From a Historical Perspective

By Olivia Crull (Age 17, Roscoe, IL)

To the outcome of this election, my initial response was disbelief, as was likely the case for the millions of people presuming Hillary’s victory as a means of denying the less attractive truth. However, this state of astonishment quickly subsided as I lay awake in bed at 3 A.M., phone constantly buzzing with an influx of election-related notifications, digesting the implications of a Trump presidency. Why should I feel shocked or mislead? I live in a community which boasts a Trump/Pence yard sign every hundred meters and votes accordingly. Of course there was still the hope that the deafening frequency with which I observed support for Donald Trump simply resulted from the manner in which his supporters conducted themselves, their tendency to be boisterous and abrasive, but ultimately I expected a closeted majority to stand with them out of frustration with the current political institutions. This is not to say Donald Trump is solely responsible for his popularity. As part of the newest generation of voters emerging with a higher expectation of leftism, I completely acknowledge the limitations of the Democratic Party in offering a suitable candidate. Trump’s marketability stemmed from a disillusionment with the status quo, the very same status quo which Clinton exemplified.

After much reflection, it felt like a privileged response to feel surprised. Outside of any prejudicial Facebook posts made by my peers, which I could write off as resulting from a lack of maturity or education (or most commonly both), I did not witness this hatred manifest in any meaningful way towards me. I am white. I live in a predominantly white community. I do not carry the burden that minorities and the LGBTQ community have over the course of this election, but in distinguishing their fear and anger as valid, I can better sympathize with the current protests of his presidency. I understand the desire to treat him with the same level of respect that was extended to them by his campaign.

As a student of history, I immerse myself in the political culture of this country, both past and present. I never once assumed that Obama’s presidency signified much racial progress. I never allowed myself to feel fully satisfied by the legalization of same sex marriage. No self-respecting history student should. If you’re actually paying attention, there is always further progress to be made. From this historical perspective, I find Donald Trump’s campaign to be neither inventive nor revolutionary. It is a continuity in this country that politicians capitalize off the dissatisfaction of the lower and middle classes, playing into the economic insecurities of an incredibly large group of people by deferring the blame on to the designated undesirables (often minorities) of the society instead of on to the government policies which created the economic uncertainty in the first place. What I find uniquely disturbing about Donald Trump’s campaign is that he accomplishes this without the subtleties and non-racial language of his modern conservative predecessors. I am both continuously affirmed in my low expectations of this country and shocked, after much dissent of my cynicism by the people in my life, at the fruition of my harsh predictions. But above all, I am unsure. I am unsure of the lasting effects this will have on the state of our country, because I have yet to decide if this phenomenon is entirely new.