Trump presidency will test millennials’ perseverance


Lily Katz

Students rally at Alma Mater to express dissatisfaction with the president elect on Wednesday night.

By Matt Silich, Opinions Editor

Silich, Matt_Cutout_6

I walked a little slower Wednesday morning.

I typically bound up and down the streets of Champaign, so much so that my girlfriend says I need to shrink my legs a few inches so she can catch up. But Wednesday, I didn’t really feel an urgency to go anywhere, much less do anything.

After supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the entire 2016 election cycle, I helplessly watched with millions of others Tuesday while her hopes of winning the presidency crashed down from the glass ceiling’s apex. Instead, Republican President-Elect Donald Trump upset pundits’ predictions and won the election with help from a surge of white, working-class voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

He’ll likely earn over 300 electoral votes when it’s done, a considerable margin regardless of the popular vote. And his deficit in result totals only makes it more difficult to stomach Clinton’s loss.

The prospect of a Trump presidency was unfathomable a year ago, much less one fully equipped with a conservative Congress and an open seat waiting on the Supreme Court. If Trump is true to his campaign promises, then millions of Americans are in danger of losing what they hold dear.

Minority groups will have their rights questioned, if not their citizenships. Climate change will go unaddressed and unbelieved. Tens of millions of people will lose health care. The driving forces behind eight years of consistent economic progress may be wiped out within months.

Trump’s relatively timid acceptance speech has already convinced some that this might all work out, as if 30 minutes of good behavior excuses years of lewd comments and bigotry. Trump has done the boy scout act before — each debate started with a calm, determined candidate before the facade quickly crumbled.

A man who can’t stop himself from pressing “Tweet” at 3 a.m. now controls the country’s nuclear arsenal. Perhaps Trump is an entirely different person privately than his public persona, but he didn’t undergo a behavioral metamorphosis in the hours between the first closing of the polls and Clinton’s concession.

Few know what a Trump presidency entails — I doubt even Trump himself knows — but his red cheeks look the same even through rose-colored glasses.

I spent most of the primary season saying that supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders were naive; that they didn’t understand why his plans were unfeasible and that the rest of America would find his self-admittedly socialist ideas untenable.

But Tuesday, I was the naive one; I believed in an America that simply doesn’t exist, one fabricated from a social media bubble and wishful thinking.

Clinton won the popular vote, sure, which speaks to poor campaign strategy in the final months.

But the harsh reality is that people, even those who voted Democrat in the past, didn’t like her enough to go to the polls. Five million fewer people voted for Clinton in 2016 than President Barack Obama in 2012 as of Wednesday night.

It’s painful when the candidate who inspires your support can’t evoke the same passion from those who hold such similar beliefs.

Though Sanders may not have won the primary even without the Democratic National Committee’s opposing influence, people are right to wonder whether he would have triumphed in the general election given Trump’s connection to financially troubled white people. Perhaps he would have.

Many liberal students’ instincts will tell them to fight those who delivered Trump to the White House. Facebook news feeds, or at least mine, are already flush with statuses demeaning Trump’s supporters.

I struggle to understand their reasoning too, but our takeaway can’t be one that encourages further divisiveness. Some won’t be willing to compromise, but working toward a better future wouldn’t have been easy even if Clinton or Sanders were elected.

A brief note to those who voted for Trump because they do support his bigoted beliefs, or think it will quell the voices of the underrepresented: Brace yourselves, because all those people and those who stand with them are about to fight a hell of a lot harder.

But if millennials are going to preach nearly unconditional inclusion, as we should, we must have the decency to understand why Trump’s reasonable supporters — and they exist in great numbers — are so disgusted with the Democratic party that they would look past Trump’s bigotry and vote for him.

Perhaps that voter base won’t decide the president in 2020 as it did this year, but educating ourselves on opposing views should be a conscious effort at all times, not just during election season.

For all the danger that feels imminent as Jan. 20, 2017, looms closer, hope can’t be lost among millennial voters. We who voted overwhelmingly in favor of Clinton — enough to claim nearly 500 electoral votes if the voting were limited to millennials — will eventually rule this nation.

Social movements that promote equal rights for all will become the norm, even as some of our fellow students drift toward more conservative fiscal beliefs. That day is in our certain future, even if the road that leads there just got considerably bumpier.

Change is coming. But for now, we might just have to walk a bit slower.

Matt is a senior in Media.

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