Student Reactions to the Election

Student Reactions to the Election

Aidan Phillips


I’m sure everyone in The United States has these same thoughts, but The United States seems to be in a state of civil unrest. In one year, we’ve experienced America on the brink of war, a pandemic that has killed over 250,000 Americans, months of protest against racism and police brutality, and one of the worst economic collapses in American history. Anger, despair, and division are running rampant in our country. The 2020 election has been seen as a possible historic turning point in The United States, as the country must decide what direction we need to take to solve the many crises facing The United States. Young people have especially been affected by our crises, as young people are the ones who will have to deal with the future implications of this election and the political atmosphere. In order to understand the thoughts and feelings of people right now, I reached out to several fellow Priory students and asked them about their opinions on the outcome of the election, how they reflect on the past four years of the Trump administration, and how they think the country may change going into the future. These are their responses.


“What did you expect to happen and or want to happen before the election? (Who did you support? Who did you think would win? Would the aftermath be peaceful? Why? etc.)”


Will Stoneman, Class of 2021: I honestly expected Biden to win, but I was really surprised to see how close the election ended up being. Leading up to the election I had seen so many things attacking Donald Trump and saying that we needed to vote him out, even if we didn’t really like Biden either. I am pretty sure that my generation voted primarily for Biden, but I have no doubt that a large amount also voted for Trump considering how close the election was. Because Trump is such a polarizing person, he has so many die-hard supporters who would support him almost no matter what he did, so a lot of the votes for Trump likely came from people like this. If the election had been in any other year then Trump probably would have won because he was the incumbent president, but I think his response to COVID-19 was ultimately what led to his loss in the election. I expected the aftermath to be peaceful regardless of who won, and I also expected to have recounts in multiple states.


Joe Cyr, Class of 2021: Frankly I was unsure how the election would turnout. I had a hunch that the pre-election polls were severely underrating Trump, however the Democrats really pushed their campaign and knew how to reach out to my generation via social media platforms such as Instagram. Personally, I thought Trump would win, he has a lot of silent supporters. Also looking at data from past elections when the incumbent was on the ballot, I saw a statistic that said in the months leading up to the election, if the S&P 500 had been up, in almost every election the incumbent won. I carefully watched the S&P and it seemed to fluctuate a lot, but had more gains than losses. If Biden won I knew that the Republicans would not go down without a tussle. I did not think that things such as violent protests or rioting would happen, but the voter fraud claims do not surprise me. If Trump had been elected to stay in office I thought that there would for sure be a lot of pushback from the Democrats in terms of protests and potentially another claim of scandal like in 2016 with Trump and Russia. 


Greyson Antes, Class of 2022: I thought that Trump would win, despite the constant polls that said he was down by a lot and that Republicans in general would get destroyed. I did think that government corruption/career politicians (and the whole “drain the swamp” saying) would propel Trump to victory, but he didn’t use this strategy that much (saying that Republicans have been running against the same inner circle of Democrats for years). I supported Trump, I could give reasons, but I think it’d be best to just leave it at that, and I think that the aftermath of the election is somewhat stalled by coronavirus. I think that Trump would have won easily had it not been for a global pandemic during his election year, but I guess we will never know. I hope that, no matter what candidate the recounts or voter fraud cases help, we can improve our voter security system. Dead people have been voting forever, it’s nothing new and it should disturb us (even if it isn’t widespread). We are the most technologically advanced nation and we can’t seem to get voting right, we have to fix that. One dead person voting takes the vote away from another legitimate voter, which infringes on our rights as an American citizen. 


Jack McEnery, Alumnus, Class of 2020: I really had no idea what to expect. On the one hand, I saw all the popular enthusiasm for Trump and knew the polls had been wrong last time, but at the same time, I was partially expecting the pollsters to have learned from their mistakes (clearly, they did not) and it was definitely true that there was more enthusiasm against Trump too. I was expecting the aftermath to be peaceful in most circumstances, the exception being if Biden seemed to have a razor-thin victory, but lost it because some mail-in votes were invalidated. With a third of the Supreme Court consisting of Trump nominees, and a significant portion of the political left already calling Trump a true fascist, a contested election swinging in Trump’s favor would have inspired enormous violence as a response to the perceived coup. I’m glad this didn’t happen.


Gavin Bena, Class of 2021: I of course have mixed feelings about the election results, but that’s to be expected-not everything will always go your way. However, I had developed a model throughout the preceding year to predict the results of the federal elections, and take some sort of pride in saying that it was 0.46071 percentage points more accurate on average than Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. What was interesting to me was the fact that in 2016, only one swing state (Wisconsin) was outside the margin of polling error, a number that increased to three (Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio) in 2020.  Despite the fact that Biden-my preferred candidate-underperformed projections in all but three states and D.C., his electoral coalition won a significant popular vote majority in addition to a convincing electoral college majority. In fact, I suppose my feelings could be best summarised as “my preferred candidates won, but not as much as I wanted them to,” which is more than good enough for me. Two types of elections that are largely overlooked due to the fanfare of the federal elections are the state legislative elections and referenda. The state legislative elections are of particular importance due to redistricting due to the 2020 census and the possible future expansions of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). Unfortunately, it seems that the Republican Party will control the redistricting process of ~188 House seats; and the “gerrymandered” districts of the South and Midwest will remain in place. Conversely, the various electoral reform referenda were largely decided in favour of my preference, with instant-runoff voting being adopted in Alaska and Colorado’s NPVIC membership being approved after Republican attempts to nip the project in the bud. What remains to be seen for now, however, is if there will ever be a calm resolution to the Trump presidency. Although he’ll be dragged out of the White House if he refuses to leave, his continued refusal to work with the Biden transition team and accept the results of the election sets a dangerous precedent and has put American politics on track for a contentious next four years, especially if hard-right “patriotic” Trump supporters are convinced that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.


Will Swafford, Class of 2021: I expected a Biden victory, although I thought he would win by a much larger margin than he did. It was fairly obvious that the two or three days after the election would be chaotic due to the sheer amount of mail-in and absentee voting. I also was not surprised by the incumbent’s efforts to undermine the results. For months, Trump has been attempting to sabotage and delegitimize mail-in voting. He attempted to defund the postal service and employed a new Postmaster General that aimed at running the USPS into the ground. He also urged his supporters to vote in person, something that was reflected in the results. I was pleasantly surprised that so many vocal conservatives eventually began to shy away from the “election stealing” narrative and congratulate the new president-elect. In terms of my support, I supported third party candidates. I don’t see Trump or Biden as doing very much good for the working people of not just the United States, but of the entire world. 


John Reinker, Class of 2021: Pre-Covid, I would have bet money on Trump winning. Post-Covid, way closer ordeal. However I thought Biden would probably win simply due to the fact that Trump really became somewhat of a villain, and Biden’s campaign did a good job of portraying him as the nicer, more relatable candidate. I really didn’t have support for either, as I kind of hated hearing the bickerings of both political sides. I did expect there to be unrest no matter who won, and I find it interesting that America seems to be devolving into a land of sore losers. 2016 and 2020 both show that both parties have a hard time taking a loss, with scapegoats always being found and pointed to.


Aaron Cole, Class of 2021: The election played out the way I expected it to. It was very close with Biden becoming president-elect, mail in ballots took what seemed like forever to count, and the incumbent tried to claim voter fraud without evidence. Of all the ignorant, offensive, and obnoxious remarks that Trump has made during his term, his claims about the election have to be the most embarrassing for him. His reaction to losing just confuses me more on why anyone would think of voting for him.


“Now that Joe Biden has won the election, how do you reflect on the last four years of the Trump Administration? (Was the country changed for better or for worse? How did it affect your life? Are you disappointed it’s over or relieved? Why do you think Trump lost the election? etc.)”


