After Donald Trump’s election, we asked StudentNation writers to let us know how they felt about the unexpected result. We received a torrent of responses from both high-school and college students, most of whom had more to say that our allotted 200 words could allow. The forum reflects a wide array of emotional responses and calls to action. Taken together, it gives some sense of how engaged millennials are making sense of the election results.
Shona Kambarami, The New School ’17
A few minutes before midnight on election day, surrounded by a rainbow crowd of weeping Hillary Clinton supporters at the NBC Democracy Plaza, it became clear to me that I was watching the unthinkable happen, in real time. I left.
On my subway ride to rapidly diversifying Bed-Stuy, a deathly silence was interrupted by a woman who entered the car two stops in. “Do you have your papers?” she asked to nobody in particular. She repeated the question to a young African-American hipster, who nodded. “Good. Good. Because if you don’t, he’s going to be rounding us up.”
Half the train car was crying. Even the stoic among us were affected. I haven’t stopped. The despair comes in searing waves, when I least expect it: when my cousin posts “I’m raising a young black boy and I’m terrified,” or when I see an article on Twitter about women rushing to get IUDs inserted because they’re afraid of what comes next. When a Muslim woman is afraid to wear a hijab or when my friend—a fellow sexual-assault victim—could not comprehend how little our pain matters.
I don’t know what comes next.
Alia Marsha, University of Washington, ’16
My friends and I were still a little high from marijuana, drunk from red wine, and dizzy from too much candy, but when Trump came on TV to deliver his winning speech we could feel ourselves sobering up real quick. We knew these substances wouldn’t make us numb to this election, yet I surprised myself when I felt my heart sink. We were silent and tense with disappointment and fear. I didn’t vote, because I couldn’t. My student visa expires next September. I will be on the airplane back to Indonesia because it’s my plan—no need to kick me out. My plan to come back in a couple of years to attend graduate school became hazier. Should I maybe try applying in four years? Would this country let me back in? Trump and his supporters hate me for all of my identities: immigrant, person of color, queer, woman, Muslim. I looked at my American friends, all 20-something first-time voters, already feeling the distance between me and them. I may never set foot here again, I thought.
Omneya Hany A Shanab, Syracuse University ’18
This election broke me. It broke a lot of us. This election went against everything I thought the United States of America stood for. This country was meant to welcome people of all colors, religions, shapes, sizes, and minds. But here I am sitting at my computer confused as to how a man who stands against all of those things is going to be the most powerful man in the world for the next four years.
I’m not upset that the election resulted in a Republican sweep. I’m upset because so many people think Donald Trump is fit to be the leader of the free world. I’m upset because as a Muslim woman of color, now more than ever, I have to walk in fear, in a country that is supposed to be my home. I’m scared because Donald Trump’s election has made it seem okay for people to be filled with hate. America failed everyone who already feels that they are underrepresented in this country, a country that was built on the backs of slaves. It’s easy to say we live in a “post-racial” America, but I think the election proved that we don’t.
Karin Chan, UCLA ’16
When the tide began to turn in favor of Trump, my friends and I frantically messaged each other in disbelief. We were horrified that half of America did not think racism, xenophobia, and misogyny were deal breakers. The election result has not just been distressing. It poses a safety issue for many of my friends, who identify as women and QTPOC. If we want to survive Trump’s presidency, we must work collectively across communities to advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ folks, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, POC and undocumented folks. If we want the planet to thrive, we must advocate for the right to clean water, clean air, and clean energy.
We were not able to witness a woman become president this election, but we can support more women-led movements like #BlackLivesMatter. We can vote for women in the midterm elections. We can vote for young women running for student government. We will have to live with the ramifications of Trump’s presidency, but we can turn public opinion against him. We will have difficult conversations at the dinner table with our friends and family members. No matter how you leave that discussion, know that you are valued. You are loved. You are enough.
Priscilla Carcido, California State University, Fullerton ’18
As a woman, as a person of color, and as an immigrant, I have never felt invalid in this country. I understood I was a minority, but I saw it as motivation and not a card of defeat. When I saw all of those states go red—when I saw how many people supported white supremacy—I had never felt so betrayed. I was betrayed by a country that promised my parents their daughter would have better opportunities. I was betrayed by a country that hid its racism and bigotry. I was betrayed by a country that declared it had grown past the inequality that prevailed in the ’50s and ’60s. I thought we were done with this shit, but apparently not.
