It was on the faces around campus. The combination of fatigue and disappointment produced a kind of forlorn, blank stare from Kerry supporters. Some shed tears. For others, going abroad was suddenly very attractive.
“It really sucks,” said Jeff Kessner ’07, who flew home to vote in Boca Raton, Fla. after his absentee ballot never arrived. “It’s surprising that we became more conservative. I’m really surprised about Florida.”
Reaction on campus, however, was relatively muted.
“I saw mostly disappointment and not anger,” Kessner said. “I hope people don’t become apathetic and feel that they can’t make a difference.”
This was a sentiment echoed by Lauren Smith ’07.
“I can’t believe there wasn’t a Wesleyan outcry,” she said. “I can’t believe there’s not some big spray paint on the field or something.”
There were some rallies. One was held at 200 Church to discuss possible reactions to the election.
“WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!” declared an e-mail announcing the event.
The Bush win was particularly painful for Betti Packman ’07, president of the Wesleyan Democrats. Packman spent months campaigning, traveling to swing states and executing a massive campus voter registration project.
“Obviously the first feeling is one of frustration,” Packman said. “We worked so hard, and it almost seems worthless. We assume too often that people will agree with us, and they don’t, but that’s not to say they can’t.”
Packman is not pessimistic, however.
“Even if the results didn’t go our way, we did make a difference, so I think that’s what we need to focus on now,” she said.
Around campus, there were some frustrated chalkings and posters expressing hatred of the now two-term president. Students holding newspapers with Bush victory headlines talked to their friends about their sadness. Someone wrote, “I hate George Bush” outside the Bayit. Another chalked “The 60s aren’t dead” outside Weshop.
Professor of government Richard Boyd said Wesleyan students should appreciate that Americans in the middle of the country have quite different values on moral and religious issues than those on the East and West Coasts.
“Those students who want Democrats to win should understand that the party will have to move to the right to a degree to appeal to voters,” Boyd said. “There has to be a recognition of the authentic sentiments on the other side.”
He said that a reasonable number of faculty were surprised at Kerry’s poor showing.
“Both [Kerry and Bush] increased their vote totals compared to 2000, but the Republicans did a better job of mobilizing their base,” he said.
A number of students, perhaps only half-jokingly, said they are considering moving to Canada. Toby Shaw ’07, who is from Toronto, said they would be welcome.
“Canada rocks, eh,” she said. “We love gay people, we love everyone and we give healthcare to everyone. Canada is a very loving place.”
Shaw was wearing her Canada t-shirt on Thursday. She said it was a reaction to the election.
“I think Canada seems to be a better option for liberal thinkers right now,” she said.
Not everyone on campus was disappointed by the election results.
Dave Ziegler ’05 was unimpressed with both candidates. Ziegler came to Wesleyan as a devoted Democrat and has since become disillusioned and registered as an independent. He voted for Bush because he said John Kerry failed to get him enthusiastic.
“If the Democratic Party had put forth one candidate who provided a clear plan of action, recognized the danger Islamic Fundamentalism poses and had a better history of leadership, I would have definitely voted for him,” he said.
Ziegler, who said all his friends voted for Kerry, had hoped for Democratic gains in the congress and Bush’s re-election.
“I wanted to see either 4 years of bi-partisanship or 4 years of political gridlock until America could see two new presidential candidates,” he said.
He said few on campus are actually sad about Kerry’s loss specifically.
“I’ve heard no one say that they’re upset that Kerry isn’t president, only that Bush is,” Ziegler said.
For those who are disappointed, though, Boyd has some advice.
“Keep engaged in politics and act strategically,” he said. “All useful politics has to have an appreciation of empirical realities.”