Ryan Crino, an RA at Hilbert, hosted an election night party for the Hilbert students. About 30 students attended, people had their different reasons for coming. The best reason being, “It’s my room, I had to be here.” The event was held in the Katherine apartment and started at 8pm. Cirino had handouts for everyone, listing the four main candidates and explaining all of their positions.
We started watching the ABC coverage, tallying the electoral votes of the results as they came in. Everyone expected Hillary Clinton to win, it was just a question of when the experts were going to announce it. Cirino did a good job ensuring that there was plentiful food and drink, we had enough on the off chance that election results would go far into the night. The conversation of the room was light, a lot of small talk, no one was really discussing politics for the first part of the coverage. Around 9:30 almost everyone left to go back to their rooms, only five devoted and fixated students remained and we would stick it out until the end.
The race turned out to be closer than what we had originally anticipated, we were still fully expecting Clinton to win even if it was a little closer. We discussed one of the lesser known presidential candidates, Andrew Basiago. (Look him up he’s real.) This man claims that he has time traveled, been to mars and shot at dinosaurs. While obviously not a serious candidate to win, he is definitely interesting and helped us pass some time discussing conspiracy theories.
Then the election took a surprising turn, some key swing states had just closed their polls and Trump was ahead! A democratic strategist then said, “It’s ok, because Florida isn’t important to win, we’re focusing on Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.” Presumably losing Florida was always a part of their winning strategy. On TV the talk was all about how, “Clinton is only down by a couple points.” Instead the talking points should have pointed out how much Clinton was underperforming and how low the voter turnout was, which always helps republicans get elected. For example, in Wayne County, Michigan in 2012, Obama won by 48% of the vote, Clinton was edging out a 1 point lead there. That is important because she was definitely going to lose in the more rural areas, so she had to win with larger margins in the more heavily populated areas.
Around 10:15 we changed the coverage to the fox news station, they were the most up-to-date with their projections. But after a while the commentators run out of stuff to say and the room found them to be annoying. Most commentators were followed by cynical remarks by Hilbert students. “Why don’t they just play rock, paper, scissors?” An exit poll came out saying that Trump won independents, 48% to 42%. The real surprise of the election was Florida! Not that Trump won this swing state but that they had a smooth election! They seemed to have enough ballots at all of their polling places, many congratulations is in order for the state election board of Florida!
Each swing state going to Trump became less and less of surprise. Trump winning Wisconsin was huge for the Trump campaign, the democratic blue wall had been pierced, Trump was on the verge of victory. Around 11:15 a Canadian immigration website reportedly crashed, presumably some people were not happy about the election results? As the election results were coming to an end the room became more engaged , a heavier use of political humor and puns were utilized to analyze what had just occurred throughout our country. “If Trump can win the presidency with no political experience, I better be able to get a job with my degree!” In the great political upset of modern history a total novice, an outsider, having never been elected to political office, won one of the most powerful and important positions in the world. Around 2:30 Clinton called Trump to concede, we were just waiting for Trump to give his victory speech. We were looking at, against all odds and established rules of politics, the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
The room was disappointed that Trump had been elected, but they would not have been overly thrilled about another Clinton presidency either. Some had supported the third party candidates, knowing full well they they wouldn’t win, but they kept their sense of moral and political high mindedness, to them Jill Stein and Garry Johnson would have been better alternatives. People were mostly hoping that Trump would not roll back some of the social progress that had been made, especially for the LGBTQ community, and that Trump would act responsibly and rationally, the big hope is that Trump said and did a lot of his strangeness just to get attention and that he will now act more like a world leader.