Nevertheless, I still refuse to accept defeat.
My grandchildren 50 to 60 years from now are not going to be dealing with racism, homophobia, or sexism, because my generation is going to take action to change it. We’re going to incite change; we’re going to demand change. We’re not going to settle for less than the removal of this hateful environment Trump has exposed and fostered. We are not backing down—not anymore.
April Emig, University of Minnesota, Duluth ’16
I felt like a bad feminist before Roxane Gay made it a progressive household phrase. As I sat in my women’s studies classes, surrounded by gender-bending activists with purple hair, I felt downright patriarchic. Worst of all, I often envied the position of women in the ’60s and ’70s. I couldn’t help but feel that my era of feminism fought for relatively trivial matters—our “empowering” boob jobs to their Roe v. Wade. I knew I was looking at the past with rose-colored glasses I didn’t have a right to wear, but I did it anyway.
I guess I’m getting my karmic payback. I spent the day after the election like most liberals, stumbling around with a political hangover. But as soon as I could open the blinds without a headache, I saw the proverbial light—a chance to come together and fight, fight, fight. I say this fully aware of the baggage I carry with the privilege of being a straight, able-bodied, cis-gendered white woman. I don’t have to fear deportation or racist harassment. But I also realize the power this privilege carries and I—like many of my peers—am going to harness it as a way to promote progress, as a way to reach white people who would never listen to a person of color, or a person with a disability, or even a child. And I’m not doing it alone. This is the chance for millennials to show what we’re capable of, to maintain the victories of those before us, and to further the causes we deeply believe in. We have too much to lose to give up now.
Shannon Steck, CUNY City College ’18
I’ve lost a full pant size since Tuesday.
I don’t know if this comes from a need to shrink into myself, knowing what we’re all soon to face, or whether this is a result of my body grieving the America I hoped we’d choose to be. Maybe it’s a natural feminine reaction to disaster; a reaction to a loss of control over one’s own body. I tell myself it’s all three, not knowing if this loss of appetite is just a temporary occurrence triggered by devastation.
Maybe, if my loss of appetite persists, I’ll mutate into a variation of the women Trump eyes. Maybe jutting bones will save me. I know this isn’t true, but I must find hope somewhere, even if it lies in my own destruction.
I don’t know what this means for my generation. We didn’t vote for this man. We’re being shackled to archaic traditions that seek our elimination. Our bodies and our emotions are no longer our own, so how is it that we’re still able to feel this overwhelming pain? How do we accept that our neighbors don’t see us as human? How are we able to wear the betrayal we feel on our persons without collapsing from the sheer weight of it all? How will we exist in the face of this overwhelming uprising of a culture we thought we were to soon part ways with?
Sophya Giudici-Juarez, Miami Arts Charter School, N. Miami, FL
On November 8, 2016, minorities were reminded that we live in a country pitted against us. We are a people fighting for ourselves, with no help from others. We cannot be separated any longer; we are stronger together, and it fills me with great remorse that it took such an extreme to situation to remind many of us.
We must be more resilient now, more than ever. We have been through worse and always bounced back. Now is the time to prove that when you try to break us, we bend; we stretch and grow in number, in alliances, in fighters. We are not content with silence. They tried to muffle us, so we became louder; they tried to ignore us, so we became something worth recognizing.
Donald Trump does not understand the enemies he has made. He forgets that we are fortified by the strength of our ancestors. We’ve been fighting for centuries, and now is not the time to stop. When the media asks you why you’re protesting, tell them why you’re angry. Tell them this is for every life this man has spat on, every bridge he burned. He’s not what this country symbolizes, and we will prove it.
Brittney Welch, Stockton University ’17
I was in complete shock when every trusted source I had turned out to be dead wrong. It’s not even that I live in some sort of bubble: I’m from rural Ohio, and I go back every summer and winter. I’ve seen the disillusionment. It was still very hard to understand a reality I hadn’t envisioned, a Trump win, because I’d been told it was so improbable. It made me question what went wrong in the polls, in the reporting, and in the general understanding of how American politics works.
