Some students somber in wake of election
Students on all sides react to the new President-elect Donald Trump
Republican businessman Donald Trump will serve as the next president of the United States as he rang in 279 electoral votes early Wednesday morning.
And Washington University students have a lot to say about that.
“I’ve gotten a few calls out on it from employees of the University—mostly employees, not students. Students, I’ll get some dirty looks, but I’ve had this hat for a long time,” Hildebrand said. “The reaction has been more or less what it usually is.”
Trump supporters on campus are a silent minority. On Washington University’s overwhelmingly liberal campus, many noted the mood as somber yesterday.
Dylan Chan is a freshman architecture student who spent much of his time in high school exploring New York City and the Hudson river area. Chan said he feels that his previous notion of “America,” having grown up in a liberal, vibrant, urban community on the eastern edge of the country, is in stark contrast to the one he sees now.
“My first gut reaction was I wanted to go back to New York, back to the river. I wanted to look west over it, like I used to everyday, and know that Trump’s America—which I cannot picture myself in—stretched in that direction. I can’t reconcile my hometown with the country that it is attached to,” Chan said. “I want to feel proud to be an American, I really do, but that has become nearly impossible.”
Other students feel disconnected to the democratic process and their nation as a whole. Words like hurt, confused, shocked and scared dominated discourse on campus today.
Association of Latin-American Students (ALAS) co-president Itzel Lopez-Hinojosa, a senior, said she woke up with a heavy heart. She spoke of the intense fear the sight of a red hat—which was actually a Cardinals cap—instilled in her yesterday.
“I literally just froze. They’re trigger points now—like the word ‘great.’ The color red,” Lopez-Hinojosa said. “I don’t think I realized how much hatred was in our country. The fact that one in two Americans won’t see me as a human is just so demoralizing and scary.”
As a leader in the Latinx community on campus, Lopez-Hinojosa engages herself in political issues involving her culture. A child of immigrants, she has seen and lived being a minority and a woman firsthand. When the Latinx vote didn’t lean as heavily towards Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as many had anticipated, Lopez-Hinojosa reasoned that the Latinx people aren’t as homogenous as their minority label might confer.
“That’s a hard pill to swallow,” Lopez-Hinojosa said of the national exit polls that indicated a 29 percent vote for Trump amongst the Latinx community. “There’s this innate sense that the Latino community should be together and that we should support each other, but the fact of the matter is that the word Latino in its very nature is a political statement. It’s a political word that has been used to subject our community to this blanket statement that we’re all the same, and we’re not. And that’s hard to think about, that even when we’re supposed to find connection, that might not be the case.”
But Hildebrand wasn’t surprised by the Latinx vote. His America, the one he grew up in at least, is in Alton, Ill. It’s about 15 miles north of St. Louis, and, like Chan’s hometown, rests on a river, but one very different from the Hudson. His America consists of the remnants of a booming industry his town once thrived on.
“Without jobs, this part of the country lost its purpose. As for the minority communities, all I can say is that a lot of the manufacturers that used to employ minority workers, low-skilled workers especially, they’re gone,” Hildebrand said. “What I saw in Donald Trump when I went to one of his first rallies, I saw people of every race, every age…I saw African-Americans, I saw Asians, I saw Hispanics. I saw everyone there, of every age, from retirees to college-age students, and what I saw was that people were seeing a purpose and a sense of unity in the Rust Belt.”
Hildebrand speaks of the “Rust Belt” as a place that was glossed over in the recent reinvention of many metropolis areas such as New York City.
“We sort of just don’t have anything. And there are towns just like that all over Michigan, all over Illinois, all over Wisconsin,” he said. “And these people just want to feel included in this New America, they want to feel included, like they’re contributing to something in the United States. And for those of us trapped in the Rust Belt, we just feel abandoned and forgotten.”
Junior Ruben Schuckit, president of College Republicans, thinks the results of the election demonstrate the disconnect between areas such as the Rust Belt and new media, and in that, the true power of a democracy.
“I think it was the democracy working, because these people really couldn’t get their voices heard or legitimized on the national stage, because the media just didn’t think that they had a chance of winning,” Schuckit said. “They got their voices heard in the one way it wouldn’t be obstructed, and that’s voting. And that’s what ended up happening. We didn’t really take them seriously but their votes still counted like everyone else’s.”
