In the Wake of Clinton Defeat, Pantsuit Nation Mobilizes for More Action

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -concedes the presidential election 4- Getty - H 2016
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Facebook's Pantsuit Nation hasn't conceded defeat.

Now that the election’s over, 3 million Hillary Clinton supporters are wondering how to use their collective power next.

Just over two weeks ago, they began flooding a secret Facebook page called Pantsuit Nation, created by a Maine mother of two named Libby Chamberlain. She formed the space to celebrate the historic possibility of the first female president, and as a gathering point for people who support Clinton. The second mission? To wear pantsuits in solidarity.

But once it got going, the group ended up sharing much more. Members honored suffragettes by wearing period costumes. They posted pleas to protect Obamacare — some doing so from hospital beds while they were receiving chemotherapy. And each time a Pantsuit member posted pretty much anything, thousands would respond: "We love you! We’re here for you! We support you!" 

Come election day, the group remained optimistic. Hundreds of thousands posted pictures of themselves — and their daughters, sisters, mothers — at the polls. Octogenarians — and older women — posted pics of themselves voting in an election they had only dreamed of. A vast majority wore pantsuits — new, or ones they’d dug out of closets. Through an administrator, Clinton sent them a personal note of thanks: “This election hasn't been easy…it's been difficult to feel like you could wear your support on your sleeve…. I'm honored and humbled to have all of you with me.” 

A day later, she conceded the election. The Pantsuit Nation page shut down. Not because it, too, conceded defeat though. In the early morning on Wednesday, Chamberlain wrote that her admin team was “still reeling” from the results and working to figure out how to best serve a Facebook group that had swelled to more than 3 million members. She paused the ability for members to write new posts, with 140,000 pending from the previous 48 hours. Her moderators had been working hard, she added. And they needed to take a breath.

But she also wrote that “there are 3.1 million glimmers out there tonight. I know you are hurting, but you’re still glowing. This is our hope, Pantsuiters. This group — our shared positivity and love and strength…. And this is just the beginning. Pantsuit Nation is more important today than it was yesterday. Secretary Clinton called on us in her incredible, gracious speech this morning. We need to make our voices heard.”

She asked members to be patient, as she and her team figured out next steps. 

Once the page was operational again Thursday morning, suggestions began coming in. Several were calls to action. One member posted a petition asking members of the Electoral College to vote for Clinton on December 19. Another added a link to a crisis text line offering counseling.

“I’ve been thinking we can organize locally and statewide,” another post read, “while remaining joined nationally. Perhaps we can put together a statement of common values that we can all agree upon? Lots of different thoughts and a lot of energy is out there to help you with what must be an overwhelming task.”

In response, several Pantsuit spinoff groups, all representing state chapters, formed across the nation. Some are tiny (Boulder, Colorado has just just 170 members), while others are more robust. The Washington state chapter has 4,000 members and has already organized an in-person meeting.

Haylee Vance, an executive producer at Oxygen Media, started a Los Angeles chapter Wednesday morning. She invited four friends as she was “rushing to work.” In a matter of hours, the number had multiplied to 1,600.

She and two others organized the “LA Pantsuits Stronger Together Meet Up” in Pasadena on Wednesday night, which drew a small crowd of 30 to 40. “We wanted to support one another and see how we can move forward. There are a lot of minorities, a lot of the LGBTQ community, a lot of women who are afraid. But in past elections [current Trump supporters] have felt the same way. We want to reach out to Trump supporters and ask ‘What did we miss?’ So we’re planning a listening tour to start that process. We have a lot of other action items in our lineup.”

And at last count, says Vance, the L.A. group was up to 2,543 members.