Where Do We Go From Here?
By Daniel Keller.
All eyes were on the United States on the night of November 8th, 2016.
After a nearly two-year campaign season filled with heated remarks, fierce debates, and high stakes, the world was ready to find out who would shape US policy for the next four years.
Now, with votes tallied, the electoral college decided, and cabinet appointments pending, Donald J. Trump is the 45th president of the United States.
This news was a shock to many in the political world, with every poll excluding Investor’s Business Daily predicting a Clinton victory the night before, according to RealClearPolitics.
However, while Trump did receive the 270 electoral votes required for him to become the next President, according to The Cook Political Report, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.9 million votes
Because of the contentious struggle between the campaigns of the contestants, and the shocking win of President-Elect Trump, many here at Pitt have had many emotions regarding the whole election process, and what the result will mean for them.
We have seen this in action several times already, with protests directly after the election allowing students who disagreed with Trump to air their grievances about how this election result may affect them.
These protests have even led to arrests and claims of police brutality, bringing up questions locally about many topics, including student-law enforcement relationship and the rights we have in regards to peaceful protest.
However, there are also many who are satisfied with the outcome, and are excited to see what a Trump presidency will look like.
It’s clear that the election has affected all of us differently, but it’s important to ask ourselves and each other, regardless of our thoughts on the election, how are we going to move forward from here, and how can we learn from the successes and failures of this election cycle to create a better community for all Pitt students?
This is one I posed to several Pitt organizations, each in a podcast that you can listen to here (insert hyperlink to podcasts).
One of the first groups I talked to was the Pitt College Democrats, who obviously were disappointed with the result.
Kevin Burk, president of Pitt College Democrats, felt that the group was scared once the election results were called.
Burk explained that the policy choices, political leanings, and behavior of Donald Trump have all put the democrats on edge.
Also, rather than being inclusive to all Americans, Burk and the other democrats see trump as favoring Americans who are white, putting in danger many people of color, and particularly demonizing Hispanic and Muslim members of the community.
“He’s really only appealing to one group,” elaborated Burk, “and we’re fearing for all the other groups he’s not appealing to.”
These feelings were very clearly addressed throughout the campaign by the Democrats, and was a large part of their platform.
However, with the win of Donald Trump, particularly among white, low-income voters, it is possible the Democrats may have a demographic issue going into future elections.
To combat this, Burk believes that the Democratic party needs to take steps to court their policy among low income white voters, to persuade them that democratic policies support them.
Other issues the party faced this election season included alleged corruption within the DNC, particularly with the possible favoritism of eventual nominee Hillary Clinton over other contenders during the primary, particularly over popular candidate Bernie Sanders.
To address these perceived problems within the DNC, Burk believes that the DNC would benefit by ensuring clear neutrality from the body during the primary season as well as stopping the fundraising favoritism of certain senatorial candidates during a primary.
“It makes no sense for them to be putting money into a primary when there was so much work to be done to make sure they were elected in the general election,” stated Burk.
However, the Democrats were not the only party to face Donald Trump and lose the election.
The Libertarian Party also had a candidate who could not defeat the current President-Elect, with Gary Johnson, two term former governor of New Mexico, coming up short at the polls this November.
Pitt Students for Liberty were some of the people who held out hope for a Johnson candidacy, excited by the prospect of a libertarian candidate getting national spotlight.
For those who are unaware, a libertarian, in simple terms, is a person who has conservative views regarding the economy, but liberal views regarding social issues, such as same-sex marriage and abortion.
While the group represents a large group of people who did not all support Johnson, those that did, according to Pitt Students for Liberty President Ben Sheppard, were disappointed that Johnson was only capable of garnering 3.3% of the vote on election day.
While having a stronger showing earlier on in the general election, Sheppard explained that, like other third party candidates, Johnson’s showing slowed as the election came to a close.
In order to get more support in the future for libertarian values, Sheppard believes that it may be necessary for candidates to stop running third party and infiltrating the two major parties instead.
“[That party label] is so important, it seems, that it’s almost like you almost have to infiltrate the parties and try to change the party from within,” said Sheppard.
When it comes to Trump and his policies, Sheppard is unsure how they will affect the personal freedom for Americans on day one.
With so much inconsistency on policy within singular issues coming from the trump camp, he states that it is impossible to know where Trump will have issues when it comes to defending the liberty of American citizens.
