By Alicia Tan
I met Caro Hernandez the night of the final presidential debate. The plan was to meet a group of people at a bar to watch Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stand side by side.
I was sitting on a bench outside a fish and chips restaurant in the West Village when she arrived towing a large blue poster that read—in varying sizes of uppercase letters—"DAUGHTERS AGAINST FATHERS VOTING FOR TRUMP."
My immediate reaction—as well as that of most other people we passed by that night on the street, in the bars, and on the subway—was "YES!"
In as little as six words, Hernandez’s campaign, Daughters Against Fathers Voting For Trump, addressed the feelings some people have been burdened with this election cycle—feelings heightened by the debates, leaked footage and published accounts from several women about their sexual assault experiences.
On the eve of the election, here is our conversation about Trump, family and the conversations we're scared to initiate.
How did you start this campaign?
After the first debate, me and all the girls I was sitting around, we were basically debating, “Wow after this debate, our dads for sure won’t be voting for Trump,” and then half of us were like, “No, for sure this does not derail our fathers from voting for Trump.”
Everybody was in the same situation where all of us were going to be voting for Hillary, and all of us could not believe our dads are going to—possibly—going to be voting for Trump.
I think a lot of our dads are in the same situation where Trump wasn’t the guy they wanted, but they hate Hillary, or they’ve always been Republican—something is stopping them from not voting for Trump.
So being with all those girls, the next morning, I was just like, “Daughters against fathers voting for Trump. We are Daughters Against Fathers Voting for Trump.” I thought it was a funny concept.
The last time we met, you said you were finagling with the wording. Why did you settle on “Daughters against Fathers”?
I thought about “Daughters Against Trump,” but I think people respond specifically to that exact feeling of “I am a daughter who literally does not want my dad to vote for Trump.” It’s not just “I don’t want people to vote for Trump.” It’s in this super personal relationship that I don’t want that person to vote for Trump. It’d be exceptionally hard for me if that person voted for Trump.
You mentioned some people might see it as an attack on fathers.
I think some people might view it as you’re attacking your dad, or “That’s not a kind thing to do," but I feel like it comes out of how much I love my dad. Like, that’s why I don’t want him to vote for Trump. If our relationship was bad, then I wouldn’t care who he voted for. I think that’s why it speaks to so many people. It’s like, how can they love you so much and have such a great relationship and they might vote for this person?
Why do you think people say this is the most divisive election in history?
No other candidate has ever been so openly hateful of different groups of people—and large groups of people. He openly uses hateful language towards immigrants, Hispanics, black people, Mexicans, Muslims specifically, women and the gay community. He’s openly saying hateful things, and people are cheering for him and it feels terrifying.
Is your dad voting for Trump?
I think that’s the crux of this campaign: I don’t know who my dad is voting for. He’s told me he’s not. He’s told me he is. I think the fear is that he might. I talk to him all the time, but I can’t know until November 8. And even then if he tells me, I still don’t know …
I think that my only real appeal to him—and I think most daughters of Republican fathers—is “Please, Dad, I’m your daughter, don’t do it. You have to look at me after this and know that you voted for him. And I have to look at you and that’s gonna be really hard and terrible.”
If he does end up voting for Trump, what do you even say after that? Does that change your relationship, or will it just be one of those things you never discuss again at the dinner table?
I think the relationship you have with your dad is more important than this election. So I don’t think anybody should come out of this and be like, "I’m never talking to my dad again."
I think we just have to agree to disagree, and I think there will be hurt and anger there for a while.
So what happens if it’s your mother who’s voting for Trump? There’s a whole other layer to it.
Oh yeah. And people who have gotten involved with Daughters Against Fathers Voting For Trump are in the situation where their moms are voting for Trump. I think it’s Daughters Against Fathers Voting for Trump because it sounds better, but it’s the same thing. And people whose uncles are voting for trump are also getting involved with it.
