Students Reflect on 2016 Election


With yesterday’s conclusion of the seemingly endless 2016 election, some Wesleyan students reflected on their experience deciding who to vote for. This article contains interview excerpts from several students who were interviewed separately before the election results were known. These students included Michelle Fisher’19, a Co-Chair for Wesleyan Democratic Socialists, Simon Korn’17 and Aimee Wilkerson’17, Co-Chairs of Wesleyan Democrats, Mathias Valenta ’20, Treasurer of Wesleyan Republicans, as well as Posse Veteran Scholar Brian Barkman’19. Of the five students interviewed three of them (Fisher, Korn, and Wilkerson) were planning to vote for Clinton, meanwhile Valenta, though not a U.S. citizen, supported Trump. Barkman was undecided at the time of the interview but was adamant that he would not cast his vote for Trump.

Please note that this article represents a non-comprehensive sample of the Wesleyan student body and that the views expressed in this article represent only those of the individual.

How easy has it been for you to decide who you’re voting for/supporting?

MF: I knew I would always end up voting for Hillary, and I think that is the thing to do in my particular circumstances. I’m still conflicted about that given my positionality as a white woman. Hillary is so shitty for so many people, and I just happened to be in one of the subgroups that is less directly harmed by the policies she stands for or she’s enacted…I can use my privilege as a buffer which is something I’m still unpacking, so that for me was not as difficult of a decision as it could have been.

AW: Yes and very. The decision was quite easy.

MV: It has been relatively easy for me because I see this election and many elections in the Western World today as a referendum on globalism vs. nationalism, and both candidates represent those two philosophies quite well. Hillary for establishment globalism and Donald Trump for nationalism, so it was pretty easy for me to decide which candidate I would want for president.

BB: Impossible. It has been impossible to decide who I am voting for. I think that the republican candidate is dumber than this fruit that I am feeding my son and incites all the worst things in the qualities of people. Everyone likes to compare the worst person they don’t like to Hitler but he (Trump) actually reminds me of that character.  On the other hand, the other major party candidate, I believe should be in jail with my knowledge of how strictly the government treats the mishandling of  sensitive documents and the negative impact minor infractions have had on people’s careers. And then to see someone who is supposed to lead those same individuals get away with huge negligence, I don’t think that is a good word but is a huge double standard that I disagree with immensely.

What are the primary factors motivating your decision?

MF: [Hillary] represents the same kind of antagonist that [the Left] has been fighting for many decades. We don’t have to change our organizing strategy to pursue the kind of change that we want to see in this country. I don’t think that’s the case for Trump, and I don’t think that a Third Party candidate vote would have made it easier to make change… Also I think that one of the president’s major roles is getting to nominate Supreme Court Justices, and having a vacancy right now that’s not full is really scary…because justices have a lifetime term that’s a lasting impact and I would rather someone like Hillary choose a Supreme Court Justice than someone like Trump.  

AW: My factors really just stem from wanting to continue this trend of equality and progress, and moving that forward. That just could not be done with Donald Trump…We are moving forward in increments and we would be regressing without [Hillary] continuing to push for Women’s rights, racial equality, and even with foreign policy. Are we serious? Are we really going to put our country in the hands of Donald Trump?

MV: I would say economic issues particularly on trade and issues of the power of the states to determine economic policy for itself and not be subjected to international financial markets. I would [also] say cultural issues, immigration, Western culture and identity. So again it’s very much globalism vs. nationalism, and I fall more on the nationalist side.

BB: I fear that if – I don’t even want to use his name – that if Trump gets elected that the negative impact on society as a whole will be a mess and while I believe that Hillary has broken some grave laws at least she won’t destroy the world.  I haven’t decided if I am going to vote for her yet or if I am going to go for some other third party candidate cause  that is a bit of an option but I fear what will happen if he gets elected.  I know what will happen if she gets elected. It will be basically the same.

Who do you think is likely to win the election? Do you feel confident?