Trump’s victory has shaken many in my generation. I reported from Washington, DC, on election night, surrounded by students at American University, and young adults outside the White House. I’d never seen such strong feelings of disillusionment and numbness. If this disillusionment turns into apathy, I worry about the political engagement of my generation. If this disillusionment turns around into something more positive, something more motivational, I think my generation could gain political influence to be reckoned with. Only time will tell. But for now, the somber mood among young people in the nation’s capital, and across the nation itself, has not yet lifted.
Sage Marshall, Wesleyan College ’19
At college, by reading stories, interacting with classmates, studying history, and understanding dominant forms of culture, we learn empathy. That’s why, when Trump won, we cried. His victory wasn’t a usual political outcome; it was a victory of anger, hatred, racism, and sexism. It was the defeat of empathy.
We have responded on a spectrum from sadness to anger. Some of us walk around campus silently, trying to make sense of this defeat. Others protest publicly. Both responses are valid. Unfortunately, though, the path forward is so unclear. We shouldn’t isolate ourselves from Trump supporters, but we can’t accept the racism that Trump has promoted. We should make our outrage at the Trump administration heard, but we also need to work to defeat him and other Republicans in the coming elections.
How do we rebuild empathy? Do we make more art, better art? How do we protest more effectively? How do we redirect the anger caught up in racism and sexism? There aren’t any easy answers.
Yet, as a young person, there really isn’t any choice: We have to do the best that we can, however and wherever we can. And we have to reconcile ourselves, sooner rather than later, to the fact that there is no one clear or “right” path forward.
Patrick Flynn, Villanova University ’18
Despair is seductive. It gives us a free pass, a way to avoid involvement in a dismal situation. And there has been no shortage of despair in the days following the election of Mr. Trump. But despair is dangerous. It says that we’re powerless, that the machinations of the system will persist unabated regardless of what we do, that we should all pack up and go home.
Hope is difficult. It says that, in spite of it all, I will press on. The atmosphere on my campus has been one of unique hope; the kind only a disaster can create. I’ve seen genuine dialogue across the political spectrum, and fierce alliance-building with communities that have been targeted. To sugarcoat this situation would be patronizing. It is bleak. But it is imperative that we let no one, no matter how powerful, neutralize our hope. It is hope, and hope alone, that will allow us to make this place beautiful.
Leehi Yona, Dartmouth ’16
“Action is the antidote to despair.”
These words have been resonating with me since the election. Make no mistake—I am grieving over what this election means for me and so many of us who have fought for climate action and social justice. What will happen to every little victory we’ve fought tooth and nail to achieve? How can we find hope when all seems lost?
I implore us all to lift our hearts up off the floor. Take time to grieve, but do not forget that our current system of government wasn’t working anyway. We still were so far away from where we needed to be on climate change, immigration reform, racial justice, and women and LGBTQIA+ rights. Maybe this election is a moment for us to dream anew and create solutions outside of the broken system of federal government. We needed to create these solutions, regardless of who was going to be elected president.
We are new leaders, and we will not stop fighting. We can’t afford to. So please, protect each other (especially those targeted by Trump’s campaign of hate) and take care of one another, but see this as a moment to rise.
Brock Parent, University of Massachusetts ’17
Can we talk about revolution now?
Has 2016, with Brexit and the US election, finally illuminated the spectacular dysfunction of polite, professional society? The liberal world order is collapsing, unable to represent, provide for, or successfully coerce even its most privileged subjects. Hillary Clinton, the establishment’s most qualified candidate to date, was defeated by former reality-TV star and perverse id of American masculinity Donald Trump. We now find ourselves on the runaway train of the “alt-right,” an American collusion of fascism and neoliberalism sure to rain terror on already marginalized communities everywhere.
This is happening against the backdrop of new climate science showing the planet’s global temperature could rise to 7 degrees celsius by 2100.
Time is up.
We must build a national student movement. We must pile into the streets and find new ways to relate to one another, to fill the post-Trump political vacuum with a radical politics of love that topples identitarian neoliberalism while forging new group identities. Our movement must be intersectional and creative. We must be well organized, subversive, and everywhere, with a trenchant left analysis. We must escape the confines of traditional campus organizing and work in tandem with our local communities to articulate and mobilize a new political program that puts people over profit.
