The nation woke up Wednesday morning to the news that Donald Trump—a businessman and reality TV mogul who has said women should be punished for abortion and Muslims should be part of a national registry—had been elected president of the United States of America. The sky was gray and flat over a quiet Boston College campus. Professors cancelled class, or devoted the entire time to comforting students about the ramifications of a Trump presidency. Groups huddled in corners. Everywhere, people hugged.
Snippets of conversation floated between people on their way to class, in the Chocolate Bar, and in the Rat: “It’s like we’ve gone back 100 years,” and “all I’ve learned today is that people are so much more selfish than I could have imagined.”
According to a Heights survey, 75 percent of BC students indicated that they supported Hillary Clinton. Tuesday morning, The New York Times indicated that Clinton had an 84 percent chance of winning the presidency. But Trump dominated rural counties in middle America, in the majority of cases surpassing Mitt Romney’s vote totals of four years ago.
He earned 279 electoral votes, outpacing Clinton’s 228, based on electoral votes awarded as of late Wednesday night. As votes began to roll in Tuesday night, shock reverberated around the political establishment and in the mainstream media, neither of which had even considered the possibility of a Trump presidency.
All over campus, the words came up: How did this happen? How could this happen? In one class, after the professor spent 10 minutes discussing the implications of Trump’s foreign policy, one student raised her hand: “What do we do now?”
This is what we do. We don’t stop fighting. Change comes slowly, in fits, in bursts, with one step forward and, maybe, a four-year leap backward. But the motivation to make this country better is still there. If the only people who voted in this election were between the ages of 18 and 25, 44 states would have been blue. And, in two years, the midterm elections will reshape the House and the Senate.
But first, there is the period of shock and mourning. All across campus, groups opened their doors to allow students a space to work through their anger and emotions.
UGBC’s Diversity & Inclusion branch hosted meetings, as did the Office of the Dean of Students and the Women’s Center. And, less formally, students worked out their feelings in classes and with each other. This is important, and the University is right to carve out space for these thought processes. For change to come, it must be intentional, thoughtful, and targeted.
BC students volunteer abroad and in the city. This campus takes service seriously and takes pride in its well-bred “men and women for others.” Understand that political activism is a form of service. It’s serving those who will really be affected by Tuesday’s outcome. It’s serving those who are looking for an ounce of positivity under a leader who speaks mostly of hate and exclusion. It’s serving people who will lose family members, benefits, or, even more devastating, hope.
It’s okay to mourn. It’s okay to be in shock. But soon, it’s going to be time to spark an era of change.
Already, in Boston, thousands of protesters surged into Boston Common Wednesday night, shouting “He’s not my president.” This action, rather than complacency and acceptance, is the action that citizens must take to continue forward momentum during the next four or even eight years. To insist upon change is to advocate forcefully and consistently for equality and accountability.
The bewilderment on campus at the election results is a testament to the bubble that students in a liberal city, often from other liberal cities, live in every day. Generally speaking, many students at BC are out of touch with the realities many face in middle America. For many, it is challenging to understand the motivations that would compel someone to vote for a man with no political experience over one of the most qualified women in political history.
But until those motivations are understood, it will be impossible to continue moving forward. For as long as the opposition is a business tycoon shouting obscenities, hope can be hard to see. But if the opposition were a policy or a set of grievances—well, that could be something to work with.
It is important to note what Trump claimed to have run against: as someone with no political experience, he ran against an established political system that many of his supporters see as motivated by Wall Street and elite interests. Many of those who voted for Trump see him as someone who will advocate for them in a way they haven’t been represented recently. And that is not how those voters saw Clinton.
It is necessary to understand the motivations of those who voted for the other side because, until voters do, the chasm between them will grow only wider, and national change will come more slowly.
Trump’s political rhetoric has focused on exclusion. To the benefit of his own goals, he has excluded women with comments endorsing sexual assault. He has excluded immigrants with his demands to close borders. He has insulted, mocked, and belittled people of color and people with disabilities. Young people voted overwhelmingly against exclusivity, against hate. The future is for us.
So, take the week to digest the news. But then it’s time to organize for advocacy. Change comes slowly, via compromise and lost battles and hard fights. Change comes from advocacy and empathy and understanding and a true motivation to make this country great for everyone. Change comes from you, and your peers, and your tireless efforts toward the persistence of peace.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor