Yale Reacts: A Post-Election Interview Series
Two weeks after Donald Trump’s upset win during the 2016 presidential election, students and professors at Yale are still reflecting on the significance of his victory. As those in shock grapple with the reality of a Trump presidency, many have started to contemplate the factors that contributed to the rise of Trump and consider concrete actions they can take in the next four years. In the Magazine’s interview series below, our reporters tried to offer a sample of different reactions and proposals for next steps on campus. Click on each headline to read the full piece.
“[I]f you’re going to be in the business of international affairs, diplomatic service or the military and you are upset or distraught by the result of this election, then you shouldn’t be in the business,” Yale diplomat-in-residence and International Studies lecturer Charles Hill said.
According to Hill, the election highlighted a deep division between elites and non-elites in this country.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the period in American history, starting from 1917, when the United States entered the first World War, as an example of an extreme version of what we might be facing right now in terms of civil liberties, immigration, speech laws, press restriction,” Yale history professor Beverly Gage said.
In addition to the current polarizing atmosphere, she pointed to the Electoral College and the restructuring of party primary systems in the 1970s as structural factors that contributed to Trump’s rise.
In August, when the Yale College Republicans split into two groups over Trump’s endorsement, the newly minted Yale New Republicans looked to establish a different set of Republican ideals with the group’s formation. Co-Chairman Benjamin Rasmussen ’18 told the News that the group wants a Republican Party that can draw votes from different demographic groups in the country.
“However, this election has shaken some of the assumptions that we made in calling for that type of Republican Party, because Trump was gaining record numbers among some types of groups that more moderate Republicans had not done nearly as well with,” Rasmussen said. “So now we’re confused on where to go going forward.”
As the organization considers its future options — remaining independent or folding back into the Yale College Democrats — Yale Students for Hillary co-president Delaney Herndon ’17 expressed a sense of loss and uncertainty in her interview with the News. But she also stressed the importance of planning and taking concrete actions.
“I’m thinking about going back [home] to North Carolina and working in politics or maybe education,” she said. “I doubt the Electoral College is going away anytime soon, so I’m trying to figure out concrete things that I can do.”
Emmy Reinwald ’17 told the News that the Yale College Republicans backed Donald Trump because the organization supports Republicans “up and down the ballot” according to its constitution. Still, Reinwald said Trump was not her first-choice candidate, and she doubts his election will make a big difference on campus.
“I think Yale will continue to be Yale,” she said. “You’re still going to see people protest and you’re still going to see people get involved even if Hillary [Clinton] was president.”
Coming of age during the Obama administration, Yale College Democrats president Maxwell Ulin ’17 said the election of a candidate who is the antithesis of the progressive America that Obama has built is “dispiriting and disillusioning.” But Ulin also noted that this election has inspired many of his peers to care more about American politics.
“Now is the time to build the movement from the bottom up and we as young people can take back the country and take back the White House,” he said.
Trump’s win did not come as a surprise for Yale Muslim Students’ Association President Abrar Omeish ’18, but she admitted that she was disappointed. Looking forward, Omeish told the News that the healing process will bring positive outcomes. For one, the Democratic Party will have to “wake up.” For another, Omeish believes that people can channel their passion and energy into action.
“Islam, in a lived sense, is not just praying in a mosque. It’s being out there on the front lines, being active, fighting for social justice for all people, for equal representation,” Omeish said. “And that’s how we hopefully want to reclaim that narrative ourselves, in showing the beauty of Islam through work for the community and through activism.”
Katie McCleary ’18, president of the Association of Native Americans at Yale, told the News that she is worried about Native populations and the treatment of sovereign nations with the new political change.
“Even though we’re sovereign nations, we’re also domestic dependent nations and what that means is that we are, in some sense, wards of the United States,” she said. “Because of that, everything is in jeopardy if we don’t have a good relationship with the federal government.”
Both Yonas Takele ’17, a student assistant at the Afro-American Cultural Center, and Af-Am House peer liaison Logan Lewis ’19 were surprised by the presidential election results, but they said they are now focused on moving forward and engaging in productive conversations.
“If anything, I will say that I have to double down and work harder than I ever have before to ensure that the work I do pays off for the people Donald Trump wants to target,” Takele said.
Max Goldberg ’17, director of the Spectrum Fellowship director and a former peer liaison for the Office of LGBTQ Resources, told the News that progress on LGBTQ issues such as conversion therapy will halt under a Trump administration. But Goldberg is confident that past changes such as the legalization of gay marriage will stay.
“So it’s not necessarily that we’ll see a step backwards in LGBT issues, but we’re going to see a halt in progress,” Goldberg said. “Of all the issues that a Donald Trump presidency is really going to threaten, I don’t think progress already made on LGBT issues is a concern.”
Ryan Liu ’18 spent much of this semester on Hillary Clinton’s campaign as the national chair of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Millennials for Hillary. While he was disappointed at the election results, Liu said his “grieving period” was short, and he is ready to remain politically active.
“No matter what happens over the next four years, we have to understand that we’re going to have to work together to make sure that our rights as minorities are not infringed upon,” Liu said. “I grew up in California, a state that spearheaded the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and I went to school next to an area that used to be a Japanese internment camp. So we’re surrounded by relics of the past — of the discriminatory system — and we want to make sure that this never happens again.”