What it speaks to is: People you love, who you hold near and dear to your heart, are going to vote for a person that you view as fundamentally detrimental to the country. People you care about are going to vote for this man. Period.
Does your family know about this campaign?
Yes, they do. My aunt jokingly posted on the Facebook page, “What about aunts voting for Trump?” I said back, “That’s next.” So yeah it’s pretty funny. A lot of my cousins like the page. A lot of my aunts and uncles avoided the invite. It’s been viewed by like 3,000 people and I can see different statistics, and it’s been hidden by one person. And I was wondering if that one person is somebody i’m related to because that would make the most sense. I also got a troll comment, but that was not one of my family members.
What did they say?
They said something to the effect of “Since none of you clearly have a strong father figure, let me tell you how it is. Knock this shit off.” It was very bizarre.
That’s the thing, though. We do have strong father figures.
Exactly! Like they taught us to stand up and say what you think.
So you just made a video for the campaign.
The video is a bunch of girls who don’t want their dads or mothers or uncles to vote for Trump telling their dad, how are you going to vote for a guy who thinks of women as pussies. Don’t do it, Dad. And at the end, we say, “We get it if you can’t vote for Hillary, just write our name in instead of making a vote for Trump.”
If you wanted to argue politically, you could go back and forth for days because there’s just such a proliferation of information, like there’s so much information that if you are deeply conservative, and the other person is deeply liberal. You could go on forever and ever arguing tit for tat, he’s this way, she’s this way, he’s this way, she’s this way.
So I think the only real way to make a difference is to be like, "Dad, I am your daughter. How are you going to do this?"
You have to tap into the human aspect of it.
Yeah, and I think the reason why this works here and not necessarily with a Romney or a McCain presidency is because those people weren’t fundamentally attacking whole swaths of the country. And it feels like, “I know you don’t feel this way, so why are you considering this?”
Do you see this campaign going beyond the election in any way?
Most of the people that I met or interacted with on Facebook are all in a space where their dad might be voting for Trump, but they don’t even want to talk about it or think about it because you don’t want to hate your dad, and you don’t want to get into an argument, and you don’t want to cause fights.
So a part of this is like, remember that he might vote for Trump. Don’t forget that that is a very real thing that could happen. Don’t forget to talk to him. Don’t forget to interact with him on this. And I know we all want to avoid it because we don’t want to believe it’s true, but it might be. So here’s a meme on Facebook that will remind you …
I want to make sure it’s clear that this isn’t an attack on fathers in any way. I just don’t think Trump is the one my dad or any dad really truly wants in office...
But to some, that’s kind of just the best option.
And here’s another thing: I really sympathize with the dad who’s voted Republican his entire life, and now he’s put in this position where he might have to vote for this man who he disagrees with on almost every issue. But how do you bring yourself to vote for a Democrat, let alone a Clinton, when you’ve been Republican your whole life? Like, the only thing you understand is being Republican. It’s such a cornerstone of who you are. How do you bring yourself to do that? I do not envy their position in any way. Every Republican I know is in a horrible spot right now. I think it sucks.
Like you’ve always been so strong with your beliefs and your identity, and now some dude is kind of ruining all of it, but you don’t want to turn against it in a way.
Something I talked to my dad about—he’s an independent—and I kind of appeal to his, like, you’re a rogue dude. You vote to the beat of your own drum. He kind of agreed with me that to vote for somebody just because he doesn’t want Hillary to be president is not the answer.
What are your thoughts on third-party voting?
My biggest question would be: How do you reconcile not voting, doing the third-party voting, thinking that the end result of that might be a Trump presidency? How can you live with yourself knowing that you didn’t do everything in your power to stop that from happening?
In a way, it’s sort of admirable that you care enough to vote third party—that you believe your vote says something about you and what you want.
And if all of us truly voted in that way, we’d have a far more interesting and probably equal system. But as it stands, I don’t know. I think every election, third-party voting and the two-party system comes up, and it feels like this one is too, too scary to play with this time.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.