Will Stoneman: The last four years of the Trump Administration were overall inconsequential. This administration didn’t really have that much of an effect on me personally, but that obviously was not the case for everyone. His disappointing response to COVID had an effect on a lot of people, with his insistence not to wear a mask and his eagerness to re-open the country leading to more people either dying or being hospitalized as a result. He also had a xenophobic attitude towards this pandemic, calling it the “China Virus” and other similar names, which led to some similar feelings among his supporters towards Chinese Americans at the beginning of this pandemic. He was also president during a Black Lives Matter movement this past summer, when he responded by declaring BLM and ANTIFA as domestic terrorist organizations, despite the latter not even being an organization. He showed his undying support for the country’s police force saying nothing needed to be changed, which was yet another polarizing position that he took which made people either love him even more, or hate him even more. This is probably another significant factor that led to his loss in the election. I’m honestly relieved that this administration is over because of just how rude of a person Trump is. Before he was anything else, he was a businessman and a reality TV star, and those areas are ultimately where he does best. His lack of any experience with politics could have been a step forward for the political climate of this country, but it ultimately felt like more of a step backward for me.


Joe Cyr: All in all I think the Trump Presidency was a success. The economy boomed with jobs brought back, GDP growth and a thriving stock market. That being said, his presidency was as well very flawed. I am not sure if he handled COVID as best he could nor the recent Civil Rights Movement. I think Trump did a lot that the media overlooked. He improved a lot of foreign relations with China and North Korea. He as well was nominated for three Nobel Peace Prizes for solving foreign disputes between other countries. I think Trump lost the election for two reasons, one the Democrats had a very good campaign and two many people voted off of personality. As mentioned earlier, the Democrats knew how to reach out to my generation. Donald Trump does not have the best personality out of recent presidents and his itchy Twitter fingers were not a help either. I am somewhat disappointed that Trump lost because I am nervous that when I come out of college and need a job, the economy will not be in good shape. 


Greyson Antes: If you think about what it was like four years ago, we have come a long way. Foreign policy was issue number one four years ago, and this year it wasn’t even a debate topic. It just shows that the Trump Administration did a good job with foreign relations, despite constant speculation that Trump would be incapable of negotiation. I think we had a president for the first time in a while that became president because he really believed people needed him. His economic policies were great and I think the voter demographics during this election compared to four years ago showed that. He lost the election because of coronavirus and the media being constantly against him, no question in my mind. The country was in great shape before the pandemic and the biggest worry was a phony impeachment. 


Jack McEnery: Trump did have a lot of success: finally destroying the ISIS caliphate, helping improve relations between Israel and several Middle-Eastern Countries, being one of the first people to call-out China as a major threat — a claim which few people made in 2016 but is now among the few issues for which there is bipartisan support, presiding over an excellent economy, and being the first president since Jimmy Carter to not bring America into a new war. He has definitely added to the divisive rhetoric in American politics, and while that has been bad for the country, it’s unfair to lay all the blame for it at his feet. One need only remember the celebrities who called Melania Trump the c-word or used a graphic image of Donald Trump’s severed head as performance art — not to mention Hilary’s infamous “deplorables” comment or the constant mocking of rural americans from media figures such as Don Lemon — to realize that both sides of the political spectrum have become far too vicious and combative. It would have been better to have a president who could rise above that and help unite the country, but we shouldn’t be surprised to have someone so belligerent when our culture, the media, and the internet give the most attention to the angriest people on both sides.


