Writing my planned book was put on hold with nearly all my writing, including regular columns, focused on the campaign. There was total immersion from Java House coffee in the morning to Clinton finance committee calls in the afternoon to meetings and fundraisers in the evening.
Then at 10:30 p.m. on Election Night it all came to an end. Hillary was losing Florida and about to lose the election. The mood at the Jacob Javits Center in New York went from jubilant to total depression in about 30 minutes.
I have been involved in politics since the age of nine handing out fliers for Adlai Stevenson. As a teenager in 1964, I attended my first political convention in Atlantic City; the one that nominated Lyndon Johnson. There were highlights at all the conventions I’ve been to. In 1964, it was the 20-minute ovation Bobby Kennedy received from delegates who were yelling and standing on their chairs. In 1976, it was being with Bella Abzug as she campaigned for a Senate seat in what turned out to be a losing primary. In 1980, it was Ted Kennedy’s speech, “The Dream shall never die.” In 2008, I served as a delegate for Hillary in what turned out to be Barack Obama’s convention. But never was I as moved as listening to Hillary Clinton when she made history accepting the nomination as the first woman ever nominated by a major political party to be their presidential candidate.
This was likely the last presidential campaign I will ever be so fully involved in. This one was different. I loved and believed in the candidate who I had first met in 1990. There was no job at the end of the campaign I wanted. Nothing I expected for all the hard work except to see this brilliant, compassionate woman become the first woman president of the United States.
There are many people who shared the same feelings. In a presidential campaign there are thousands whose lives are impacted. All those political appointees who worked in the Obama administration and will now be out of work. All those who dedicated anywhere from a year to three of their lives to Hillary’s campaign and won’t have the chance to work in her administration. All the young people, many whom I was fortunate to meet, who worked in Brooklyn and across the nation knocking on doors, sleeping on couches, with nearly no salary, whose first big loss in life was this campaign. It is my hope as they say good riddance to 2016 they will regroup and take heart from the amazing people they met and the amazing experiences they had and move forward with a dedication to continue to make a difference for people.
One is Adam Parkhomenko, who I am honored to call a friend. He dedicated the last three years of his life to electing Hillary, first co-founding Ready for Hillary. Adam will be OK and I am now pleased to support him as he campaigns to be vice chair of the DNC.
Many face the future with trepidation questioning whether Trump will turn back the clock in America. Will gains made in civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights be reversed? Will voter suppression be part of the future and the Voting Rights Act the past? Will we turn our backs on the rest of the world with the misguided slogan “America First?” Will we turn our backs on the diversity that makes our nation great?
As we say good riddance to 2016, we must be prepared to embrace 2017. Ready to fight for equality, decency and progress. Ready to join hands to stop the Trump administration from taking us backwards. Ready to demand we continue to move steadfastly and proudly into the future; a future that will include and embrace all of us.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.