Election of Trump has students grappling with competing views
The way young Americans view one another and their political differences changed forever last week when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.
One of the most divisive men in the history of American politics, Trump won the nation’s highest executive office through a campaign that ignited a voting effort defying the expectations of virtually every national pollster and pundit
In the weeks following Trump’s unprecedented victory, a pivotal question for Americans of every age, gender, race and culture will linger: What’s going to happen next?
For more than a year, Trump preached prideful nationalism on the campaign trail and swore to end the corruption in Washington. He promised jobs for Americans and the appointment of conservative Supreme Court Justices to uphold traditional family and Christian values.
Obamacare was history, Trump said, and a “great” wall between the southern border and Mexico would be built.
He stirred enough support in a subset of Americans to motivate people both young and old to show up in key battleground states and elect him to the presidency.
As Trump begins to assemble his presidential cabinet, much of the country is still in shock.
That includes Central Michigan University, where both student Trump supporters and those who voted to keep him out of the Oval Office remain in spirited debate about the method he used to win and its implications.
Many students said they learned of Trump’s victory, after it was called by news outlets in the early hours of Wednesday, on social media.
It is the same vehicle millennials have used to express their concern or joy a Trump victory has brought.
Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled Wednesday afternoon and the days that followed with either cries of despair or celebration of a new era dawning in American life.
Trump’s victory was the spark to a conversation on CMU’s campus about economics, equality and civil discourse that is only just beginning.
Trump’s Support on Campus
Some of Donald Trump’s strongest support on campus lies within CMU’s Greek community.
Emma Wiggins is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and has been a Trump supporter since the moment he announced his candidacy.
“I was raised with conservative values and that’s what I really believe in,” Wiggins said. “We needed a change (in Washington) and we’re going to get it with Trump.”
The night before the election, the sophomore traveled to Grand Rapids and waited in line for four hours before attending Trump’s rally in West Michigan.
“Everyone was so pumped up,” she said. “My parents were a little nervous (about Trump protestors), but everyone was very welcoming and I felt very safe.”
Some student conservatives say they feel outcast in what they perceive as an inherently liberal campus community.
Senior Brielynn Scott, a self-proclaimed die-hard Trump supporter, wore her “Make America Great Again” baseball hat to a class on election day — a decision a professor she had that day took offense to.
Her instructor told her to remove it, she said, and she refused. Instead she sat proudly in the front row of class that day.
“The majority of people (at CMU) don’t agree with my views,” Scott said. “I’d rather stand for what I believe in even if that means I’m standing alone.”
Other Trump supporters are less than proud of what the President-elect has said along the campaign trail relative to minority groups.
Connor Ewald is a junior from Elkton who said since Trump has been elected, he has been attacked verbally on social media for expressing his excitement with the result.
“He’s said some things I’m ashamed for. But I can look past that,” Ewald said. “Not every Trump supporter is a racist.”
But what Trump and his supporters have come to symbolize to his critics is festering into a growing national outcry against oppression and injustice.
The Frantic Opposition
On Wednesday, a group of about 100 students gathered outside the Charles V. Park Library to console one another.
A Trump presidency, to them, meant a step in the wrong direction.
Largely members of the LGBTQ+ and minority communities, these students shared concern of being further marginalized by such a powerful person boasting hateful rhetoric.
“This election is much more personal than it is political,” said sophomore Lauryn Dingle. “The Republican candidates are definitely against everything that I am as a human being. I’m part of LGBTQ, I’m African American, I’m a feminist. I just feel like I’m not going to be represented in this country if he’s in office. I’ll just be brushed off to the side or worse.”
It is these students who were a large part of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a populist civil rights activist product of the late 1960s.
Many of these young voters did not peg Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as their first choice, but were vehemently opposed to the idea of President Trump.
Though the Democrats lost the election, these students find comfort in solidarity and a hope of a more inclusive America despite Trump’s administration.
“Even though we didn’t get the president we wanted, it’s a nice feeling to know that there are still people that care about me and about these minority groups,” said Battle Creek junior Allison Tobey.
As the reality of the election of a President who has never held public office begins to set in, the future of the progressive movement in America has been thrust into uncertainty.
An identity crisis
Nearly every major national poll predicted democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to win the presidency last week.
Johnathan Korpi is a 24-year-old CMU student and a self-identified Democrat joined 47.7 percent of United States voters in checking the box next to Clinton’s name.
“To me, she just seemed like the more sane one in the group,” he said. “Trump is not equipped to be president. I don’t know if he’s going to get the right people to do the job. You never know what’s going to fly out of his mouth, and we need to make connections with other nations. I don’t think he can do that.”
Tim Minotas, President of the CMU College Democrats, watched in disbelief while the candidate he thought was assured to win was handed a devastating loss.
“I was kind of ashamed by the candidate that our country chose, but at the same time, I understand the anger of his supporters, because they feel like they’ve been left behind by our current economic and political system,” Minotas said. “But I’m fearful for the safety of my friends who are minorities, LGBTQ+ people and women. I feel they have been let down and there should be some legitimate concerns going on in this country.”
In the days following Trump’s victory, both Clinton and current President Barack Obama have called for unity among all Americans relating to Tuesday’s decision.
A productive solution-based discussion, CMU student leaders say, is the only hope for a better America.
“This is the reality,” Minotas said. “Now it’s time to mobilize and come together, and really speak up, speak out and support one another.”
Staff Reporters McKenzie Sanderson and Mitchell Kukulka contributed to this report.