The United States has spoken: Donald J. Trump will be the next president of America.
Frankly, I never thought that this would happen. I really thought Hillary would have little problem in winning this election. The first inkling that things weren’t going as planned was when Trump won Ohio, which had previously gone to Obama twice. From then on, things went downhill, and throughout the night, the possibility of Hillary’s loss became more and more concrete. In the end, we all know what happened: Trump trounced Clinton in the Electoral College.
I was shocked that the results were so incongruous with my predictions. To be sure, this past election had been an incredibly odd one; pundits fell and polls stumbled. Still, I wondered, how could my predictions have been so off? After briefly scrolling through Facebook and chatrooms, I so strongly believed in a Clinton victory because my real and virtual social life existed in an echo chamber. Most of my friends were graduate students or white-collar professionals. They were diverse and cosmopolitan and had been educated in some of the best universities in the United States. We reassured ourselves of Clinton’s victory because we could not imagine that Trump could ever represent us.
In contrast, many of the people who chose Donald Trump to represent them belonged in the working class, hailed from rural areas and did not hold college degrees. I had never read their comments on Facebook, never conversed with them about the progress of the election cycle, never considered their frustrations within the current sociopolitical climate. Despite the large number of people who voted for Trump, my social orbit never overlapped with theirs, so of course I never came into contact with this alternative zeitgeist. The people who voted for Trump and against Hillary Clinton were those who felt as if they were being left behind, economically, politically and socially, and they rejected Hillary Clinton and the progressive reforms espoused by the Democratic Party. By projecting their hopes and dreams onto Trump’s amorphous ideology, they voted, and he conquered.
What the largely progressive products of the ivory tower — the academics, the political radicals, the journalists, etc. — must now realize that we cannot move forward by leaving a bulk of America behind. The Democratic platform that was crafted in hopes of addressing many ills of this world was too bitter to swallow for large swaths of the United States. We now must contend with the consequences of a Republican Congress, Senate, Supreme Court justice and President who may very well seek to dismantle even the small increments of progress that have been made thus far, such as women’s rights on abortion, marriage equality, immigration reform or the Affordable Care Act.
In the next election, we must not make the same mistake, and we must capitalize on a topic that has been unfortunately little-discussed during this presidential campaign: education. We need education in order to uplift people from every background, especially African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, the rural and poor whites. We need people of all political stripes to become independent thinkers, learn about the injustices that members of our country face, empower their economic futures, meet a wide range of people from different backgrounds and broaden their perspectives beyond that of their communities to that of the wider world as global citizens.
But as we prepare for the future, we must contend with the current reality. Even in the best-case scenario for progressives — in which Trump reveals himself as a moderate and doesn’t follow up with his campaign promises — many ugly sentiments have been brought to public light. Looking forward, the lives and well-being of many individuals — African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Muslims, LGBTQ, women, refugees, etc. — are at risk, and from this election, children are learning the wrong lesson: that bigotry and hate will be handsomely rewarded. As such, we must be prepared to protect those around us. I encourage everyone to check on your friends and neighbors, let them know that you will be with them in these uncertain times and brace ourselves for the challenges that will come our way.
Overall, we have two challenges: to educate and improve the prospects of the electorate who rejected progressive solutions, and to protect and empower those who have the most to fear from a Trump presidency. Undoubtedly, this will be no small task, but we must persevere in these uncertain times to keep America great.
Contact Yoo Jung Kim at yoojkim ‘at’ stanford.edu.