Teary eyes, bowed heads and cries of disbelief emerged from election-watching gatherings on Yale campus as prognosticators announced that Ohio’s electoral votes went to Donald Trump — essentially guaranteeing the Republican nominee the presidency.
Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 presidential election early Wednesday morning sent shockwaves across Yale’s campus. Many Yale students watching the election around campus — in dorms, classrooms and residential college butteries — expressed surprise and disappointment.
Among the largest gatherings on Yale’s campus was The Politic’s watch party. Students, including members of the Yale College Democrats and Yale Students for Hillary, packed the room, their eyes glued to a television tuned to CNN. Attendees blanketed the floor, their laptops flashing with maps of blue and red as Trump continued to pull away from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 in key battleground states like Ohio, North Carolina and Michigan.
Silence fell upon the room when CNN predicted that the Republican Party would maintain control of the House of Representatives.
“I expected to be feeling jubilant by now,” Yale Dems campus and community coordinator Josh Hochman ’18 said. “I was really excited for tonight. We expected a huge crowd and we got it, but we were disappointed pretty early on.”
The reactions are consistent with the results of a News survey distributed last month, in which 80.87 percent of 2,054 respondents said they supported Clinton while less than 5 percent said the same for Trump.
Students interviewed said they were surprised by the results, citing online sources and social media that predicted a Clinton victory. Indeed, Clinton’s loss comes as a huge surprise not just for most Yale students, but for the media and prediction teams in the nation at large: Most major national publications issued both their backing of Clinton’s presidency and multiple denunciations of Trump’s candidacy, and most national polls, including those of FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times’ The Upshot, predicted a Clinton presidency.
Election results began to suggest a Trump victory when battleground states went to the Republican nominee, according to Rosa Shapiro-Thomson ’19. She added that she checked statistics earlier on the website FiveThirtyEight and had no doubt that Clinton would win.
Udit Jain ’18 said he acknowledged those surrounding him in the Yale community “were not necessarily representative of the average American voting,” but he still did not imagine the vote would go to Trump, especially in context of the prevote poll predictions.
Once Trump had a clear lead, students voiced their concerns about the implications of his presidency for women and underrepresented groups — populations that Trump has disparaged at various points in the race. Kevin Tan ’17 said he thinks the effect on policy does not compare to the “moral effect” on the country.
Gabriel Groz ’19 told the News he worried about Trump’s policies towards many of his peers, particularly those who are Muslim, and called this year’s election “the rise of a fascist.” Leah Smith ’20, who attended The Politic’s watch party, expressed her concerns with what Trump’s appeal said about the nation’s attitude at large.
“I’m scared at the prospect of waking up in a country that elected Donald Trump as our president,” said Smith toward the middle of the watch party. “I am also scared at the prospect of waking up in a country where Donald Trump was almost elected president, because that means almost half of the population thinks it is okay that someone who has such vocal hatred towards women and minorities is fit to be president.”
Students also expressed distrust in Trump’s ability to lead the nation. Groz said that he did not think Trump respected the U.S. Constitution, and said he hopes that any potential constitutional violations Trump commits will be “small things.” Tan said he was grateful for the balance of power written into the Constitution.
Still, not all students were disappointed with Trump’s victory. A junior in Jonathan Edwards College, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of backlash, supported Trump in his presidential run and told the News that he was optimistic about the country’s future.
“I listen to a lot of kids at Yale saying, ‘How could this happen?’ but it shows really how a lot of people within these campuses and these universities are really out of touch with the everyday American,” he said. “That being said, I certainly feel for the people on the other side; they worked really hard on their campaign and I believe both sides believe their vision is best for both people. It’s really important that we remember that on this campus, because there’s no one that’s seeking to destroy this country. Everyone’s running to do what’s best.”
The student said that he was excited for the American public to have a leader not beholden to corporate interests or the “elites in society,” adding that although he expected Trump to win, he expected the race to be closer. He said that while Trump was rewarded for speaking out against certain institutions, he hopes the administration will make good on Trump’s economic promises.
While the atmosphere was increasingly somber as Clinton fell behind in the polls and Trump’s victory become more apparent, students gathered on Cross Campus to express their frustration.
An election “primal scream,” organized by the Freshman Outdoor Orientation Leaders who also participate in the minutelong tradition before midterms and finals, took place outside Sterling Memorial Library at 12:30 a.m. The event was quickly publicized and passed on to the general student body via email less than an hour in advance.
The scream offered students a chance to come together, process the shock of the moment and use that energy to move forward, said a sophomore at the event. She added that the primal scream is in no way incitement or an invitation for reckless behavior, but rather a contained period of expression that hopefully enables its participants to express their frustration productively.
A little over an hour later, La Casa Cultural Director Eileen Galvez sent an email to students inviting the community to La Casa at 10 a.m. on Wednesday for food and comfort.
“While we celebrate American citizens’ right to vote, we also acknowledge that many people are in pain tonight,” Galvez wrote. “While we as a country move forward with new national leadership, for those of you that feel that pain, you are not alone.”