Will Swafford: The last four years have and will have profound consequences. Trump was successful because of his populist appeal. However, he failed to deliver on actually helping Americans. He passed a tax cut that saw over 80% of the benefits go to the wealthiest percent of Americans. He did nothing to stop outsourcing. He repealed hundreds of regulations, allowing even more greenhouse gas emissions than before and possibly compromising the drinking water of millions of Americans. This does not even begin to cover his coddling and propagation of white supremacy, transphobia, xenophobia, and religious bigotry. Nor does it cover his sex crimes, war crimes, aiding of genocide, or inhumane treatment of migrants at the southern border and around the country. While nearly all of these things are just as American as apple pie, the Trump administration did absolutely nothing to reverse course, and if anything, pushed us further down the pipeline to fascism with his preferential treatment of the rich and blind nationalism. I am relieved at the end of his administration, but do not harbor much hope for the next four years, either. In my view, Trump lost the election primarily because of his mishandling of COVID. Biden was a horrible candidate and ran a horrible campaign. Somehow, Donald Trump ran an even worse campaign that attacked Joe Biden, of all people, for being part of the “radical left.” Trump’s consistent disregard for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died from COVID, and unwillingness to help ease the economic suffering of millions more who were already in poverty or on the edge of poverty, completely sank his bid for reelection. 


John Reinker: I do not think we will have a president who is as controversial as Donald Trump for a long time. He was a living meme – someone who almost seemed unreal at times. He certainly deserved the hate he got, but I got very sick of seeing the news absolutely blasting him everyday about everything. Social divisions have certainly widened, but I can’t really speak towards how he affected anything else. The poverty rate did decrease about 5% over the last 4 years, so I guess he did something right. But he certainly did a lot wrong.


Aaron Cole: Overall I think that Trump’s presidency had huge consequences. Repealing climate regulations, spreading undeniably hateful rhetoric (including but not limited to xenophobia, islamophobia, transphobia, and racism) that worsened the divide in this country, failure to handle COVID-19, and attempts to repeal LGBT+ protections and rights were all devastating. Most of Trump’s base are either too privileged or too ignorant to feel or see the effects that these had on the country. They are mostly straight and white, meaning they have never had to worry about discrimination in this country, and haven’t had to worry about their rights and protections being stripped from them. The only good thing to come from Trump’s presidency is the economic growth, but most people fail to see that this growth was due to a trend started under the Obama administration. Crediting the Trump administration with the booming economy undermines how the Obama administration helped get the country out of The Great Recession and set positive economic trends.


“What do you think is going to change in The United States under a Biden Administration? (Do you have faith Biden will do a good job? What do you think The United States will improve, worsen, or stay the same on issues like the economy, racial issues, COVID-19, etc? Will not much change? etc.)”


Will Stoneman: Biden was a safe candidate in this election. Some of the other members of his party who were running for president had much more progressive ideas, such as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, but Biden was chosen as the official candidate of the Democratic party because he didn’t have any super progressive ideas. I feel like the best word to describe this administration will be “inconsequential.” America will probably remain the same, unfortunately. Racial issues and the economy will improve as we come out of this pandemic without much assistance from Biden. I do think that Joe Biden will have a better response to COVID than Donald Trump because he is frequently seen wearing a mask in public, and the rest of his party supports masks as well. This will likely be the main thing that this administration accomplishes. I am pretty optimistic that these next four years will see some improvements over the past four, even if they won’t be that significant of improvements.


Joe Cyr: I can only hope Biden can deliver on his promises and what the Democratic party believes. I think Biden will take steps in a good direction in some ways and in others he will take steps back. I do not think the economy will do as well under Biden as it did for Trump. I hope Biden can improve racial issues. I do not believe Biden’s solution to shut down the country is going to be an effective solution to COVID. The Republicans still hold the Senate so there is only so much the Democrats can do. Quite honestly I am interested to see what Biden does in his presidency. Do I have high hopes? No. Do I think he will do a good job? Potentially. Will America be in a better place in four years from now? One can only hope.


Greyson Antes: I do not have faith that Biden will do what he thinks is best, but rather what his party thinks is best. Those two things do not necessarily align in most circumstances. For example, I do not think that Joe Biden wants to pack the court at all (just my personal opinion), but if a bill were to come to his desk to increase the number of SCOTUS justices to 15 (passed by the Senate and House), I don’t think he would veto it. I think he’ll have a tough time standing up to the people within his party that he doesn’t necessarily agree with. Biden will hopefully have the opportunity to oversee the greatest economic comeback ever, which will be excellent for his legacy and the Democratic Party. Let’s hope he does a great job! America will improve greatly under Joe Biden because of how messed up things are now because of coronavirus (for things to not improve would be almost impossible). 