We need radical social movements now, more than ever, to destabilize this system at its core, to refuse its social reproduction. This is in defense of life everywhere.
Will Anderson, Johns Hopkins University ’18
Trump’s victory poses an existential threat to the climate movement. After the limited COP 21 victory last December, there has been positive momentum toward a solution to the climate crisis. Young activists could see a future with less food insecurity. Poor communities, which climate change will disproportionately affect, had reason to hope. But Trump and his Republicans are jeopardizing the movement.
The fossil-fuel executives that Trump could make EPA administrator and secretary of energy will leave the United States ostracized. Even Saudi Arabia and China have publicly said that they will respect the COP21 deal even if the United States pulls out.
It is critical for the climate movement to take an intersectional perspective. Young people identify with multiple movements, be they for black lives or undocumented rights. Young activists have connected with all of these movements, and it is critical that we use our strength collectively.
The Trump presidency will put the climate movement on the defensive, but he underestimates its resilience. Trump will galvanize a younger generation. Now that we cannot rely even on limited state support, activists must rely on each other, and that gives me hope. It’s going to be a grueling fight, but we will win.
Adam Tomasi, Wake Forest ’19
When I heard the results on Election Night, all I could think about was climate change. President-elect Donald Trump is a climate denier. We all know of his tweets calling climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese and that global warming can’t be real because “it’s snowing & freezing in NYC.” But that’s not the scariest part.
Trump has said he wants to withdraw from the Paris agreement, cut off US funding to UN climate change programs, and dismantle the EPA. He appointed Myron Ebell, a notorious climate denier, to run his EPA transition team. All of this sounds the death knell for meaningful climate action, unless we organize.
At Wake Forest University, in North Carolina, I worked with NextGen Climate to get out the vote. We did succeed in helping Hillary win Forsyth County (where Wake is located). Unfortunately, Hillary will not be in a position to continue the progress that President Obama has made on climate change. I felt lost for a few days, because I thought our climate would be irreparably doomed. But now I feel ready and willing to organize.
Gabriella Ciuffetelli, Hofstra University ’17
To many, Donald Trump’s electoral upset represents the ugliest parts of American society. From racism, to Islamaphobia, to sexism, it seems as though no one was spared from Trump’s rhetoric as he rode a wave of alt-right populism to victory.
In fact, Trump was able to beat a well-qualified opponent without laying out any real, detailed plans by exploiting his voters’ deepest, and often most unspoken, fears.
But we can prevent this from happening again. The first step in doing so is talking about it.
The key to understanding Trump’s rise, and why his victory was so unpredictable, is recognizing that people don’t often express their fears of the things, or the people, that they don’t understand. This fear often turns into the very qualities that strongmen like Trump use to fuel their rise to the top.
Millennials in particular play an important role in creating, and maintaining, this dialogue. We can no longer afford to run from uncomfortable conversations. This election proves that now more than ever we must engage with, not run away from, the ugly truths around us.
As the future of America, we must educate and engage ourselves. We must acknowledge the underlying factors that lead to Trump’s victory and we must accept that no one has more power to change them than we do. But by pretending that Trump’s rise was a spontaneous, once in a lifetime occurrence, we are all but assuring that history will repeat itself.
Tabitha Shiflett, The New School ’17
As a woman, I am genuinely terrified of what is to come. America has spoken by electing a misogynistic, arrogant, bigoted, sad excuse of a man to lead this country. And, while I acknowledge that Donald Trump is, in fact, the president-elect, I refuse to accept that our country is actively participating in the hate-infused world he has created.
I am a victim of sexual assault and a survivor of rape—two serious issues our president-elect refers to as “locker room talk.” This comment alone makes my stomach churn.
I am fearful for the future of the young girls and women who are currently living in Trump’s America. Unless we come together as a community, this presidency—fueled by hate and sexual harassment—will desensitize the public. Unless we fight, rape culture will be normalized and women will continue to be told that we are valueless, sexual objects who were “asking for it.”
As a North Carolinian, I am ashamed.
A few days following the election, The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan—a chapter of the white supremacist group in Pelham, North Carolina—announced plans to hold a “Victory Klavalkade Klan Parade” in honor of Trump on December 3. But as an American, I am hopeful. Together, we can overcome the hate.
