What Just Happened?

By Azanta Thakur (Boston University Undergraduate)

"What just happened?” is a status update I posted on Facebook at 11pm last night, as I was hoping for one last miracle. It’s been less than 24 hours since Donald Trump became president-elect of this nation. I’ve spent the better part of today sitting in my dorm, grieving, crying, and sitting in silence. I’ve talked to administrators, relaying my fear as I step out into the city throughout the next week. I’ve talked to friends, sharing in their disappointment and attempt to comprehend yesterday. I’ve talked to peers and RAs as they send me their love from back home and here at BU. As I’ve scrolled through my social media, reacting with the sad face to status updates and retweeting tweets of desperate hope, I had the chance to read so many different perspectives and reactions to the results of this election. I had the chance to understand my own emotions and delve deeper into the meaning behind this election, and I’ve found that there are many, many things to say.

  1. The polls.

They say numbers don’t lie. I wholeheartedly believed that - until this election. Up until 7pm, the New York Times had Hillary Clinton’s chance of winning the presidency above 80%. I woke up yesterday with a knot in my stomach and anxiety throughout the day, but I didn’t actually believe Trump was going to be president. At 8pm, I turned on the TV and opened NYTimes, and lo and behold, her chance had dropped to 58% and he was leading in both popular and electoral votes. By 10pm, it was >95% in favor of Trump, and I had started calling my friends and my parents, crying and wondering how the hell this had happened. Early stats and exit polls were showing that Hillary had a very solid chance and lead, but there was no way they could’ve been this off. The race wasn’t even tight for most of the night. There was a very big gap. I do contribute much of this to the FBI’s investigation in the last week of the election and their false claim of her indictment as well as the two third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein; however, all of that all together just doesn’t explain it. Trump wasn’t meant to win Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, or Iowa, or even Florida. Even Texas was supposed to be a swing state for this election. Alas, none of that happened. The media, and thus the American public, heavily relies on the numbers polls provide. But how do they work? So many of interest groups, polls, and percentages for the election and U.S. government get their information through your classic statistical procedure of sampling and taking data, but it’s highly possible that much of their data is skewed. Some are taken from social media, where mainly millennials echo their sentiments across the Internet. Much of the time, polling places call homes through home lines, something that is becoming increasingly archaic in a progressing society. Home lines are usually found in the homes of aging populations, thus could skew data. Many people may also refuse to participate in surveys, causing further bias. This phenomenon is known as the “Bradley effect”. So, what should we do about it?  Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University, says polls and pundits should be banned. I’m not sure I completely agree, because numbers can have a significant effect on so many things because we take them so seriously, and to just completely take them out of the picture could leave a hole we don’t know how to fill. However, this election has shone light on so many things we need to fix. The way we allow the media to control elections, how long campaigns take, corruption, the electoral college, and statistics are all things we need to focus on fixing. Much of these policies come from a time in America when people had deep trust issues (the 18th century) with governments, and just like we adapt to a changing society, we must adapt to a changing political world in a different time.

2.   How did this happen?

We continue to ask this, but we don’t really want to hear the answer. A friend posted a status update on Facebook that presented a new and interesting perspective that I wholeheartedly agree with. (shoutout to you, Zach). You can find the original status update below this article, published with permission from the author.

The short answer? We didn’t listen. As I was sadly scrolling through the NYTimes just an hour ago, one of the reader’s comments caught my attention: “Now will the Democrats listen to the people they call deplorable?” It reminds me of the way politics were at the end of the 60s, with so many articles and speeches being written about middle America, such as “The Forgotten American” by Peter Schrag, and Richard Nixon’s “What Has Happened to America?“  After spending so much time being the focus of domestic policy, the American middle spent the majority of the 50s and 60s in the shadows as the impoverished were given handouts and hand ups, and the suburbs that the liberals so desperately called upon for support and votes were treated like royalty. With conservatives believing “that the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice” as outlined by the Young Americans for Freedom in the Sharon Statement, the rise to power of conservatism in America came at no surprise at the end of 60s. The conditions of trauma and frustration in the middle are increasing in power, voice, and volume. And with the change in rules came a change in America – a change that chose stability over progress. It’s the same exact change that we’re seeing today. It is understandable that the American people, amidst the drama of America politics, felt forgotten.  “In the guise of the working class – or the American yeoman or John Smith – he was once the hero of the civics books, the man Andrew Jackson called “the bone and sinew of the country.” Now he is the “forgotten man,” perhaps the most alienated person in America.” (from “The Forgotten American”) After all, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was written for them, so government should be doing all they can to be working for them. The same question seemed to ring in everyone’s minds: “Why is it that in a few short years a nation which enjoys the freedom and material abundance of America has become among the most lawless and violent in the history of the free peoples?” Somewhere in the liberal fight that was seeking out an unachievable utopian world, there were some eighty million sovereign voices “who didn’t sail for Switzerland the summer of 1955, or at any other time” that were in between “affluence and poverty, between slums and suburbs” and were lost in the noise. We, as a party, as a society, as a nation, have alienated ourselves and caused a huge divide that goes much deeper than shared cultural values and race.

