Many of my family and friends were so hot with Bernie fever that any mention of doubt, or, heaven forfend, support of, Hillary Clinton was met with eye-rolling at best, and lengthy, contemptuous, ’splaining at worst. A little of that goes a long way. Not a long way toward changing my mind, but a long way toward ending political discussion.
So I shut up about Hillary. And, yes, I was keenly aware of the irony: I was too wimpy to support her out loud in the face of mildly patronizing contempt, while she was flying face-first into much worse. But then, I was running from conflict, and she was running for president.
Meanwhile, there was no avoiding the Clinton bashing online; she was getting it from the right for being too left, from the left for being too right, from all sides for being too shrill or too manly, too wishy-washy or too inflexible, mawkish or hawkish, and unlikable. The insults hurled at Hillary splattered her supporters.
I kept my head down and my thoughts to myself until a Facebook acquaintance wrote something enthusiastic about Hillary, and I responded. Several hideous comments by Hillary-hating strangers quickly followed.
You know the feeling when someone suddenly yells at you from a passing car? Maybe he honks his horn, making you jump, making your heart race and your face burn as if you’ve been slapped? Well, it turns out the same feeling can be evoked by a Facebook comment, if it’s mean enough.
Soon after that, I received a private message inviting me to join a secret Hillary Facebook group. I accepted and discovered I wasn’t the only one feeling battered by the political shouting and fist-waving.
I wasn’t the only one cheering when Clinton spoke to my concerns. I wasn’t the only one stunned silent by people saying they wanted a woman for president, but not that woman. I wasn’t the only one who tried to speak to younger progressives and heard myself sounding as unintelligible as the grown-ups in a “Peanuts” TV special.
My new campaign cohort was capped at 150 members and I’d just made it in. We were wildly diverse in age, profession and interests. The group was predominately but not exclusively female. Some members were politically sophisticated activists. Others, like me, responded from the gut.
Logging onto my secret Hillary fan club became a bigger and bigger part of my online day, checking in on reports from Hillary’s events, checking out links, reading comments. While my nearest and dearest talked about how no one was talking about Bernie, I sneaked off to my computer to feel solidarity with strangers whom I wouldn’t even recognize at the market.
With every set of primaries, we could log on and keep refreshing our news feeds to watch the results come in together. We celebrated in real time again and again. Not to gloat, but the latest count is more than 16.5 million votes, according to Wikipedia.
And now it has come out that there are many, many secret Hillary groups online, some with several thousand members. The fact that so many of us have felt the need to hide speaks equally to the ferocious public nature of the Hillary-haters and the private faith of her supporters.
I don’t know about the other secret groups, but the one I’m in continues as strong — and as private — as ever. Some brave members have stepped out of the closet occasionally to engage in cyber battles. Others say they will only feel safe coming out in the voting booth.
Until this election, I never completely got the power of the secret ballot. In an effort to keep peace at family dinners, or at work or in the carpool, I’m sure many people stay mum about their political allegiances. When we finally get our ballots, however, we make our marks as we please, no matter what the pollsters predict or the attack ads scream. With that in mind, I hope any Hillary leaner who still finds herself buffeted by Sanders diehards, Trump enthusiasts or even nonvoters will seek out a safe place for some camaraderie and support.
Amy Goldman Koss is the author of “Side Effects” and many other books for teens. She wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.