President George W. Bush ’68 accepted victory in the presidential election Wednesday, a move met mostly by disappointment on a campus that overwhelmingly favored Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry ’66.
Kerry conceded the election yesterday morning in a congratulatory phone call to the president. Several hours later, Bush made an acceptance speech in which he pledged to work on economic progress, strengthen Social Security, help establish democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq and uphold religious and family values.
“To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support, and I will work to earn it,” Bush said. “A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation.”
Early yesterday afternoon, Kerry gave a brief speech thanking his supporters and expressing hope for bipartisan cooperation.
“[Bush and I] had a good conversation, and we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need — the desperate need — for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together,” Kerry said.
Kerry decided not to contest the election in the critical state of Ohio, where thousands of provisional ballots remain to be counted, saying that Bush’s 130,000-vote lead in the state was too great to be made up. With the election still too close to call in Iowa and New Mexico, Bush had won 274 votes in the Electoral College to Kerry’s 252.
Though some Yalies supported Bush, vote counts in Wards 1 and 22 — encompassing all on-campus housing — indicated that a large majority of students voted for Kerry. Many students said they sensed a mood of disappointment throughout campus today.
“I think people certainly are disappointed or just feel kind of drained,” Yale College Democrats President Nirupam Sinha ’05 said. “A lot of people have been working extremely hard for a long time. For two years, we’ve been putting our hearts into [the campaign].”
Sinha said he thought most students’ feelings about this year’s election differed from their reactions to Bush’s controversial victory in 2000. While many reacted to the 2000 election with anger about way Florida’s vote count was handled, he said this time students were simply disappointed with the results of a fiercely contested campaign.
But Yale College Republicans President Al Jiwa ’06 said he saw many Bush supporters on campus proudly wearing pins in support of the president yesterday.
“We’ve been real, real happy,” Jiwa said. “Everyone’s walking around with a smile on their face. It couldn’t have gone any better.”
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said though he was disappointed with the results, he will reserve judgment until the president unveils plans for his second term.
“My hope is that the president uses the opportunity to bring America together,” DeStefano said. “If he continues to govern as he did in his last term, the families that live here are going to face some challenges. But I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Erica Franklin ’05, who returned yesterday from campaigning for Kerry in Ohio, said the few friends she had spoken to since coming back to campus had strong reactions to the election’s outcome.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has been devastated, pretty much,” Franklin said. “I’m very, very disappointed. I worry about the Supreme Court and not only the presidential race but also Congress.”
The Republicans picked up four seats in the U.S. Senate and four in the House of Representatives, with three House elections still undecided. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle lost his seat by a 4000-vote margin to Republican John Thune.
Alan Aberg ’08 said he supported Bush largely because of the way the President had responded to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an issue that was of particular importance to him as a New York City resident. He said he was pleased with the election results, but he thought most people on campus felt differently.
“I think most people were pretty unhappy with the results,” Aberg said. “But I didn’t see anyone who was horribly miserable about it .”
Elisa Bramble ’05 said she was not surprised by Bush’s reelection, but she sensed disappointment among some of her friends.
“At the end of one of my classes today, they were showing Kerry’s concession speech, and I think people were — subdued is probably a good word for it,” Bramble said. “I can think of specific people I spoke to today who were pretty down. They seemed to take it personally.”
An impromptu party of singing protesters made their way through campus last night, voicing their opposition to the results of Tuesday’s election in a medley of songs with lyrics such as, “This little light of mine/Don’t let Bush put it out/I’m gonna let it shine.” Many of the singers were members of the folk choir Tangled Up in Blue.
“In the next few days, people are going to plan organized protests,” protester Becca Levi ’07 said. “We didn’t want to just sit around and commiserate until then.”