“He’s such a wild card,” stated Sheppard, “I really don’t know what to expect…there are so many different policies getting thrown out there.”
However, Sheppard does support the more private business approach Trump is taking with the development of infrastructure, the repeal of Obamacare, and possible changes to cabinet positions in the administration.
While these two political groups are taking a more traditional stance when it comes to Trump’s election, not all groups have found that to be productive.
The Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition has found that only civil resistance will be able to deal with the impact of a trump election.
According to member Raghav Sharma, many members felt outraged by the results of the election due to fears of marginalization from minority and political suppression that could come from a Trump presidency in their eyes, and felt the need to do something.
“We were dismayed, we were appalled, we were scared,” explained Sharma.
Because of this, the group has organized a number of protests after the election results, some which have ended in arrests.
The group has claimed that police in those arrests brutalized its members, according to Sharma.
In response, Sharma stated that the group wants the police involved to be removed from their positions as well as the University of Pittsburgh to reconsider its close relationship with the University of Pittsburgh police department, and the presence they have on campus.
In regards to the protests, Sharma made it clear that there was no other way to achieve the change that he believes will need to be done in the face of a Trump administration
“Anyone who wants significant social change without social unrest is a poor student of history,” explained Sharma.
With the protests and other actions the group is taking, the Pitt Student Solidarity Coalition is hoping to promote women’s rights, protect the LGBTQ+ community, and to make sure that locally undocumented immigrants are treated fairly among other issues.
While many have come out against these protests, claiming that they go too far, Sharma explains that the focus is in the wrong area when paying attention to the protest’s damage.
Rather than focusing on how much property damage or how many lines were crossed during a protest, he insists that viewers pay attention to the suffering and oppression felt by those protesting, and to fight against that instead of condemning the protest outright.
However, while the Pitt Student Solidarity Coalition sees the police as an antagonizing force, not all protest groups feel the same way.
Unlike the PSSC, the Pittsburgh Action Community instead believes that it is important to maintain a good dialogue with the policy to foster good community relations, according to founding member of Ebenezer Queen.
The group, Queen stated, was created as a direct response of Donald Trump’s presidency, and the animosity that the election’s results created among the groups members.
In order to find a proper outlet for expressing their feelings and making a difference, the Pittsburgh Action Community was formed to allow students to do the same.
While not strictly dealing with Trump protests, Pittsburgh Action Community has appealed recently to those who have found the results to be disheartening, and want to do something about it.
However, Queen makes it clear that the group’s intentions are to benefit the community around it, and to ensure that the protests remain peaceful and productive to the community in his eyes.
“We are a peaceful organization that is more about adding to the world than taking away something,” said Queen.
One such way to do this is to create a good relationship with the police force, and go through the proper channels to ensure cooperation from both sides.
By creating good relations with good police and protestors and ensuring peaceful protest, protestors are able to protect and strengthen the community that they live in, strengthen their message, and prevent those who disagree from attacking the message easily, according to Queen.
“No matter where you started from, now it is your home,” explained Queen, “We need to do our best to keep it in one piece.”
When it comes to the purpose of protest, civil dissent for Queen allows those who are marginalized to stand up against their oppressor, be them personal or institutional, and show that behavior like that will not be tolerated any longer.
On the other side to this coin, dissent also allows those being oppressed to feel that there are those that are willing to stand by and help them in their time of need, according to Queen.
With all of what the groups have said in mind, there is one issue that is still plaguing the political sphere: what is creating all this divide, and what can be done to fix it?
No one had a clear answer on where the divide came from, with each group giving their own culprits for the vitriol that we see today.
However, one thing most groups did agree on was that it is important that we make amends and work to unite the nation regardless of political views.
Whether libertarian, liberal, or in civil dissent, many saw the benefits that unity can bring to a nation after 12 months of a particularly contentious election.
However, Sharma and the Pitt Student Solidarity Coalition feel that this kind of contentious debate is the only way that the country can move forward.
While consensus and compromise has been the wish for many groups, they see it as hindering to the progress, as working within the current system without civil dissent will lead to none of the radical change that they wish to see in the country.
Nevertheless, each group has their goals and wishes as they move forward after this election, and we are all anxious to see how the world will change after January 20th.
Editors Note: Pitt College Republicans were invited to participate and declined the invitation.