MF: I’m not one of those people who thinks Hillary has won it.  It’s like the election’s still gonna happen, and I’m kind of nervous about it because I think that there’s a difference between [what] people say and do in the privacy of the voting booth…So these polls don’t give me that much confidence. I would like to believe that the American people don’t support Trump, but I also have seen many things that would lead me to believe that could be the case. I feel strongly that Hillary will probably win, but it’s still very much up in the air in terms of what will happen.

SK: Hillary Clinton is likely to win the election, but the odds get closer every day… I would urge every Democrat, every supporter of Hillary Clinton not to think that this election is in the bag, that Donald Trump has a real chance of winning and you need to do everything you can, go out, knock on a door, make a phone call, and most of all vote, and tell your friends to vote

MV: I think that most likely Hillary Clinton will win the election, but Donald Trump has skyrocketed in the polls in many key states. And as we saw with Brexit you can never underestimate the power of disgruntled white working class. So…states like New Hampshire or even Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Michigan might surprisingly turn towards Donald Trump because of his trade policies and things like that.

BB: Oh, I don’t know. That is my biggest fear is that I don’t know.  That is the only reason why I would vote for Hillary Clinton over a third party candidate. I am not confident either way which is what scares me.

What would you imagine a Hillary Clinton presidency would look like?

MF : I think she has no real motivation right now to do anything different from anything she said she was gonna do. She’s gonna come across a lot of sexist critiques in the same way that Obama came across a lot of racist critiques…As far as politics goes I think it’s going to be more of the same . Hillary’s going to prioritize money over other things. She’s going to pursue the same kind of foreign policy that she’s done in the past that’s neoliberal and imperialist. She’s not going to be better or worse, but I hope she will be more malleable because of the election that got her there.

AW: [Electing Hillary] is just the best way to show we really have the ability to be inclusive and support all of our future children and not just have the same narrative. I think Obama’s doing a great job for the most part and I hope Hillary gets to continue doing things Obama has started but also take into account all the things that Bernie Sanders is pushing for. That would be the ideal presidency.

BB: In the short term I think it would be a lot of excitement over the first woman president which I think is great. However, I think it will be a lot of the same politics that we have now which I don’t think is great but better than the alternative.

What about a Trump presidency?

MF: It scares me so much I’m not even at a point where I can consider it. If I had to I’d think less about what he’d do in office and more about what the people who support him would do. I think there’s going to be more emboldened overt racism as well as  the more muted systemic racism we already have and have shown our inability to deal with, the same thing with like sexism and all the other ways Trump supporters harm marginalized people are just going to get worse.

SK: If Trump is elected there’s likely going to be a Republican Senate and Congress, which means the immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the appointment of a conservative judge to Justice Scalia’s open seat, no possibility for campaign finance reform, and possibly the overturning of gay marriage in this country, and just years and years of terribly thought out policies…He would probably ruin relationships with other countries.

MV: It’s less easy to predict because Donald Trump is outside the norm and hasn’t actually served in an elected office yet. My hope would be the nation state regaining its supremacy and the government reclaiming trade and an America first foreign policy.

BB: I imagine we will be in war much more than we already are and knowing the effect of that, of our last conflicts that have lasted over a decade, I think it scares me a lot. I think it would be horrible.

What are you most concerned about post-election?

MF: Regardless of which candidate wins congress is also up for grabs right now which is exciting in the thought that it might go democrat. We’ve had a president who is a different party than congress for so long I’d be interested to see what kind of politics happen when politics can happen.

SK: My biggest fear after the election is Trump supporters not registering the results as valid, and if a large number can do that it will weaken our democracy in a way that hasn’t happened in modern American history and possibly American history.

MV: For me it would be primarily foreign policy and the refugee crisis and what America’s role in the Middle East should be and also foreign policy in general and how the united states handles that as a leading force.

BB: I am really worried about the violence that might be incited over the results from either side.

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