Closing Thoughts on the Election
“Donald Trump won the presidency.”
I couldn’t believe it. I had been anticipating for weeks this historical night where America welcomed her first female president. I never really thought Trump would actually win until the last possible moment, even when the New York Times gave him over 95% chance of winning. It felt like a bad dream – my friends and I had laughed over so many jokes, memes, and SNL skits about the farce of a Trump presidency that seeing those official words seemed surreal.
I felt hurt, betrayed, and ashamed. Most of all, I felt powerless. I watched as my friends were forced to come to terms with this new reality. This reality, in which all we thought we knew about this country was violently discarded.
My social media was exploding with complaining, ranting, and grieving. From forlorn Hillary celebration cakes, to people literally getting a bloody nose from stress, to memes about immigrating to Canada, no one could truly understand how this was happening. Many cried together in group video calls, and most simply gave up on homework or studying amidst their grief.
While my email to Chabon asking to cancel school was denied, a petition with around 80 people was sent to Campus News requesting that tests be moved. The next day at CPS, some teachers granted our humble request.
Going to school the next day, I was shocked by how serene the campus looked in the cold morning air – I half expected everything to already be in flames. As people started to trickle into school, the community looked shell shocked – most had their heads down and eyes covered. Wherever I walked, I heard hushed conversations with the occasional mention of You Know Who.
Luckily, the CPS community was very caring and supportive – group hugs and discussions in classes helped reconcile students with this new reality, this new world. Some brought cookies to console other students, while some teachers sent out emails telling students it was alright if they just wanted to come into their offices and cry together.
Despite much optimistic support, I still felt hopeless, powerless, and pessimistic. “Love trumps hate” is catchy, but how does that translate into policy action to impede Trump and all the havoc he could wreak?
Then I went to a Trump protest in downtown Oakland, and while this sounds cliché, it was such a moving experience that I’m now more hopeful about the fate of our country and humanity as a whole.
Obviously the goal wasn’t to stop Trump from becoming the president, and I realize that for every person at the protest and for every person that is devastated by the prospect of a Trump presidency, there is another jubilant – in fact, the first person I talked to at CPS the day after the election was a rejoicing Trump supporter.
However, there were so many diverse people from all walks of life united in this peaceful demonstration against Trump, I realized that our collective voice could never be quelled by someone like Trump. While I never actually “gave up,” I am now more optimistic about what we can accomplish together.
Hillary’s campaign slogan was “Stronger Together,” and even in the face of defeat, we cannot let Trump divide us. As long as we can stay together and keep fighting, we can find solace in that it is always darkest before the dawn. Historically, eras of social change follow the most conservative times. The New Deal followed the Great Depression. Lincoln was elected three years after Dred Scott.
The Trump presidency now has the potential to fracture the Republican party so badly that they might break apart entirely. Even if that doesn’t happen, political analysts consider a 2020 Democratic presidency extremely likely. And there’s evidence to suggest the 2020 presidential fight would be a political keystone – for example, 2020 is when Congressional district lines are drawn, which will in turn most likely determine control of the House for a decade.
Millennials are overwhelmingly Democratic, and while there is debate about how overwhelmingly millennials support Democrats, most consider liberal-leaning millennials a given. We can and should move away from traditional notions of “swing states” because we have the power to reshape the ideology of America as a whole.
Here are some potential consequences of a Trump presidency, as well as corresponding reassurances to remain optimistic:
First, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court will determine its ideological partisanship most likely for a large portion of my lifetime, even if a Democratic president is elected in four years. But even if Trump’s nominee might shape the Supreme Court for the majority of my lifetime, I can accept that I just might not see all the social change that I want to see in my lifetime. There will still be activists to continue fighting for social justice and an end to oppression.
Second, the reliability of checks and balances seems to have been destroyed: Republicans control the House, the Senate, the presidency, and once Trump appoints one (or more) justices, the Supreme Court as well. All three branches will be red. Now, obviously there are some establishment Republicans and Democrats that oppose Trump, but they can only do so much. And “at least he won’t be able to build a wall” isn’t as consoling when that statement is followed by “Oh no… there goes Planned Parenthood, the EPA, and Roe v. Wade.”
