As dust settles, students grapple with what four years of Trump could look like


Colin Boyle/The Daily Northwestern

Protesters fill the streets in downtown Chicago. The crowd gathered on Wednesday in response to the results of Tuesday’s presidential election.

Shane McKeon and Robin Opsahl

As the initial shock of Donald Trump’s election victory wears off, Northwestern students said they are concerned — some terrified — that the next four years could bring sweeping policy changes that leave them worse off than they are today.

Trump’s stunning victory, which ends eight years of Democratic control of the White House, comes as Republicans retained control in both houses of Congress. Come January, policies Trump proposed during his campaign could pass into law.

Trump has advocated uprooting many of President Barack Obama’s signature achievements, such as the Affordable Care Act, the Paris climate agreements and the Iran nuclear deal. He also has claimed he will make Mexico pay for a wall along the border and temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country.

Some on social media feared a Trump presidency could allow Republicans in Congress to slash funding to Planned Parenthood.

Communication junior Phoebe Fox said she was afraid Trump would restrict women’s access to birth control.

“There are so, so many women who do not have the privileges I do, who rely on affordable options like Planned Parenthood,” said Fox, a member of Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators. “It’s very scary that we will have a leader in power who does not want women to have that control over their own bodies.”

Communication junior Sydney Larrier echoed that fear, saying she’s concerned about Supreme Court retirements during the next four years. She said she fears a conservative court could further roll back access to birth control and abortions, as well as disable more laws protecting voting rights. Larrier also said Trump has allowed hate groups such as the Klu Klux Klan and neo-Nazis into the mainstream by not condemning their support.

SESP senior Julia Cohen said she’s most concerned about how Trump will treat Muslims. Trump has called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States, as well as surveillance of some mosques. The night of Trump’s election, multiple Muslim students told The Daily they felt unsafe and feared for their families in light of Trump’s victory.

Cohen, the vice president of College Republicans, had crossed over and voted for Hillary Clinton in New York, citing Trump’s comments about women and Muslims.

When Trump had all but won late Tuesday night, Cohen walked to the Lakefill, where a crowd had gathered. Students were taking turns venting into a megaphone. Eventually, Cohen rose to speak, and she apologized on behalf of her fellow Republicans.

“I didn’t sign up for Donald Trump,” she recalled saying into the megaphone. “I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve let my country down.”

Cohen said she’s afraid that what Trump has said about women and minorities will become mainstream.

“The bully pulpit of the president is what scares me the most,” Cohen said. “A president’s beliefs and culture reflect on our country in a way we often don’t even recognize.”

Weinberg sophomore Charlie Yelin also fears the policies and attitudes toward LGBTQ people and other minority groups associated with a Trump presidency. Yelin said he felt like he was “hit by a truck” when he learned about the election results and had trouble actually processing what a Trump presidency would mean for him as a gay man.

“I really had to think about what the actual ramifications are for my life moving forward as someone who identifies as LGBT,” Yelin said. “(Ramifications) like having a vice president who funded conversion therapy, what is that actually going to mean for me.”

Trump and Pence have claimed they will repeal the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, and will propose laws similar to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which LGBTQ activists say allows businesses to discriminate against them.

Yelin said he feels like Trump’s win not only meant more policies would pass that could affect his day-to-day life, but also it legitimized hate against minority groups, which his campaign ran on.

“In my mind it’s almost a mandate for people to think that, ‘Oh now I can say these things in public, I can say I hate illegals, I hate blacks, I hate Muslims,’ and that’s what’s most scary to me,” he said. “This means that those feelings can be legitimized in public.”

SESP senior Sydney Selix, a co-president of College Democrats, joined anti-Trump demonstrations in Chicago on Wednesday night. She said protesters’ chants included “We don’t want a rapist in the White House” and “No KKK.”

Although she primarily blames “the 52 million people who voted for him,” Selix said she wished more young people had volunteered before Election Day.

“Over the past two months, I’ve hosted a good handful of empty phone banks for Hillary Clinton and Tammy Duckworth,” Selix said. “The ‘share’ button on Facebook has killed political activism.”

Although Clinton showed some success among young voters, it wasn’t enough to top Trump. Among voters 18 to 29, Clinton beat Trump 55 percent to 37 percent, according to exit polls. That margin was down from 2012, when Obama beat Republican nominee Mitt Romney 60 percent to 37 percent in that age range.

But polls also show Trump beat Clinton among whites age 18 to 29, 48 percent to 43 percent. Young people of color voted overwhelmingly for Clinton.

For NU students, Trump’s upset is perhaps all the more stunning because his support is concentrated far away from Evanston. Trump had hardly any visible support on this campus, and Clinton won Cook County by 53 points, a cushion that let her win Illinois handily.

So his victory shocked and upset many students, including Fox. She said Trump’s triumph forces young people to confront a “terrifying” reality that might follow Obama’s presidency. But she’s hopeful.

“There was an assumption that we were past this fear and this hate, and now we can’t ignore that we’re not,” Fox said. “It can be numbing; it can make us withdraw. But I think and I hope that it’ll bring us together, that it will make us work harder.”

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Twitter: @shane_mckeon

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