Jesse Ortiz,Bowdoin College ’16
This election involved violence from microaggressive sexism to the foreign policy horrors of neoliberalism. To confront this gamut of aggression, progressives must take peace seriously. Valuing peace defies the norms of American education. With a school system designed to produce engineers, financiers, and scientists, American students learn to produce money and technology rather than meaningful relationships.
Education that encourages competition over cooperation teaches children to seek love by performing “better” than others. To resist violence, let’s build noncompetitive learning communities that value peace as an end in and of itself.
We need and should not replicate peace movements of the past. Let’s continue recognizing that black and Latinx people suffer more police violence than white people; that women encounter more harassment than men; and that trans people are murdered more often than cis people. We must work to combine peaceful principles and specific, local action for meaningful change. Let’s discuss what we really want from society, and then work to make that happen. At least, let’s give it a chance.
Lucas Masin-Moyer, Notre Dame ’19
There is a tendency to blame the results of this election on a racist and xenophobic undercurrent that exists in America. While there are certainly voters who voted for Donald Trump because of his disdain for minority communities, a large swath of his working class voters don’t harbor these resentments and voted in what they thought was economic self interest. This vote came because the Democratic Party has, in large part, alienated working class Americans.
The party that was once a haven for union members and farmers has become the party of movie stars and professors. As much as I love to see Katy Perry passively supporting safe centrist policies and then going home to her wealth, it gives the impression that the rich and well connected are at the center of the party. A party that purports that it is “stronger together” actually seems ambivalent towards organization and solidarity in labor. By ostracizing the working class, the Democrats were the instrument of their own demise in the Midwest, and thereby in the election.
Claire Devine, Jesuit High School, Portland, Oregon
Despair. This powerful word barely encapsulates the anguish I experienced as I realized Donald Trump, a man I spent so long brushing aside as nothing but a pesky gnat on the shoulder of progress, would represent the will of our country for the next four years. Not only is this tremendously hateful, disparaging figure directly implementing policies to increase socioeconomic and racial division, but he represents a resentment festering in the hearts of numerous Americans. A resentment that stemmed from being led a black president. A resentment that stemmed from watching immigrants integrated into our society. A fear that arose when faced with a woman on the ballot. A fear that congealed in the hearts and minds of Americans, and translated to hatred. This is what we, as a generation of progressive youth, must face head-on. The time for peaceful, yet unrestrained protest is now. A single voice in Washington is not enough to overpower the voice of our generation, no matter how rich or powerful. Although the result of this election has engendered a spirit of disunity in our country, it presents such a unique opportunity for us to stand even firmer for what we believe in. Activism is not supposed to be easy, yet we are now called to unite against this wave of discrimination and bigotry; now, we must emerge as a generation of progress and unification through common respect for the dignity of all humans. No matter how repulsive the rhetoric in Washington promises to become, the opportunity for youth, unions, and minorities alike to take the global stage is greater and more important than ever.
Jack Stuart, Londonderry High School, Londonderry, New Hampshire
As a white, teenage boy, the reason I’ve observed for the support of Donald Trump among my demographic is this: Our generation has witnessed unprecedented backlash against decency, politeness, and perceived “PC Culture.” While it is undoubtedly true that there is a segment of young liberals who would like to be protected from differing opinions, most (including myself) would simply like to see intentionally hateful remarks kept to a minimum.
The internet has created an environment that has nurtured the “alt-right,” a group of white nationalists who are all too happy to stoke the flames of violence and bigotry behind anonymous screen names. Pleas for amicable discussions are all too often met by crass memes and personal attacks. This disturbing behavior is a product of the insecurity of a large portion of white men in this country. They look back at the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, the men who supposedly cleared forests with nothing but ax and saw—in other words, the men who built this nation—and feel like they aren’t measuring up to what an American man should be.
Trump identified this insecurity among my generation and was able to capitalize on it. But Tuesday was not a victory for democracy or for those supporters. It was simply a victory for Donald Trump.
Dillon Bennie Nuanes, Tulane University ’17
The effects are already being felt. During the campaign, Trump vowed to “cancel” the recent Paris accord on climate change. While procedurally impossible, international leaders and environmentalists must now consider how to rein in climate change without the support of the world’s largest economy and second largest polluter.
