On November 9th, 2016, America woke up to the aftermath of one of the most historic and unbelieveable elections in its political history. Donald J. Trump, assuming he did sleep for at least a few hours, woke up with a sense of relief and pride. And I, an international student majoring in Political Science and Economics, woke up with the same cold I’ve been suffering from for quite awhile. While Mom argues that my cold is a result of exhausting shenanigans over Fall Break, I believe that there’s something much more to it.
As an international student, it’s been a truly fascinating and eye-opening experience to be in the United States during and through the period leading up to one of its most unique and important presidential elections. The conversations I’ve had, the tweets I’ve read and the political rhetoric that I’ve been surrounded by have not only taught me a lot, but have also provided me with different perspectives on the American political system, as well as on various issues and policies that affect more than just the American people. This election has proven to me the importance of staying true to the values we stand by, and has made me grateful for the privileges I have. One of the privileges, if I might say, of being an international student through this election was the fact that my arguments and claims, my agreements and disagreements with political candidates were not viewed in partisan terms. Instead of being placed under the umbrella of a Democrat or a Republican, most of the time, my views were taken as an outside perspective; this allowed me to be free, open, and at times, even diplomatic. It felt good.
Having witnessed the emotional impact of the divisive, derogatory and disrespectful statements made through Trump’s campaign, I questioned the future of this country. From an “international perspective” the United States is viewed as the trend-setter, the superpower and the “great” country to be in. I questioned the example being set for future generations, and the type of legacy being carried forward. I questioned the role, if any, that I could play to make a difference. While I was made more sensitive and aware, I was tested and torn. Yes, I was fired up and ready to go. But where could I go? Yes, I made phone calls to remind people to go to the polls. But could I myself ever be at the polls and meet them there? Constantly through this campaign, and through the election process as a whole, I was torn between being engaged and disengaged, connected and disconnected, hopeful and helpless. Countless Americans everyday were being inspired and motivated. And believe it or not, I, a non-American felt the same. However, while inspired others went to the polls to express their voices and hope, I remained at home anxiously waiting for the results. I felt congested and confined; in other words, America was sneezing and I caught the cold.
Constant news alerts, Facebook reactions and interesting tweets made it hard to stay away from the action. Whether it was an in-class discussion or a chat with a taxi driver, the topic of the election was difficult to avoid. As someone passionate about politics and even more so about campaigns and elections, the predictions, forecasts and analyses were always on my mind. The race between Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump, although unpredictable, certainly had its moments when polls predicted one way or the other. Soon after FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congressional leaders about ten days prior to the election, indicating that federal investigators were examining additional information and evidence with regard to Clinton’s private email server, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed “Donald Trump overtaking Hillary Clinton for the first time since May, 46 percent to 45 percent. (The Political Insider, November, 1, 2016). After Comey announced Secretary Clinton’s innocence during the weekend prior to the election, a Huffington Post Presidential Forecast model predicted, the day before the election, a 98.2% chance of Clinton winning. Models predicted that Trump had no viable path to 270 Electoral College votes. However, at the back of my mind, here were some of the reasons why I believed that a Trump presidency was far from an impossibility.
Change. In 2008, President Obama’s campaign focused on change and hope. He promised a new America following the Great Recession. In 2016, we saw Donald Trump promising change in a different way. His focus on an anti-establishment sentiment and his idea of “Making America Great Again,” certainly proved to be attractive for those hoping for change. Clinton, on the other hand, was seen more as a candidate who was ready to continue a legacy, rather than create her own. She was looked at as a candidate to vote against, rather than to vote for.
Creativity. Gauging from the audience reaction to his debates, and from the surprising support he received all through his campaign, it seemed like Trump supporters liked his unusual comments, his quick responses, and his constant repetition of phrases and slogans such as “I’m With You,” and “Crooked Hillary.”
Capitalized. Trump’s campaign capitalized on the voters who feel their voices have been suppressed. He was promising an apolitical perspective, and was willing to bring to the table those voices that have probably been unheard for a long period of time.
While I intentionally tried to ignore the prospects of a Trump presidency, it always remained an outcome for which the parameters were getting clearer and clearer. It was like the cold you forget you have until the daily runny nose kicks in.
In the words of President Obama (whom I’m going to miss immensely), “regardless of which side you were on in the election, regardless of whether your candidate won or lost, the sun would come up in the morning.” And yes, believe it or not, it did.
On November 9th, 2016, America woke up to the aftermath of one of the most historical and unbelieveable elections in its political history. Donald J. Trump, assuming he did sleep at least for a few hours, woke up with a sense of relief and pride. And I, an international student majoring in Political Science and Economics, woke up with the same cold I’ve been suffering from, since quite a while—a cold which truly has no remedy.
So to many of you who may be upset that the glass ceiling wasn’t shattered yet, or to those “weary in doing good,” not only should you remember that “more seasons are to come,” but you should also be grateful for the fact that you didn’t catch the cold.