On Wednesday, New Haven politicians, community leaders and residents woke up to Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the presidential election.
Trump’s win was met with surprise and dismay in New Haven, a city with an overwhelming Democrat majority: 67 percent of the 77,168 residents who registered to vote prior to Election Day identify as Democrats. Mayor Toni Harp, a Democrat, said in a Wednesday press release that she was disappointed with the election results but hoped that pledges made by both presidential candidates to improve national infrastructure would bring improvements to New Haven.
Gov. Dannel Malloy expressed a similar sentiment in a Wednesday press release. While he acknowledged his own disappointment with the election results, he praised the resilience of citizens in both Connecticut and the country as a whole.
Malloy emphasized that there must be a peaceful transfer of power from one president to the other, respect for every citizen’s right to free speech and unity among the people of Connecticut despite the partisan rift caused by the election. Noting that the election revealed that “a very large portion of our country feels left behind,” Malloy said the country must work together to heal its divisions.
“Connecticut can show the country that we can continue to make progress, even when we feel divided,” he said. “We can demonstrate that it is possible to fight hard throughout a tough election, and then get back to work on behalf of our constituents.”
Yet some activists in New Haven were more focused on supporting those in their communities experiencing shock, fear and despair than on mobilizing for national unity.
John Lugo, a longtime New Haven activist and one of the leaders of Unidad Latina en Acción, said many members of New Haven’s Latino community had reached out to him in agitation and frustration after Trump’s victory.
“I think it was a surprise for us,” Lugo said. “The community is suffering, and they don’t understand what’s going on. There’s this feeling that deportations are going to start as soon as he becomes president.”
According to Lugo, ULA received more than 20 calls on Wednesday, the first as early as 6 a.m., from Latino New Haven residents voicing fears and concerns about their own safety. He said many are worried that a Trump presidency will empower police and border patrol officers who have been known to exercise force against the Latino community. He added that the racist, sexist and anti-immigrant language that Trump used throughout his campaign caused “a lot of damage in our communities.”
In the wake of Trump’s election, many local organizers like Lugo said they hoped to transform fear and unease into social action. He said that ULA was organizing a meeting on Wednesday night at the New Haven Peoples Center so that community members can support each other and plan for future organizing efforts.
“The hope is that the only way we can respond is to start organizing right now,” Lugo said. “Supporting each other will be the only answer to what will happen after January. The people need to get out of their comfort zones and start joining organizations. That’s the only way to protect ourselves.”
Renae Reese, the executive director of the Connecticut Center for a New Economy — a local organization that advocates for the working poor — said that many in her community were wondering how to push for change after the results of the election.
“Today, I’ve been in many conversations with people who are very concerned and hoping to move forward with an anti-racist, pro-equity movement,” Reese said. “Right now we’re asking, are we building the kind of power that we need to be building?”
Other city activists, like Jane Mills, a member of the local criminal justice reform organization People Against Injustice, responded to the Trump election by highlighting people with prior criminal records’ fears of being targeted by police.
Mills said many people with arrest and conviction records feel “vulnerable in the face of a Trump presidency,” as the police tend to single out those with previous records. She added that many fear that under a Trump administration, the police will become more aggressive.
“Although the area of criminal justice reform has drawn rare bipartisan support, Trump is not representative of conservatives at that table,” she said.
Mills added that Trump has been known to support stop-and-frisk practices and the death penalty, and is backed by many police unions and rank-and-file police officers.
However, not all activists in town were disappointed by the results of the election. Barbara Fair, a longtime New Haven activist, said that although she voted for third-party candidate Jill Stein, she was pleased that Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 did not secure the presidency. She said she believed that Trump, unlike Clinton, would not continue “business as usual.”
Fair added that despite the racist language Trump used throughout his campaign, she was hopeful that his words would not actually translate to racist policies.
“When Trump said to black America, ‘What do you have to lose?’ some saw it as an insult,” Fair said. “But as I saw it, we’re sending our kids to the worst schools, we’re living in the most impoverished communities, our kids are dying on the streets — all of this under Democrats. What is there to lose? We can only grow. We’ve survived a Clinton and two Bushes. We can survive Trump.”
She added that activists must push for broader national conversations about racism while still agitating for local change on issues like the impending public bus fare hike in New Haven.
Many residents from New Haven and surrounding areas expressed disappointment and a lack of surprise at the election results.
“I’m a little disappointed that Hillary didn’t win,” said Glynis White, a New Haven resident who voted for Clinton in the election.
But, she added that she agreed with what President Barack Obama said Wednesday morning about the importance of staying focused and thinking positively about the nation’s future.
Milford resident John Glass said he was not surprised by the election results because “the United States is not ready for a woman president.”
Whynd Scott-Purdy, another Milford resident and a student at Gateway Community College, said she was disappointed to see Trump, “a bigot,” elected after all of the progress and change “America [had] made recently.”
“We’re the up-and-coming age range,” Scott-Purdy said. “This is going to affect our school tuitions and jobs.”
While Scott-Purdy feared that Trump’s presidency would have a profound effect on her generation, older residents doubted that the election results would have any significant effect on their lives.
“I’ll keep doing what I’m doing,” said Bobby Doucette, a New Haven resident. “Working, paying taxes and living. I’m older, it won’t affect me as it might some of the younger people.”
Doucette did not vote in Tuesday’s election, and said Trump’s presidency would only directly affect him through potential changes to medical insurance policies. Currently, Doucette said the government covers all of his medical costs, and that he does not know if Trump will change government policy on medical care. In fact, Trump does not support the current government health care plan, Obamacare, and has vowed multiple times throughout his campaign to repeal the program.
Others, including White, expressed uncertainty and said it is still too early to speculate on the potential impact of Trump’s presidency.
Yet even those dissatisfied with the election results remained hopeful about the country’s future under Trump.
“He’s not a dictatorship. There’s hope,” Scott-Purdy said. “You just have to believe that we’re a democracy.”
Glass, in turn, found consolation in the fact that Trump cannot make decisions on his own without the support of the House and Senate, despite Republican majorities in the two legislative bodies after Tuesday’s election.
White added that she hoped Trump would keep the promises he has made throughout his campaign, such as improving the economy and creating job growth.
“We have to see what 2017 has in store,” White said.