The prospect is frightening that on climate change and many other global issues (wealth inequality, refugees, terrorism, and trade) America under Trump will not only walk away from the bargaining table, we might set it ablaze for good measure.
As engaged citizens, the call to organize is stronger than ever. We must demand that America hews to our professed principles. A Trump presidency is temporary, but the aftereffects will be felt for years if American progressivism does not stand strong.
Molly Geisinger, Hamilton College ’19
To many people, our country took a drastic turn on November 8. But to me, the shock was the discovery that we have been on a retrograde path for much longer than one night. November 8 was the apotheosis of years of deep-seated resentment and residual hate.
Hamilton College is a liberal campus, and many students here are in mourning. I am in mourning, too—not because Clinton lost, but because hate rhetoric won. But while the results of this election may have exposed hostility that still attracts, or at the very least, does not deter, far too many people, it also has brought my generation together.
I don’t believe that the glass is half empty. If I have learned anything from anger, it is that there is a difference between the way we can treat others and the way those who support Trump treat the people they fear. As we organize to protest to heal and to repair political discourse, we must channel our anger and passions, not misplace them.
Kate Dwyer, Johns Hopkins University ’16
The night of the election, I attended a watch party with 50 Clinton fans and one token Trump supporter. The Trump voter wore a Cubs jersey, a nod to the team’s unlikely World Series victory. When I saw the jersey, I wondered for a moment if he could be right: could Trump win? I, like so many others, believed the polls, and I expected the country to elect its first female president. I had been assigned to cover the speech Hillary never delivered. But by 3 am, in lieu of transcribing her remarks, I found myself chatting with friends via Facebook about the problematic partisanship that enabled Trump’s victory.
Despite the unfortunate outcome of this election, I believe that it has been a wake-up call for liberal millennials who didn’t (or couldn’t) vote, and has pushed *all* liberal millennials to organize in a way we haven’t before. Although Bernie Sanders was not the Democratic nominee, his movement was reinvigorated on election night. The next morning, I was heartened to see my peers march at their universities and join activist organizations protecting reproductive rights, undocumented immigrants, and LGBT people. Our challenge is going to be uniting all millennials, even the ones who voted for Trump. I understand why they voted for him; I understand they want change. So do I. But right now, I’m concerned about protecting my rights and the rights of those younger than myself. Millennials are no longer the youngest generation, and we must watch the example we are setting for “Generation Z.” You don’t have to be a racist to support Donald Trump, but standing by and enabling children to fall victim to hate crimes is just as inexcusable. I hope as a generation we can decide to condemn the racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny that permeated Trump’s campaign, and push our newly-elected leaders to make rational decisions that will benefit everyone.
Megan Cole,University of California, Irvine ’17
Of all 18-to-29 year old voters who cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, 37 percent chose Donald Trump. Trump is not the President-elect that the majority of America’s young people wanted, but he is the President-elect whose divisive rhetoric and dangerous policies we will have to weather for the next four years.
Trump’s rhetoric alone is frightening enough—the spike last week in pro-Trump hate crimes nationwide is a testament to that—but as dangerous as his disdain for women, people of color, and the LGBT and Muslim communities, the tangible policies he will enact as president scare me even more. Over the next four years, Americans could face federal restrictions of basic reproductive rights, challenges to the legitimacy of gay marriage, mass deportations of undocumented citizens, suppression of free press, attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and unprecedented blows to the environment thanks to an executive branch headed largely by climate change deniers. With a majority-Republican House, Senate, and likely Supreme Court, the system of checks and balances, which was built to keep a single faction from ruling America, is useless. The progress that young Americans have spent most of their lives championing is all at stake.
Millennials’ reaction to a Trump presidency is more than disappointment, it is an abject and legitimate fear that America’s hard-won liberties and values will be demolished. Right now, we grieve, protest, and organize. For the rest of our lives, the 63 percent of young people who voted against hate will fight against the effects of a Trump administration, and work harder than ever to rebuild a just, inclusive America.
