Photo Source: BBC.com
It’s been more than a couple of weeks at this point, but the election doesn’t feel over. Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet. Maybe it won’t feel real until Donald Trump is calling the shots from the Oval Office. But the fact remains, it is over and the country has to accept it. I’ve been thinking about the election over the last couple of weeks, and thinking about how I changed during it. As crazy as the whole thing was, I believe some good came out of it. We won’t know the extent of this election’s impact for a while, but right now I do have some takeaways.
- Voting By the Little Red “R”
When I registered to vote in April 2015, I registered proudly as a Republican. At the time, I had a very clear understanding of what a Republican was. To be a Republican meant you believed in a small government, strong business, and a smart foreign policy with the world’s best military to go with it. When I registered to vote, I had the Party of Reagan in mind. I believed in 2016, I would be supporting a Mitt Romney type of candidate for President. This all changed just a couple of months later when Donald Trump announced he was running for President. From that point until March 2016, I supported my Mitt Romney type candidate – the young, Hispanic, Senator Marco Rubio. But this wasn’t the Party of Reagan anymore, and every day that became increasingly clear. My understanding of what it meant to be a Republican was changing. I had grown to detest Mr. Trump and a slew of other Republicans. There was a very clear divide within my party. I began to wonder…was it my party? Today I remain confident that yes, it is my party. But at the same time I realized I wouldn’t always vote by it. My first loyalty is to what I believe is best for my country, not the party. And no matter who the candidate is, Democrat or Republican or something else, if they believe in small government, strong business and a smart foreign policy with the world’s best military I will be voting for them. I can’t always so blindly vote by the little red “r” next to someone’s name.
- Politics Is My Business
They always say don’t mix business with pleasure. As a journalism and political science major, politics is my business. I was glued to updates throughout the election on a daily basis. I’ve realized this is (part of the reason) why I had difficulty discussing it with the ones I love. It didn’t hit me at first, but by the time the general election rolled around I found myself cringing during family discussion of the topic. I’d come home and there my father would be, espousing the latest phony story Trump was stumping on the campaign trail. I’d visit my grandparents, and there would be my grandmother endlessly droning about Hillary, or on the other side of the family my grandfather, glued to Fox News. I still don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because I just grew plain tired of the election. I grew tired of the rhetoric and the way it was dividing the country – dividing my family. Maybe it was because I just wished to think of these loved ones as they were before the election. I don’t define people by their politics, but the way it was constantly in my face almost seemed to be forcing me to, and I hated it. I didn’t want to think of my father as a deplorable. I’d rather my grandmother make me laugh rather than feel bored. I longed for the days when my grandfather enjoyed more John Wayne movies, and less Sean Hannity. I’ve already learned politics is and will be my business going forward. As fun as it can be, politics certainly isn’t and shouldn’t be everything. I will have to continue to seek those moments of pleasure, and keep politics very much at a distance. Let’s see if everyone else does the same.
- I Do Not Know Everything
I was wrong. Boy was I wrong. But hey, I was not alone. Back when “The Donald from The Apprentice” announced he was running for President I laughed. I remembered the rumors of him running in 2012, and his outspoken views on President Obama’s birthplace. But really I still only knew him as the man from New York who was married a few times, made a cameo in Home Alone 2, and always said “you’re fired!” There was no way this guy could be President one day. As the months and years will show, this was one of the failures of the Republican Primary. Jeb tried to go at Mr. Trump early, but when it was clear this tactic was destroying Governor Bush’s campaign, the rest of the field stayed away and attacked each other. Meanwhile the pundits all expected ignoring Mr. Trump while the “real candidates” fought it out would produce the best nominee to defeat Hillary Clinton. They just never thought it would be “The Donald,” and neither did I. In October 2015 when Paul Ryan was unanimously chosen to become Speaker of the House I was riding a wave of Republican optimism. I felt it was time for a young Republican rebirth I could be a part of now and not later when I was just another one of the angry old white guys. At the same time, my candidate, Senator Rubio was creeping up in the polls, and had “Marcomentum” behind him. As the primaries began, it was clear the kids were going to have to wait. The baby boomers still had their say, and the angry old white guys were showing out in droves for Mr. Trump. Being a college student from Massachusetts, I had no reason to expect this result. On campus, in the community, at home, there was an understanding that this was Mrs. Clinton’s time. She was going to be President. In my journalism and political science classes, this was an established fact. But again, as the months and years will show, one of the major problems with the election was media coverage. I can’t even begin to express how poorly journalism failed this election. As a Supervisor at the campus Polling Institute, I was right about the Baystate, but I and the rest of the industry were wrong about the country. Polling failed as well. The realization that the very fields I am studying were so wrong has left me to question my career path. For now, I vow to remain committed to what I believe, and maybe one day change the course.
- This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land
As I’ve said before, I don’t define people by their politics. I always try to look past that. With that in mind, I realize now more than ever how many different people there are in this country. During the election, I’ve come across many who had no idea what was going on in the campaign, but were still going to vote. So many people have gotten wrapped up in their online echo chambers, choosing Facebook news over the Wall Street Journal. Listening to what their inner circle of friends have to say, instead of their elected officials. The “poorly educated voter” has been at the backbone of Mr. Trump’s support. I had to look no further than my Freshman Year roommate. He gave no attention to politics. He couldn’t name the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Ask him to name the last five Presidents and he couldn’t do it. He was a great guy, but to me this was basic civics and he was clueless. When I asked who he was supporting he said “I don’t know, either Trump or Bernie. I see a lot about them on Facebook.” I was speechless – well actually I lost it, and began my attempt to inform him about the election. In the weeks that followed, he decided Trump was his guy. I remember one exchange with my roommate when Trump was on his way to securing the nomination. He told me to “fall in line” and if I didn’t I was “not a true Republican and had to get out.” I was speechless – well actually, once again, I lost it. We know now that Mr. Trump’s success was in large part due to new and first time voters. Some who felt disenfranchised and hadn’t voted in years. Across the aisle of course, I see the Democratic Party left in ruins. Where they go from now will likely be in line with the “Warren Wing” of the party. Led by my Senator Elizabeth Warren, I have even less in common with them. Many I have met at college, and again to me they don’t have an understanding for reality. But I have to remind myself, this isn’t my country – this is our country. We all live in it together, and will have to live with a Trump administration.
Most of all, I’ve learned I love my country. I always knew that, but I really do. I want to see the best for my country – for our country. I don’t know exactly where I will be when college ends and I join the real world. My only hope is that in some way, I get a chance to serve my country admirably. I’ve learned a lot this election. 2016 won’t define my life, but it has made an impact on it. While I’m still learning, I think perhaps it has made me a better person.