Donald Trump’s impending presidency has evoked mixed emotions from New Haven residents, leaving many to question how their community should react.
Friday evening at Common Ground High School, city residents discussed their feelings and postelection reactions at the event “What Now? A Community Conversation.” In hopes of unifying citizens, colleagues Greg Grinberg and Hanifa Washington organized an event to explore the community’s diverse needs and perspectives. Roughly 200 residents attended the event, and discussed various subjects that have come up in conversation since Trump’s election, such as how to combat future policies.
Participants were asked to divide into three groups: needs and solutions for the New Haven community, expected impacts of Trump’s presidency on New Haven and how to respond to them and resist at the federal level, and the “Hail Mary” group — actions citizens can take to prevent Trump from taking office. In the Hail Mary group, participants brought up the National Popular Vote bill as a solution. According to the website of the nonprofit National Popular Vote, which advocates for the passing of the bill, 11 states with 165 electoral votes have enacted the bill so far, and it will “take effect when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes.”
According to Grinberg, the bill would end the Electoral College system and replace Trump with Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, who won the country’s popular vote. Some residents felt the Electoral College should fulfill its “constitutional job” of saving the electorate from a potentially dangerous president.
“To me, more shocking than the outcome is the deepness of the split we are now experiencing,” said Linda Wingerter, a New Haven resident.
Wingerter attributed this divide to social media’s tendency to enclose the population in “bubbles.” On social media websites such as Facebook, it is easy to avoid opposing opinions and media clips, which Wingerter said allows people to talk themselves into extreme views, becoming lazy and insensitive. And at a certain point, Wingerter added, Americans “drifted so far apart that they became unrecognizable to each other.”
However, many millennials view social media as a platform for political change. Wingerter, for example, suggested that community members organize online to meet in person, and from there start political reform. New Haven residents emphasized that apathy is unacceptable.
“These extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” one community member insisted during the event’s closing remarks. “We need huge protests. Putting people out there in the streets isn’t enough. What we need is civil protests. National day of strike.”
Some women and people of color at the event said they felt betrayed by the 60 million Americans who voted for Trump. A local New Haven teacher also expressed worry for her students who fear sexual assault under a president who she said minimizes mistreatment of women.
One woman, who referred to herself as a “white Christian,” voiced her concern for her LGBTQ friends, but said she felt unsure how to help. Another resident said he wanted to know the best way to reach out to racial minorities as a privileged person living in a community of color.
Additionally, some residents expressed uncertainty in how to speak to Trump supporters. To reduce tension between the two groups, the New Haven community brainstormed ways to influence Trump voters while remaining friendly and professional.
“I think many in attendance, myself included, wrestled with dualities,” Grinberg said. “A vote for Trump was a vote for someone who campaigned on racist, sexist, xenophobic, misogynistic, fearful, angry messaging, and yet the people who cast those votes aren’t necessarily any of those things.”
Nonetheless, Grinberg said the event focused on instead viewing every person as a human being, even those who chose to support a candidate like Trump, who often treated minority groups with disrespect, he said.
Sophie Neely ’20 criticized the polarization caused by both news and social media. She said that while she acknowledges her racial privilege in this election, people using social media to blame others — whether fair or not — is not a productive course of action.
Friday evening marked the start of the community creating their own political platform, Grinberg said. Instead of waiting for politicians to approach citizens with platforms, New Haven residents will demand their own, he said.
“It’s important to remember that we — the people — are the sovereign, and that we have the absolute right to reform our government at any time if it’s not working for us,” Grinberg said.
Grinberg said he plans to host other community talks in the upcoming weeks to continue discussion on the consequences of a Trump presidency.