Despite losing the popular vote, Republican nominee Donald Trump was named the president-elect on November 9, with 290 Electoral College votes over Hillary Clinton’s 232. He will be inaugurated on Friday, January 20.
Most people were surprised by the results, even those who were not confident in Clinton’s victory. When recalling her expectations of the election, History teacher Tisha Hooks said, “Like everyone I expected a Clinton win.” Drew Mindell ’18 added, “I couldn’t even watch the election results coming in because I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Despite being shocked by the results, some students and teachers are willing to give Donald Trump a chance. Marcelo De la Mora ’17 said, “Even though I don’t like Trump [he] was elected by democratic means and [those who are upset] should have encouraged the 50% of people who didn’t vote to vote.” Student Council President Phil Ross ’17 added, “[We] should give him a chance to lead and if you’re really upset about it, then put a lot of effort into everyday life. Make sure you’re voting for governors, state representatives, because they are equally important.”
Some Hopkins students and teachers are uncomfortable with the way Trump supporters are maligned. Modern Language teacher Gabriela Gerstenfeld said, “Although it is hard for me to make sense of what happened, we have to respect the results; [as] both sides exposed their arguments during the campaign.” Art History and Visual Arts teacher Jacqueline LaBelle-Young agrees, “We can’t vilify people who have different opinions. I can see where fear comes from in parts of the country that have been ignored or seem to be ignored.”
Moreover, the surprising election result has opened students’ eyes to the opinions of others. Head of School Dr. Kai Bynum stated, “We have not changed fundamentally. More than anything we’ve become more aware of different opinions and perspectives.
Various opinions were not being heard and the election [provided] a platform for them to be heard.” He continued, “Any time we become aware of the broader range of perspectives is always a good thing.”
Even though students and teachers try to respect their peers’ opinions, many still are scared of what a Trump presidency might bring. English and Science teacher Canny Cahn said, “We are already in a dire place when it comes to saving our world and we can’t afford to be derailed by a foot dragging administration.” Mindell ’18 encouraged the community to stand up against any forms of injustice: “We need to stick together as a community. In the face of a bigoted, prejudiced government, we need to keep spreading positivity and support.”
Some conservatives are also discontent about a Donald Trump presidency. History teacher Scott Wich explained his qualms saying, “I completely understand the fears that many have over the prospect of a Trump administration, and I share many of them. As a conservative who reveres the Constitution, I cringe at the advancement of the ‘alt-right’ and the shifting balance of the Republican party.”
Some Trump or neutral supporters feel ostracized by their peers. Sara Amar ’19 commented, “This community talks about viewing opinions neutrally, yet people attack anyone who supports Trump, [so the attitude] discourages kids from talking about their political views.” One of the biggest debates on campus, and across the country, is whether or not one can support Trump but not endorse his derogatory comments. “Just because someone supports Trump doesn’t mean they support everything he’s said or that they’re bad people,” Amar ’19 postulated.
In classes, some teachers have tried to hold debates in which all opinions can be heard. Hooks spoke of how she handled the election in her various History classes, “I’ve spoken about it in every class. It’s part of our civic duty to make sure we are engaged politically and have active discussions which are important for our democracy”
In the days following the results, Bynum arranged times to meet with groups of students and discuss their thoughts. He explained that he facilitated these meetings in order to encourage the Hopkins community to engage in mature and open discussions. “We have to get used to learning how to have conversations like that, how to speak both authentically and respectfully to each other about these issues. Trying to change [someone’s] mind to agree with you sometimes puts people in camps that become pretty concrete, and sometimes disallows you from listening to the other person,” Bynum explained.
Some members of the community found a way to express their election opinions through the “Political Circus” art gallery show. The show featured artwork that compared the absurdity of the election to stereotypical circus acts. “We wanted to give people a place to safely air their political feelings about this whole campaign season. Respect but openness was the hoped for combination,” stated LaBelle-Young, whose classes all contributed to the gallery show. “Being edgy was okay but being offensive was not, and it’s important to teach people that line in a public forum,” she continued.
Part of the strong reaction to the election results from the fact that Clinton won the popular vote but Trump still won the election; the usefulness of the electoral college has thus begun to be questioned. Ross said, “The electoral college takes away representation of the populus. The president is [the] only office of government elected by the whole of population [and] we should make the change to a popular vote.” This opinion is shared nationwide, as petitions have been started with the purpose of abolishing the electoral college; however, supporters of the electoral college believe that it protects rural areas of the country from the ever expanding urban centers. Wich stated, “A directly democratic presidential election based on the nationwide popular vote would diminish the importance of the states, particularly the more rural, ‘flyover’ states.”
Many members of the Hopkins community are still coming to terms with the results of the election, while many others are excited for the leadership of the new president. Despite political differences, the community will continue to discuss their differing opinions and learn to understand each other better. “At the end of the day we want to continue being a place where all opinions and are respected and valued,” said Bynum. “For a school, a community like ours, any time we become aware of the broader range of perspectives is always a good thing.”