Jennifer Pierotti Lim is one of the founders of Republican Women for Hillary. The views expressed here are her own.
If you told me last year that I would spend the final weeks leading up to Election Day on the road for Hillary Clinton, cheering for her on behalf of Republican women, I never would have believed you. Same goes for the idea that I would appear on stage at a national convention to voice support for the Democratic nominee.
I probably would have laughed. My husband would have laughed harder. Many of my fellow Republican friends would have cried.
But then again, this hasn’t been a normal election cycle for America.
I grew up in Richmond, VA — Virginia is historically a very red state — supporting all the Republican regulars like Eric Cantor, George Allen, and John Warner. I would head to the polls every year with my dad to help hand out GOP literature, and that turned into volunteering throughout high school and college doing phone banking, canvassing, and handing out bumper stickers and yard signs.
And during law school, I was fortunate to work on the Senate Small Business Committee for former Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican who was able to successfully work across the aisle with her Democratic colleagues on a number of issues.
Being a Republican is part of my identity. It’s how I grew up, and it’s closely tied to the career path I chose. I hoped that in 2016 my party would recapture the presidency with a candidate who was principled, respected, and a great leader for our nation.
When our Republican leaders began endorsing Trump in May of 2016, I experienced a feeling that can only be described as betrayal.
But when our Republican leaders began endorsing Trump in May of 2016, I experienced a feeling that can only be described as betrayal.
Trump’s pattern of misogyny, including his horrendous comments about Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, should have disqualified him even before the primaries. But those didn’t seem to stop these endorsements from coming. It was clear to me back then that the race would come down to Trump and Clinton, and even clearer that Clinton was the only option. Even then, I knew I needed to be able to look back and know that I did everything I could to keep this man out of the White House.
I knew that Republican women who share my views would need additional cover in being able to speak out and say that Trump doesn’t represent us as Republicans or Americans. And given his past statements and behavior, it was obvious that he absolutely could not represent women.
That’s how Republican Women For Hillary was born. We are a group of more than 75 leaders and volunteers across the country who thought the Republican Party, and America, deserved better. We started out as seven friends meeting at a D.C. bar commiserating about the primaries. Now, we’ve grown to a network that spans the entire United States.
The unique brand of cyberbullying Trump has cultivated throughout his campaign created an environment where many of us were afraid to voice our concerns.
It hasn’t been easy to speak out against our nominee. Our mostly male GOP leaders, like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell — Republican women haven’t had adequate representation in the higher ranks of the party — endorsed him early on. The unique brand of cyberbullying Trump has cultivated throughout his campaign created an environment where many of us were afraid to voice our concerns. We were fortunate, however, to have support early on from our friends and families, and the respect of many Republicans all across the country.
This election matters too much for us not to act. That’s why, in July, I decided to air my concerns in the most public of settings — in front of millions of Americans at the Democratic National Convention.
Nothing could have prepared me for how life-changing speaking at the DNC would be. Even during rehearsal the day before, the biggest takeaway was to drink apple juice so my voice wouldn’t crack. Where am I going to find apple juice in Philly? Is red the right color for the DNC? Should I be wearing blue instead?
I don’t remember ever watching a convention on TV, so it didn’t hit me that 33 million people would be watching me until right before Doug Elmets, a strategist who served in the Reagan administration, and I walked on stage for the “Republicans for Hillary” segment. At that point, I think most people thought that we would be the answer to a trivia question someday, not the faces of a growing and important movement in our party’s history.
I tried to focus on the one teleprompter that was working that night, though I nearly lost my train of thought when the Virginia delegation went crazy at my mention of Richmond, VA, now nationally known as the home of Tim Kaine. Afterward, the convention hall was so packed that I wasn’t even able to find a seat to watch Hillary’s speech. Meeting all of the amazing speakers backstage ahead of time is not something I’ll ever forget: the Khan family, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez. I don’t think any of us knew how memorable the night would be.
Since the DNC, we’ve expanded Republican Women For Hillary to nine states. And, as part of Together for America, I’ve been able to take our message to places like Wisconsin and Florida to meet the amazing Republican and Democratic volunteers campaigning for the woman I hope will be our next president. I’ve met folks from the United Kingdom and Ireland helping America out with our election so that the Brexit mentality doesn’t spread, Republicans working around the clock running field offices in Orlando, and conservative women who worry about being too public with their support of Hillary because they live in an open-carry state.
Back in May, I thought that Republican Women For Hillary would be a very limited-time-only adventure, and it would neatly end with the election.
But these women’s voices are not confined to this cycle — there is so much that will have to be done starting on November 9 to repair the damage that has been done to the Republican Party and heal the hate that Trump has unleashed in America.
In those early days as a GOP Clinton supporter, I thought my life as a garden variety Republican would return to normal post-election. But now, given all I’ve seen and experienced, I’m so glad it won’t.
We need to see our country move in the right direction, and I’m proud to be a part of that.
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