   3.   So, what next?  There are so many angry people. There are even more people that are scared, terrified, including me. “Get ready for deportation” is something that’s been said twice today alone to my friend. My mother called in the early hours of this morning to tell me my father has already been getting death threats back home. There’s riots in the streets, protests in cities, and so, so many petitions circling the Internet. But the electoral college has spoken: Donald J. Trump is our new president-elect. Yes, this was a historic election, but we can’t always get what we want, as the song Trump chose after his speech so eloquently said. It’s incredibly easy to fall into anger and ditch all hope. I felt at such a deep loss last night, I could barely comprehend what was happening around me. The result will affect us for years to come, with Republicans holding the Senate, House, and the executive office of the United States of America. I didn’t want to accept it. I didn’t want to respect him, because he’s never respected me, my religion, and all of its followers. It was so hard to have hope. It sometimes feels like hope is just an ideological thing that’s just a concept that we made up to make us feel better. But I disagree. I believe hope is the founding emotion of our very species. Indeed, it is a thing with feathers. After watching an emotional video from Miley Cyrus, I had the chance to decide what kind of person I wanted and hoped to be. Here’s my answer: I want to be someone who accepts every single person exactly the way they are, no matter who they are and no matter their opinions. If I’m going to get there, I can’t pick and choose who I accept and who I don’t. So, here it is: I accept you, Donald Trump. I accept your presidency. I accept the choice America has made. I’m giving you a chance to prove yourself as the right person for the job.  Until then, I’m going to continue to challenge myself to be the person I someday hope to be. I’m going to remind myself that it’s okay to feel hopeless, helpless, and even afraid. But, at the end of the day, Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, which means the majority of America doesn’t agree with the rhetoric the Trump campaign ran with. The majority of America believes in human rights, liberty, and justice for all. Today, when I was talking to an administrator, he read aloud to me a quote from Mister Rogers (totally copied you, Zach) someone had posted: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” As you go through your day, challenge yourself to be one of those helpers. Listen, answer, and be there for those who need you. Don’t let this happen again. Don’t alienate someone that doesn’t have the same opinion as you. Rise above the hatred and don’t hate back. Love trumps hate every single time. I’m grateful to every single one of the helpers in my life that have helped me and will continue to help me. Thank you for being the way you are, and challenging me to be better. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thakur is the founder of The Millennial Times.

From Zachary Brown: “Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I voted in the Presidential Election. Last night, as I did in 2012, I sat in front of the television and watched the results trickle in. This morning, unable to fall asleep from the stress, I watched my candidate lose. I watched Hillary concede, Obama address a divided nation, but I veered clear of Trump’s victory speech, because I’m afraid. For the first time in eight years, 5 of which I’ve been truly cognizant of politics, the United States will have a President that does not represent me or what I believe in. This scares me. This terrifies me. The past day has been consumed in stress, grief, and disbelief. I’ve been hopping amongst denial, anger, sadness, fear; name an emotion and I’ve probably felt it. But what I realized in this absolutely crushing fear is that I’m not alone. In fact, half of the country felt what I’m feeling now for the last eight years. Half of the country was fed up and tired of this stressful state of panic and paranoia. I have been so eager to dismiss Donald Trump’s supporters as ignorant, hateful, and deplorable (I could go on, I’m still a bit resentful), that I have deluded myself of my own ignorance. I have blinded myself to empathy and hardened my perspective to only allow a reality that complies with my desires and goals. I want equality. I want equal opportunity. I don’t want any citizen to fear like I fear right now. But half us do. And the other half did yesterday.  I’ve felt the need to apologize to everyone I’ve seen today. Because in reality, part of this is my fault. I’ve written off half of the U.S. population as the lowest of beings. And chances are you have too. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you respect the other side. And if you do, more power to you. I want nothing more than to be in your position. I’m not a fan of Donald Trump. I’m not a fan of his policies. I’m not a fan of his team and his advisors and his children and his business practices and even his hair. Especially his hair! The next four years are going to be rough, and he has the potential to cause decades of harm. But I have to believe he is right when he says the American people must come together. Concessions need to be made. Hillary Clinton this morning conceded to a goal she has been working for her entire life. She lost the election to the host of the Celebrity Apprentice. She lost the election to a man who motorboated a cross-dressing Rudy Giuliani on video. If she has the courage to concede to Donald Trump, I have to have the courage to open my mind to his supporters. I don’t know what I’m trying to get at here. This is mostly just me trying to work through my own personal issues on a public forum. You don’t have to read this, or like it, or acknowledge it. If you’ve made it this far, good for you. But I’m just screaming into the void. It needs to come out. Donald Trump is going to be our President and I’m more scared than I’ve ever been. Scared for my friends, scared for my family, scared for my country and selfishly myself. Politics shouldn’t feel like this. The day after election day shouldn’t be a party for half of the country and a wake for the other half. I want nothing more than for this post to have an optimistic, hopeful ending, because the thing I could use most right now is a little dose of optimism. So I’m gonna end this with a quote from Mister Rodgers about stress and understanding. 

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” Don’t write off people you don’t agree with. Listen to them. Understand them. Their answers are just as important as your questions.