A liberal arts college’s emotions on Election Night
By Madeline Brown
Students gathered in the Rotunda on Nov. 8 to watch the live results of the presidential election, hosted by Phi Eta Sigma.
Early in the evening of November 8, 2016 those who sat in the Rotunda were feeling hopeful and anxious, bringing in their laptops and homework to work as to not miss a moment of the election results slowly pouring in state by state.
The reactions of the audience were mostly unanimous as CNN announced the electoral votes state by state. The crowd erupted in cheers whenever Hillary Clinton won a state’s votes, and the room consequently filled with boos and hisses corresponding with a state victory for Donald Trump.
Students continuously refreshed election updates on their devices in order to catch every update possible. Tensions rose as the electronic map showed increasing amounts of projected red states. Confusion was apparent, as many students never predicted a race so close.
Abbey Olsen, a first year student at Puget Sound expressed her discomfort of Trump’s lead in the polls. “[This is] so stressful. It’s the United States of Anxiety,” she said.
Once Colorado broadcasted the vote for Clinton, cheers erupted from the majority and symbolized a sigh of relief.
While some students were feeling optimistic once again, others continued to hold their breath. Following Colorado’s cast of electoral votes, Monica Arnone, a first year, expressed: “It’s really frustrating seeing how many votes are going to third parties, because it’s 4.2% to Gary Johnson, but that’s 4.2% that could put Hillary over and that’s really stressful to see. But it’s really cool to see everybody coming together here and cheering, so that’s really nice.”
As the race ensued, Trump continued to pull away from Clinton in the lead. During a long wait for the next state to share their projection, viewers grew restless. “[I’m] embarrassed. Because even if [Hillary Clinton] wins, [Donald Trump] still has won 180 electoral votes out of 270. And that’s pretty embarrassing that over 40% of America thinks that he could be [President]. On the ballot it says, ‘reality TV star’ and that’s his claim to fame. And that’s pretty scary… There’s 300 million people and he’s the best one that a lot of people think could lead us,” senior Jake Kritzer said.
Even Clinton’s victory over California didn’t pull her ahead of Trump in the electoral count enough for the Clinton supporters to truly celebrate. Cheers still ensued, but not as enthusiastically as before.
As the night grew darker, the map of projections grew even more red. Students were seen openly crying, holding each other for support and comfort, shaking their heads in disbelief, and getting up to leave the room as if in defeat. The spectators’ faces appeared emotionally drained. They were dumbstruck with shock.
Once Trump secured Florida’s votes, the reality became one many didn’t want to accept. While Trump’s victory wasn’t definite, Clinton’s chances were dwindling quickly.
“I’ve been crying for six hours. I’m embarrassed to be an American. Offended that people voted third party or didn’t vote at all. And I’m heartbroken that the most qualified candidate in our history is losing to a sexist, ignorant, homophobic man that isn’t even a politician. I genuinely don’t understand how this is happening and don’t know what to do. People don’t understand how serious this situation is and how billions will be affected globally,” first-year Bella Faith said.
Anger became a dominant emotion in Clinton supporters’ demeanors. Social media showcased bouts of threats and dark humor.
As Trump’s electoral vote count reached less than ten votes short of winning the election, the Rotunda was almost empty. What was once an excited crowd filling every seat was now a handful of students with stunned, blank faces.
One student still remaining was wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, and while he wasn’t heartbroken as the others were, he was quietly calm. The owner of the hat, sophomore Raymond Sabatelli, expected to receive hateful comments in regards to his apparel, but was pleasantly surprised at the lack of such comments. “I will say one thing, I was happily surprised at how accepting everyone was tonight of different ideas. I think that everyone was very respectful to everyone around them, and were really supportive which was really great to see. Especially being someone who’s kind of probably one of the only people opposing the majority,” Sabatelli said.
Late on Nov. 8, Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. “Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation, and renewing the American Dream,” Trump said in his victory speech.
Though still shocked and scared, some students are choosing to proceed with the election of Trump as the nation’s next president optimistically. “I think it’s important to keep an open mind at this point, and that things may not be as bleak as we think. And that we just need to keep moving forward,” sophomore Becca Simon said.
Other students are choosing activism to cope with their conflicting emotions. Sophomore McKenna Cole chose to engage in protest, attending an anti-Tump rally on Nov. 9. “This was actually the first protest I have been to. My first response to the election was sadness and fear. I am very scared for how this election will affect minorities throughout our country. I am choosing activism as my response to this election because change starts at an individual level and I was privileged enough to have a voice, so I need to take advantage of it. Participating in this protest gave me a sense of hope for the future. Gathering together with thousands of other people who not only acknowledge but also want to eliminate these injustices, refilled my sense of hope. I think it’s important to respect others opinions, but it also is important to stand up for our own beliefs and not let anyone silence us,” Cole said.
The campus held multiple forums and opportunities to discuss the election’s outcomes in a safe places on the following day, November 9th. Such events included: a gathering for people of color hosted by the Student Diversity Center, a faculty panel featuring five staff members to assess the election with students and answer questions, as well as a general gathering for the Puget Sound community also hosted by the Student Diversity Center.