Jack McEnery: I’m cautiously hopeful that the divisive political rhetoric will cool-down a little bit. Biden himself has definitely made an effort to do that, and if his party members and people in the media follow his lead, we could end up in a much better spot. I’m afraid Biden won’t take a firm enough stance on foreign policy, especially against China, although I hope I’m wrong. As far as domestic policy, I hope Republicans keep the Senate in order to prevent the most extreme Democrat positions, such as court-packing, from being pushed through. Biden refused to condemn adding seats to the Supreme Court, and other Democrats such as Pete Buttigieg were calling for court-packing during the democratic primary, long before Amy Coney Barrett was an issue. However, Biden campaigned on his ability to unite people and make good compromises. Both sides need to stop fearing that the other is on the verge of fundamentally transforming basic American norms, so if Biden can move a Democrat House and Republican Senate towards the middle even a little bit, it could give the country some of the peace it needs right now. As long as we keep some checks and balances in place, I’m fairly optimistic about the next four years.


Gavin Bena: Although I’m under no illusions that Biden’s presidency is first and foremost a sort of “caretaker government,” that’s not to say it doesn’t have the potential to be consequential. The success of whatever programs Biden may push for are, of course, largely reliant on Mitch McConnell’s “leadership” and the two runoff elections (woot!) in Georgia, but I digress. It does seem, however, that a Biden presidency guarantees a more coherent (read: competent) approach to foreign policy, steps forward instead of backwards when it comes to combating the global climate catastrophe, and cautious advances towards a more just-though still imperfect-society. My greatest hope however, no matter how likely, is that having Joe Biden behind the Resolute Desk will be conducive to reestablishing and ensuring some semblance of representative democracy, particularly through electoral reform. That includes voting reforms (such as instant-runoff voting, the NPVIC, and others), campaign finance reform, protections against gerrymandering, and updates to voting infrastructure in addition to working to rebalance the Supreme Court after having its legitimacy shattered as a result of the Republican court-packing scheme.


Will Swafford: In Joe Biden’s own words: “Nothing will fundamentally change.” He does not plan any serious redistribution of wealth in a country that has perhaps the worst inequality in the world. He also does not plan on any criminal justice reform, instead, he wants to increase funding for police, keep non-violent drug offenders in prison, allow police forces to continue to purchase military equipment, and continue the war on drugs. Nor does he desire to stop U.S. imperialism across the globe. He does not even want to establish a universal health care system like every other developed nation has. And unsurprisingly, his efforts to combat climate change are lackluster: no bans on fracking and continued fossil fuel subsidies. However, one could argue that these are an enormous improvement on Trump’s plans, seeing that he denied the very existence of global warming. Things will continue to get worse, Joe Biden’s election just puts a nicer face and message on a completely broken system.


John Reinker: I literally have no idea how it will change anything. These politicians have to align themselves into one of two parties, but who knows just how many values of those parties each politician holds. Biden can promise all he wants, but as from what I saw with a lot of Trump’s promises, I realize that a lot of that is just smoke and mirrors in order to gain votes. COVID is also too crazy and volatile to see how a new administration will handle it. I do think that Biden’s much more laid back personality will lessen the sheer amount of presidential hate and social divisions that have arisen in the last 4 years.


There are clearly a variety of views on the political atmosphere in The United States, and for many different reasons. It’s not as simple as red vs. blue or good vs. evil. As we go into the future, I think we ought to reach out to each other and try to understand each other’s beliefs. No progress can be made if we don’t do so. Now more than ever is the time for communication and problem solving, not polarization and anger. Whether you’re conservative, liberal, moderate, socialist, libertarian, or anything else, remember that there’s always value in civil dialogue and free expression.