Charles Leng, Northview High School, Johns Creek, GA
Needless to say, this election represents a significant step back for America, electing a modern-day mixture of George Wallace and Ronald Reagan. However, we survived an ignorant warmonger and unelected president with George W. Bush, and we will survive Trump. It is important for progressives, especially young people, to look to the future. We must continue to build movements to pressure those in power to take action on climate change, economic inequality, and the rights of minorities and women. Our first step to bringing back the Democratic Party is to ensure that Keith Ellison is the next DNC chair. His progressive politics will serve as an important counterweight to Trump’s agenda. We must prepare for the next midterms by recruiting strong candidates to run for office at all levels. If the Republicans enact half of the horrific measures they want to, there will be a massive backlash from the American people. Most of all, we must prepare for 2020, when we not only must defeat Trump but take back state legislatures to undo Republican gerrymandering and make our elections more reflective of the will of the people. We must not give up, there is still hope for the future.
Kevin Haller, St. Edward High School, Lakewood, OH
In today’s world, student debt is a huge factor in how students choose their college and where they go after graduation. If student debt were no longer such a big influence on new graduates, they could focus more on using their knowledge to benefit the country, as opposed to just making money to pay off the debt. Alas, Trump seems to offer no plan to reduce or eliminate student debt which could help this issue leap rapidly out of control, with college tuition costs steadily increasing by almost 6 percent above the rate of inflation.
Kelan Lyons, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University ’16
The election of Donald J. Trump means an end to the relative progressivism of the Obama administration that young Americans have become used to. It means many young Americans will become more acquainted with policies and rhetoric based on fear, judgment, and scorn.
It means understanding that, though “not all Trump supporters are racist,” they voted for a man who ran a platform based on racism, who was endorsed by the KKK, whose only political claim to fame before becoming president was a five-year battle to make the nation’s first black president prove he was born here, and who has espoused white nationalism since announcing his candidacy. It means, then, making peace with friends and family members who voted for a Trump presidency, who sent a clear message to people of color, refugees, immigrants, people with disabilities, Jewish Americans, women, and LGBTQ citizens: “This country has no place for you.”
It means that we must, in this autopsy of our election, listen to journalists, pundits, and surrogates argue that there’s a difference between a man who uses racism to win the presidency and a man who himself is a racist.
It means we are told to respect a man who won the presidency by disrespecting women, people of color, refugees, immigrants, and LGBTQ citizens. In other words, we are told to respect a man who disrespected America.
It means we must tell our daughters and sons that the way our country’s president treats women is unacceptable and, often, criminal. It means we must teach young Americans that their president is not a role model.
It means that our world’s destruction will be quickened, as the Trump administration rolls back regulations slowing climate change. Eventually, it will mean bringing our children into a more dangerous environment than the one we currently inhabit, than the one we hoped to inhabit under a regulation-friendly Clinton presidency.
It means that many Americans will lose civil rights as stop-and-frisk is likely brought back in cities across the country, as a hard-line conservative Supreme Court interprets laws for a generation, and as Muslim, black, Latino, and Asian Americans are judged, and likely put under surveillance, because of their race and religion.
It means we, as white Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton, must understand that our votes were largely symbolic and based on principle, not cast for our survival, as they were for people of color, LGBTQ citizens, immigrants, and refugees.
It means we must prepare ourselves for a contentious relationship with a president who does not hold protests or critical thought in high regard.
It means we must do more than declare Trump “not my president.” It means we must be more than allies to people of color, LGBTQ citizens, immigrants, women, Jewish Americans, and refugees. It means we must take an active role in combating discrimination, beyond the abstract “banding together” we hear about now. It means we must teach in the public schools that will lose federal money, become the local prosecutors who hold much of the power in criminal-justice reform, and run for political office as the progressive candidates we will wish for come January.
If there is any solace in this election’s outcome, it is that Trump’s election means America will be made great again. Not because of the Trump administration, but in spite of it.
We must resist normalizing Trump’s behavior, his race-baiting rhetoric, his regressive positions masked as reform. We must resist becoming complacent over these next four years, resigned to our fate until the next presidential election. We must resist being corraled into categories, of being deemed “winners” and “losers” by President Trump. We must resist staying silent when we see racist behavior meant to demean or intimidate those deemed “Un-American.”
More than anything, the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States means we must resist the idea of making our country great through division. Through fighting to make our country celebrate—instead of sneer at—diversity, through making our country reflect the inclusion on which it was built by demanding immigrant-friendly policies, through reforming our government to be one that doesn’t rely on discrimination and segregation as policy; only then can we make America great.