As midnight approached and a series of swing states turned red, disproving countless polls and shocking the nation, Cornellians expressed horror that Donald Trump could actually become president.
“How the fuck is he winning? What the fuck?” said a student early on in the night, at an election-watching gathering in Flora Rose House, as Trump took the state of Ohio.
Other students — such as Maria Chak ’18, who said Trump has inspired her to run for president “because if Trump can win, anyone can” — turned to morbid humor to interpret the results.
“We should’ve died in 2012 while we still had the chance,” added Mitch Laski ’17, echoing several students who said they fear a Trump presidency will be the end of equal rights for minorities and free speech in the United States.
Shayra Kamal ’17 said she is genuinely concerned about her future in the United States.
“I’m looking into flights back to Bangladesh right now, so I can remove myself before Trump repatriates me,” she said. “Liberty and freedom are dead.”
Other students said they were ashamed of voters in the United States and shocked that they would validate the policies Trump has promoted, many of which negatively target minority groups.
Roman Pidyk ’19 voiced concern about the future of a country that would, even narrowly, choose a candidate who has run on a platform of racism and misogyny.
“I’m concerned for the state of the country overall,” he said. “I don’t think there will ever be such a shitshow like this in our lifetime.”
Many students also said they felt genuine emotional distress “knowing that something like this [Trump’s presidency] could happen,” said Dejah Powell ’18.
Matan Presberg ’18 agreed, adding that “tears were shed on my walk home” after he watched the news.
“I’ve always believed in forward progress and that even if change happens too slowly, it happens in the right direction,” he said. “But this is a huge step back.”
An ‘Uprising’ Among Middle-Class White America
Olivia Corn ’19, the chair of Cornell Republicans, said she believes the election results reveal that “people don’t want the corrupt politician” to rule our country.
“I always expected he would do better than the polls suggested because many don’t want to admit they support Trump,” she said. “I also think that the country is incredibly dissatisfied with [Clinton] and it shows.”
Austin McLaughlin ’18, executive director of Cornell Republicans, called the surge of support for Trump, “a rejection of Washington, Wall Street, and the media.”
“Trump’s unexpected performance makes it clear that the polls failed to account for large swaths of the populace coming out for Donald Trump, particularly rural older whites,” he said. “It may be revealing that Hillary Clinton did not have the level of the support of Hispanics and blacks that she thought she did coming into Election Day.”
Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government, called the results of the election “stunning.”
“How could this happen?” she asked. “Clinton outspent him two to one, had a united party and abundant help from the president, first lady, vice president, her former opponent Bernie Sanders and scores of political and cultural celebrities, in addition to the best ground game money could buy.”
Voters’ choices could be considered a protest against elite decision-making in electoral politics, according to Sanders.
“One could see this election as a massive democratic uprising against the elite project of globalization, open borders and the commodification of goods and people — the vision Clinton communicated in her handsomely compensated speeches to large banks in the U.S. and Canada,” she said.
Carolyn Spencer ’19, who said she voted for Clinton, was taken aback by the outpouring of support for Trump, especially because she said “around campus there’s been a lot of support” for Clinton.
“I thought that there would be more people voting for Hillary,” she said. “Especially right now with all of the allegations [of sexual assault] that have been coming out about Donald Trump, I thought that would really impact his chances.”
“Coming out of a prelim and hearing Trump is leading the polls is the worst feeling,” Priyanka Konan ’20 said of the night.
Trump Supporters Came ‘Out of the Woodwork’
Other students called the results “eye opening,” saying they revealed an entire demographic of American voters who “came out of the woodwork.” Kelly Riopelle ’20 said the closeness of the election was evidence of the bigotry prevalent in the United States.
“It’s definitely a lot closer than I could have ever imagined, and kind of horrifying to think that this larger percentage of the country can vote for someone who’s made such blatantly racist statements,” Riopelle said. “I think that regardless of the results, this election has been really illuminating in how backwards a lot of our country is.”
Kate Ryan ’20 said she was surprised that the Latino population in Florida failed to deliver a Clinton win.
“I’m definitely disappointed that the Latino surge didn’t happen in Florida,” said Ryan, who added that she is shocked by how inaccurate polling has been throughout the entire election.
As the night wound down, in Facebook posts and other social media, Cornellians began to share their condolences for female and minority friends, saying that Trump’s election to the presidency gives implicit permission for others to adopt “horrible” stances he has endorsed.
“I feel as if many of my peers are in shock — at a time that is so critical to our identity development, this invalidates who we are,” said Dustin Liu ’19. “Many feel this as a personal attack, and I can only think of how we can support one another in the days moving forward.”
Rachel Whalen ’19, Anna Delwiche ’19, So Hyung Kim ’19, Josephine Chu ’18 and Stephanie Yan ’18 contributed reporting to this article.