Moreover, he’s surrounded himself with those unlikely to oppose him – his presidential transition team is composed of 14 privileged white men that won’t care about his disparaging remarks towards minorities, his daughter, and a black man who doesn’t believe in global warming and who wants to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service, which is in charge of tax collection. A quarter of his team are family members and most are trustees of his business.
But even though the traditional conception of inter-branch checks and balances has been demolished, Democrats and Republicans who don’t agree with Trump will suppress the worst of him. And even if he manages to undo some of the good Obama accomplished, there will always setbacks. The important thing is to keep moving forward.
In fact, protests can reinforce these checks and balances – Democrats can use the nationwide protests as political leverage, warning Republicans not to be too heavy-handed with their newfound power, lest more backlash ensue.
Third, in terms of foreign policy, the Executive branch can send troops into war – a reality my history teacher DSong reminded us of in class, remarking that “If Trump wants to go to war with China, or Russia, or Iran, he can do it.” The ramifications could be devastating. Trump has no policy experience, as demonstrated by his signals for an American naval show of dominance in the South China Sea, which is already filled with tensions.
However, most in Congress do not favor total isolationism, and hopefully Trump won’t eviscerate neoliberalism so badly that economic interdependence totally fails – our diplomatic and economic ties with other countries will prevent escalation of most disputes. Moreover, Trump has started signaling that his policy actions won’t be as extreme as his campaign rhetoric.
Fourth, the larger symbolic and social change that follows a Trump presidency may be even more divisive and devastating than concrete policies he could implement; hate crimes have spiked, multiple queer youth have committed suicide, and all facets of oppression ranging from ableism to racism have been increasingly legitimized. Reports have emerged throughout the country of discrimination within high schools: white students chant “Trump” while surrounding and spitting on a minority student, or scrawl swastikas and racist obscenities on bathroom walls.
However, although Trump has already legitimized some hate crimes, that’s all the more reason we must band together and protect each other. There were hate crimes before Trump and once again, his presidency is a major setback but we must keep educating people.
Lastly, people say “we’ve gone through worse. We’ve survived multiple wars, impeachments, and assassinations – we’ll get through this.” However, there is one issue that we simply can’t afford to put off for another four years: Climate change.
If climate change isn’t already irreversible, (which it probably is, given the lack of follow-through from Paris) action is needed NOW. We’re not going to see that action with Republicans in all three branches of government. Trump famously said that climate change was a hoax made by the Chinese, and he’s attempting to appoint Myron Ebell, a climate change naysayer financed by the coal industry, to lead the EPA transition.
Climate change action is just one thing Donald Trump will tear down from the Obama era – he plans to defund multiple federal programs, and will probably dismantle Obamacare within the first 90 days of his term.
As for the necessity of immediate action on climate change, this is probably the area I still feel most hopeless about. (I find some solace in the fact that climate change was probably irreversible before Trump was elected.) Anyway, just to continue with my trend of positivity, hopefully it’s NOT too late and the private sector can pursue mitigation and adaptation strategies that sustain us for four years. By then, the effects of climate change will have escalated such that the hopefully-Democratic federal government will make it a top priority.
However, one must remember that remaining optimistic does not mean allowing Trump to be normalized. Positivity is not complacency. Accepting the Trump presidency doesn’t mean accepting his policies, or even people who now feel legitimized in their racism, sexism, etc.
I encourage everyone reading this to start taking action to try to influence all of the issues I just mentioned. Even if a protest sounds too intimidating, there are actions you can take right now, sitting in front of your computer. There is a very very very slim chance Trump might not even be inaugurated, due to “faithless electors” that can choose to vote for Hillary on December 19, and you can sign a petition asking them to do so. You can combat Trump’s attempt to appoint a climate change naysayer to lead the EPA by signing this petition. This petition tries to get Garland onto the Supreme Court before Trump is inaugurated.
Everyone has an obligation to fight for what they believe in. Everyone is scared for their friends, family, and country. But together, we are stronger.