November 10, 2016

MCEVOY MINUTE | How We Move Forward After Defeat

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Courtesy of The New Yorker

In the coming days, we will begin to understand the outcome of Tuesday night’s elections and see how Donald Trump triumphed when almost every major news source was predicting a win for Hillary Clinton on Monday. The results are shocking and deeply startling to many people whose personal identities were attacked by Trump throughout his campaign. Processing this outcome will not happen overnight and the fear that he will follow through with his campaign promises rooted in hatred and xenophobia will likely remain throughout the course of his presidency. Trump has shown himself to be a highly unpredictable man and pathological liar, and the fear that I feel for my friends and loved ones in the numerous minority groups that he has shunned, criticized and sworn to further marginalize is deep and very real. For now, though, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to take the time to consider how and why this has happened. Every Clinton supporter must remember how this loss feels and allow the hurt to drive us to continue fighting for equality and rights over the next four years.

When you are on Cornell campus it is hard to understand how this outcome could possibly be real. The gloom of this loss was clear on almost every face I passed today. The enthusiasm that I felt and witnessed from countless female peers as they cast their ballot — many of them voting for the first time — for the first female presidential candidate of a major party led me to believe that our time had come. We would have a president who would be accepting of members of the LGBTQ+ community, Latinx community, Blacks, Muslims, immigrants, Jews, women and every group who has ever felt that they did not have a place in the United States, and simultaneously shatter the glass ceiling. But as Tuesday night went on, it was clear that this would not be the case. Our country had instead elected a man who will push these communities further away, leaving them to feel unsafe in their own homes – sending the signal to every person in our nation that hatred, xenophobia, dishonesty, bigotry, misogyny and complete lack of empathy are acceptable, especially if you are a white man with enough power.

As we were forced to face the reality of what had happened on Wednesday, I began to engage in conversations with my friends, family and peers – how will we move on from this? Right now, it may seem that there is no hope, that our country has taken countless steps backward and has rejected the progress that some have fought so long to achieve. It is hard to reconcile with the fact that we democratically elected a man who seems at odds with everything I want our democracy to stand for. But it is imperative that we keep fighting. If you feel hurt or fearful of what this election means, use the privilege that you have been given by going to a school like Cornell University to fight for those that have not been so lucky. Exercise your right to engage in the political process not just once every four years, but always. Become involved in local elections and protests, attend rallies, write about your opinions – anything other than becoming numb and accepting of this outcome.

At the same time, though, let us not approach every person who voted for Trump as if they are filled with hatred for others. We stand at a crossroads in time with a deeply divided nation. The future, I believe, will not be determined by what the elected officials do but by the people. It has become clear that there are groups of Americans who do not feel that their voice has been heard, who feel belittled and rejected by the political elite for being less educated or having a different set of religious beliefs. It is easy to brush off Trump supporters as racist, bigoted, or white supremacists – and I do not contest that some are these things. But the key to real progress may be found in dialogue with people with opposing viewpoints, to pass along your own understanding of American values without completely belittling theirs. In this moment it may seem hard to grapple with a set of beliefs that is completely different than your own. But to truly live with an open mind we must listen to what Trump supporters are saying; to look beyond the vitriolic statements made by Trump himself to the struggles of those people who voted for him. It is when our divided nation can come together that the road to progress will be clearer.

Regardless of the outcome, I feel proud to have voted for a candidate like Hillary Clinton. I deeply believe that she would have been a leader driven by integrity and respect with a comprehensive understanding of the most pressing issues our country faces. Despite the fact that she lost, every woman who had the opportunity to vote for her demonstrates that progress is possible, but that it has never been an easy battle. Let us be motivated by the grace that Clinton and President Barack Obama demonstrated in their speeches on Wednesday morning as they addressed Trump’s victory. As Clinton put it, “our campaign was never about one person or even one election, it was about the country we love, and about building an America that is hopeful, inclusive, and bighearted.” This election outcome may be a setback in building towards that America, but it will not knock down those who believe in a more inclusive nation unless we let it. Once you have finished processing the outcome, pick yourself back up and focus on how you can continue fighting. There are local elections, protests and awareness campaigns that you can involve yourself in. Perhaps most importantly, you can live with empathy and respect for others every day, even if our President will not.