Students differ in reactions to presidential outcome

“President Trump” elicits disbelief and fear for some, quiet optimism among others


Students watch the election results in CGL on Tuesday. Photo by Nuoya Zhou, ‘18.

Nuoya Zhou

Donald J. Trump’s unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s presidential election has caused a divide in student opinion that feels to many, as personal as it is political.

Clinton supporters found the result “unbelievable,” because most of the pre-election polls had predicted that Clinton would win.

“At the beginning of the [election] night, we were all very hopeful,” MaKayla Lorick, ’19, a Clinton supporter, said. “Honestly, I think a lot of us, including myself, were almost certain that it was going to be Clinton.”

Karen Santana-Garces, ’17, helped with Clinton’s campaign in Virginia and in her home state of Michigan. She said she felt very confident that Clinton would win, and was disappointed by the outcome. Citing Trump’s rhetoric, she found the results especially dismaying.

“I think it was a shock, just because it showed how little we have progressed,” SantanaGarces said. “[Trump] has called out so many minorities and so many different groups, and we still chose to elect him.”

Hate crimes have increased on college campuses after Trump’s victory, according to CNN. A Muslim student at the University of Michigan reported being threatened with a lighter and African-American freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania said they received offensive messages on their phone after they were added to a racist GroupMe account.

“Because I’m here in school, people have been polite,” said JoAnn Michel, ’18, an AfricanAmerican student from outside Washington D.C.. However, Michel said she still has concerns as a black female in the South.

“For me, I am not only a woman,” she said. “I am black. My parents are both immigrants. I’m glad my parents don’t live here.”

She added that she found “Trump’s America” to be a more openly offensive environment, commenting that people are “saying things that they think they have the freedom to say now.”

Disheartened students and faculty who had supported Clinton gathered throughout the end of last week to offer each other support.

On the other hand, Trump supporters on campus were equally surprised by the election results.

“Absolutely shocked? No. But he definitely outperformed my expectations for the election,” Ben Whedon, ’18, a Republican, said.

Some Trump supporters said they were reluctant to express their political views at W&L because they said they have received a lot of backlash.

Unlike some of his friends, who said they were “hidden” Trump supporters, Whedon has said he has always been vocal about his opinions.

Whedon said he was “heavily criticized” and got “a lot of dirty looks” from students and faculty for his views.

Two Trump supporters declined to interview with the Phi.

“A lot of Trump supporters outside of the school felt the society was marginalizing them that they felt rejected by the society,” Douglas Ciampi, ’19, is one who willingly spoke out. “When they finally got the privacy at that voting booth, they raged against the machine, and they voted for Trump.”

Chair of the W&L College Republicans Caroline Bones, ’18, confirmed in an email that the group did not hold any pro-Trump events last week. Some members celebrated quietly and privately while others, like Bones, had mixed feelings.

“They are both terrible candidates,” Bones said of Trump and Clinton.

Whedon said that while he does not necessarily agree with Trump’s rhetoric, he voted for Trump because he agreed with the candidate’s proposed policies. Whedon, like Trump, believes that the U.S. free trade policies with some countries, including China, have been disadvantageous.

He also said that many people have forgotten that the concept of building a border wall and deporting illegal immigrants started in the 1980s with former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

“It is not actually new,” Whedon said. “It’s just [that Trump] is more willing to say it.”

Ciampi said Trump’s offensive statements were “poorly worded” and “over exaggerat[ed].”

“[Trump] obviously has a tendency to run his mouth sometimes,” Ciampi said. “I don’t think he intended to be offensive. But at times, he definitely has said things that I would not back up.”

Ciampi also said he believes the majority of people who voted for Trump did so out of frustration with establishment politics rather than out of racist leanings, which is how he sees some Clinton supporters categorizing Trump voters.

Many others think that populism, or a belief in the power of the people to control government rather than wealthy elites and “career politicians,” was the key to Trump’s victory.

“Populism came as a huge factor this year throughout the world,” Lauren Kim, ’17, said. “I can see why Trump became one of the candidates.”

Santana-Garces said she wondered if the trend in populism could spread to France’s presidential election next year, following Britain’s vote to exit the European Union last summer, and now the election of Trump.

Other Clinton supporters blamed Trump’s win on the media.

“The media totally upsets me,” Lorick said. She and her friends have discussed how Trump got the “free advertisement,” even though that coverage often pointed out Trump’s perceived flaws.

Ciampi, the Republican, agreed that the media contributed to Trump’s victory.

“If they had provided Trump with the same level of coverage that they did with candidates like Jeb Bush, then I don’t think we would have the Trump we have now,” Ciampi said.