The Calm After the (Political) Storm

It has only now begun to sink in that Donald Trump will indeed be the 45th President of the United States. As each passing day brings us closer to Trump’s inauguration, I now must decide how I’m going to react to the reality of his election.

Watching the polls on the night of November 8 was the first time the election became nerve-wracking. It started slowly, with Trump first winning South Carolina and Tennessee: the usual Republican states along the East Coast.

After those conservative states were taken, I waited for the others states’ results to be for Hillary Clinton. How wrong I was.

As the election progressed, I kept a close eye on North Carolina, one of the crucial swing states in presidential elections – and my home state. The last time I visited home, I saw an array of Clinton-Kaine signs and bumper stickers on cars, even outside the small, liberal bubble of my town, Chapel Hill. At this point I was still hopeful of a Clinton victory. But as Trump’s electoral count slowly climbed the polls and surpassed Hillary’s, I began to worry. Before going to bed I saw on my laptop my home state colored in red, signifying a Republican win. Though disheartened, I still had hope that our country would somehow turn itself around. But when morning came, I rushed over to my laptop to see the final result of the election and was greeted with a message I never thought possible: Trump emerged victorious.

Now with the election over, I find myself thinking more about the way the presidential race was discussed over a year ago. In my English-100 class, we often joked half-heartedly about Trump becoming president, always with the mindset of, “He will never win.”

I, however, actually do not think that I, or any of my classmates, disregarded the possibility of a Trump win. Instead, we simply refused to think about the slim possibility of a Trump presidency because he was not the leader we wanted for our country. As a result, I spent the entirety of the election focused on supporting Hillary rather than on trying to outdo Trump. I had always assumed Americans would, as some may call it, “come to their senses” by the end of the election.

I have heard many people give different reasons and explanations as to why they supported a particular candidate. I have heard many claim that most of Hillary’s supporters only wanted a woman president – that they cast their ballots based solely on her gender and not her years of political experience. I have heard people say that the majority of Trump supporters are not misogynistic racists, but rather are simply too ignorant to realize which candidate is the “right one.” I have heard some say they voted for Hillary because of her experience, and that she was obviously the better candidate in this election. I have also heard Trump supporters say that they chose to vote for him because he will “Make America Great Again.”

After supporting Clinton throughout the election, the outcome left me dazed and distraught. But I have since given myself time to reflect, to talk with those who share my sadness and allow myself to take in the many statements of “I should have supported Hillary better than I did” and “America should rid itself of the Electoral College.” Now that I have taken the time to grieve and to empathize with others, it is now time to look ahead and ready myself for the future.

I keep in my heart what Michelle Obama has famously said, “When they go low, we go high.” This, I feel, is applicable to millions of other Americans out there who feel as I do. Give yourself time to reflect if you are among the many who suffered as a result of the election. Let yourself fully absorb what happened. To those who feel saddened, hurt, or threatened by this outcome, now is the time to join hands and take the world in your stride. Focus on how you can make things better, not on how things have gotten worse. Rather than recoil from the unknown future ahead, know that you are capable of change and that you impact the world you live in every day.