(Slate) -- The photos were all over the internet on election night of 2016. They went viral in the bad way, and they all looked something like this: Women, standing in a crowd of other women, hands over their mouths, tears on their cheeks, as they realized that Hillary Clinton had lost to Donald Trump, the man who bragged about treating women like garbage. Those photos had come immediately on the heels of the other photos, also inescapable, taken earlier that day: Women posed outside of public schools, and churches, and rec centers, wearing pantsuits and beaming into the camera with elated looks that said, I just voted for the first woman to be president of the United States! That whiplash? That immense distance between the two sets of photos, between the historic, thrilling high of the morning and the gut punch of the night that followed? It’s a feeling millions of women have been processing ever since.
In all the soul searching that came in the months after November 2016, it didn’t take long for that feeling to turn into a question: Would it be insane to run a woman—any woman—against Donald Trump in 2020? As my friend Michelle Goldberg put it six months after Trump had won, “many American women want to break the male lock on the presidency, but they also want to save the republic, and it’s all too possible that those two goals are at odds.” We had all just witnessed a highly qualified woman lose the presidency to a carnival barker. Why, with the stakes growing ever higher, would we even consider trying it again?