Maintaining hope in a Trump presidency

By Will Kaback ’20

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I didn’t expect to be writing this. 

I was confident Hillary Clinton would be elected our next President of the United States on Tuesday, a sentiment I’m sure many others in the Hamilton community shared. The polls, her campaign, her opponent—it all pointed to a decisive victory and a leap forward in the direction President Obama has lead our country. 

Of course, that’s exactly what doomed her. Call it complacency, a false sense of security, hubris, downright cockiness, the terminology is irrelevant. All that matters is what we saw play out across the country on Tuesday. We saw the power of populism and the gaping holes of the establishment. We saw “telling it like it is” (whatever that means) triumph over experience and qualifications. We saw a country divided like it hasn’t been in over a hundred years. Lastly, and this is almost unfathomable to be writing, we saw Donald Trump thoroughly defeat Hillary Clinton. 

You may find this ironic, given the likelihood that Clinton will carry the popular vote, but as long as we continue to use the Electoral College to choose our President, it’s hard to say anything other than that Trump was dominant. He won every swing state but New Hampshire, including Pennsylvania and Florida, which were projected in many polls to be strong or lean Democratic states. Furthermore, he obliterated the expectations of even his own campaign, winning Michigan and Wisconsin, the latter of which was thought to be such a foregone conclusion that Clinton did not visit once after securing the Democratic nomination. Against all odds, Donald Trump won. 

But what is the cost of his victory? Here’s what we know. We know that he carried uneducated whites and working class whites more successfully than any candidate in the 21st century. That’s not to say he won the working class—the vast majority of black and Latino working class community went for Clinton—but his margin of victory with this sizeable group was key in flipping those aforementioned states like Michigan and Wisconsin. It seems as though his racism, misogyny and xenophobia bounced off the conscience of voters in these states and beyond. There’s a strong argument that Tuesday’s result has exposed a country that continues to struggle with race on a basic level, or, at the very least, shows remarkable apathy to the plight of minorities. 

The non-college educated vote in favor of Trump highlights the perils of an educational system that is unaffordable and often flawed. Although they are part of a majority demographic, these two groups turned out as if they were a minority group, pushing Trump over the edge in nearly every crucial state. 

We know that, in the immediate and long-term future, there will be some very bad things to come out of this result. There are many things we fear will come to fruition as a result of electing President Trump as well as a Republican Congress. Among them, a repeal of Obamacare, Supreme Court decisions restricting access to abortion and tax cuts for the richest Americans. There are other things that need no speculation. 

Gun violence will continue to claim the lives of over 30,000 Americans every year, devastating families and communities. College will not become more affordable for the millions who yearn for higher education but simply cannot pay for it. We will continue to see protests across the country as a result of police brutality. Our prisons will continue to be one of our country’s greatest disgraces, pushed away to the shadows of our conscience. Most disheartening, the destruction of our environment will continue. Now that Republicans, who refuse to uniformly accept the very existence of climate change, will control all facets of our government, we can be sure their ideology of “economy over environment” will have free reign. It is unequivocally terrifying that this will be our reality, and now we must look to the leadership of other nations in order to save our planet. 

We know that for our friends, family members, loved ones and selves in the LGBTQ, black, Hispanic, Muslim and Jewish community (frankly, any community that has drawn the ire of the new leader of the free world,) Tuesday was perhaps the scariest day of their lives. Moreover, victims of sexual assault and harassment must now reckon with a president who, to various degrees, has perpetrated these acts. People with disabilities have no choice but to accept a leader who openly mocks them. Even people like myself, white, male, cisgender—the trifecta of privilege—have reason to be frightened. As Syria craters and Russia stands emboldened, the prospect of war is palpable. No American is left unscathed by this result, even for those who voted for him. 

Today, we are despondent. Our understanding of this country is shaken. We look at the vitriol present in society and no longer see a jumbled community of trolls, but rather, our President. We struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It feels like evil has won. 

There have been many calls for unity, for perseverance, for resistance in the face of these results. Personally, I just feel tired. I can’t even imagine what others are feeling. And yet, I keep coming back to President Obama. Eight years ago, he won a historic election on a message of Hope. He’s brought progress, change and humility to his position, despite often facing hostile and resistant opposition. What moves me above all though is how much hope he brought to America, especially to those severely lacking it. For those of us supporting Hillary Clinton, a Democratic victory in this election would have solidified that hope, cementing Obama’s legacy and reaffirming our commitment to progress. It would have been a storybook ending. Alas, we must move forward with much less certainty in that future. 

But even though he will be gone, we control whether or not Obama’s legacy continues. It feels helpless and it’s hard to believe there’s anything that can be done while facing down the prospect of a pure Red federal system. Despite that sentiment, there’s always something that can be done. On Wednesday, the NAACP announced its plans to “stand strong at the frontlines, advocating for voting rights, criminal justice reform and equality for all,” and calling on others to join their fight. We control the reaction. If you take anything away from Hillary’s campaign, let it be the words of Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.” That attitude has been pushed to its limits, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any point in going high when all its produced is this tremendous national low. But we choose whether or not to abandon it. How much are we willing to let Trump win? If we still believe in America—and even that is hard to muster up—then we have to believe it will turn out okay. I know it’s naive, but I feel we have no other choice. The alternative is to embrace Trump’s America, and all the problems and bigotry that entails. At one of our darkest times, can we cling to hope? We must.

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