The College Republicans chose not to endorse Trump in this election cycle, and will be deciding in the coming weeks, based on what they see from Trump, how to best align with the GOP. Until then, everything is up in the air.
“If the mellow attitude continues then we’ll probably somewhat tentatively but somewhat join the overture for unity, but I mean otherwise if he continues with his normal tone we’ll probably reaffirm our condemnation of him,” Schuckit said. “Nothing is set in stone.”
Senior Jimmy Loomis is the president of College Democrats as well as the youngest elected official in Missouri as the Clayton Township Democratic Committeeman. A week before election day, Loomis appeared on a segment for an ABC news affiliate entitled, “Can Trump and Clinton Supporters Agree on Anything?” On the show, Loomis was asked what he would do if Trump won the presidency. Loomis said that though he definitely would not vote for Trump, he would show respect should the candidate win. At the time, it was an easy answer to give. Loomis had barely considered a Trump victory.
“Reassured by polls, the echo chambers of the media, and if nothing else an assumption of rationality, we blissfully ignored the possibility of defeat, despite the obvious hints,” Loomis said in a statement to Student Life. “Sentiments of exclusion created by rapid demographic, social and economic transformations underway in America combined with widespread frustration over dysfunctional government provided fertile conditions for the success of ‘outside’ candidates.”
Nonetheless, he said his sentiment from the TV segments stands.
“If we are sincere in our patriotism and truly desire to rightly serve this nation, we must offer our hand to the new president-elect, and demonstrate a willingness to work with him and his administration to rebuild and rediscover an America where what unites us is greater than what divides us,” Loomis continued.
Not everyone, however, is as hopeful. Junior and Student Union Vice President of Administration Sankalp Kapur, an international student from India, never planned on living in America after he graduated. But he said some of his friends who did are now reconsidering.
“I met someone who came here expecting to settle down after graduation because they were sold this idea of America and American ideals, and yesterday they realized that, one, that’s not an idea shared by the majority of this country, and two, they might not feel safe here, and I understand that,” Kapur said.
But he said he does think that the election results highlight a need for enhanced campus political involvement.
“I think the America that people dream of at Wash. U. is at risk. I think this is exactly the environment under which college activism should thrive,” he said.
Junior and Washington University Student Advocates for Reproductive Rights (WUSTARR) co-president Elizabeth Levinson took to Facebook to spread a message that’s central to her group’s cause. She suggested that women look into obtaining birth control methods, specifically intrauterine devices, before access for reproductive healthcare comes under question in a Republican government.
“We’re going to fight. But we also have to survive. Consider getting an IUD this month. An entirely Republican-controlled government is going to do to a lot of damage to reproductive rights and contraception access, but most IUDs will outlast a Trump presidency,” Levinson said in an interview.
As of now, student-led rallies are planned for Thursday and Friday afternoon on campus. Anthropology graduate student Kate Farley helped plan Thursday’s rally with her political ecology class and said that their class decided that hosting an informal meet up would be a good place to start in responding to the results of the election.
“I think that a lot of other cities are having anti-Trump rallies, but I don’t want this to be an ‘anti’ rally. I think that this is a pro-inclusiveness and pro-solidarity event,” Farley said.
As for the rest of the student body, disappointed voters are attempting pick themselves up, including senior Eliana Goldstein, the public relations manager of the Vagina Monologues, a feminist performance group.
“As I walked around campus today, I didn’t feel angry at anyone in particular. The thing I’ve wanted to do most today is just hug other people, talk about something that isn’t politics, connect in a way that I think I’m guilty of not having done this year—a way we clearly haven’t been doing as a national community. I really hope that this election, rather than destroying dreams of progress, reminds us why we fight for them,” Goldstein told Student Life in a statement. “I have to believe that we will be.”
As for Hildebrand? His mission now is to bring civility to interactions between Trump supporters and others.
“I just want to humanize us,” he said. “These people aren’t bigots, they aren’t racists, they’re just people wishing they could get a better country for themselves and their children.”