On Nov. 8, students gathered across the University and tuned into the media’s coverage of the 2016 election. The University’s primarily liberal student body watched the election unfold in a variety of locations on campus, many at first optimistically gathering to cheer for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her quest for the presidency. While the evening opened with an air of hope on campus at parties in Usdan and Fauver, as the night dragged on, the hopes of a Clinton presidency faded away. In the early hours of Nov. 9, once the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States was complete, most election-watching parties had already ended, and students across campus entered a state of mourning.
In the beginning of the night, students flocked to Usdan around 7 p.m., where a projector and a screen were set up along with tables and free coffee. The positivity in the early hours of the night was fairly palpable, with peppy conversation scattered throughout the room.
Many students also gathered in small groups in dorm rooms or lounges to watch the election.
“I watched the election on my couch in Bennet, surrounded by loved ones,” Zachary Turner ’20 said. “The mood was hopping, so to speak. We were festive, we were gallivanting around, we ate snacks.”
Students like Sophie Charles ’20 and Katie Vasquez ’20, who set up a viewing event in the Butterfields C lounge, brought their own equipment to lounges to ensure more people could view the election results as they came in.
“I wanted to be able to do homework while I watched, and so I thought it’d be really extra to go to Usdan,” Vasquez said. “I also could guarantee good viewing in the Butts. To start it, Sophie and I came after picking up our dinner at Summerfields, and I just plugged in my computer, put in my HDMI cable, and put on CNN. And some people happened to also want to watch the election. And there you go.”
What began as an evening of hope for many students on campus effectively turned into a nightmare as Trump carved out his path to the presidency over the course of the evening and into the morning. As the first results came in from Vermont and Kentucky, states that Clinton and Trump won respectively, few were surprised. Although Trump jumped out to an early lead with red states in the South and Midwest, few students on campus were alarmed.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Charles said early in the night. “I like to see that there are all these people here. It’s kinda funny because I barely know anyone’s name but I feel like we’ve all gotten to the same emotional place, which is kinda nice. I can feel the stress in the room. But I feel like we’re all just getting through it together.”
By 9:30 p.m., however, many of the most important swing states, such as Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania were still too close to call. Charles’ mood, and the mood of many students across campus, began to change. Students like Chloe Thorburn ’20 found themselves wondering if a Trump presidency was feasibly and statistically possible.
“The narrative switched from Trump as the underdog to Hillary as the underdog, which was terrifying. And the language that they used started shifting. It felt shitty, and I didn’t believe it at first at all,” Thorburn said.
Not only did Trump secure the historically Republican states that he was projected to win, he also captured the key swing states of Ohio, then Florida in the minutes before 11 p.m., and finally North Carolina moments later. While Hillary maintained a slim shot at the presidency as the night of Nov. 8 moved into the morning of Nov. 9, it was a very narrow chance. In those hours, her only conceivable path was through the Rust Belt with states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Students rabidly pulled up statistics on their laptops, mapping the possible routes for Clinton and Trump to the presidency. As incoming projections lit up the TV, increasingly desperate conversations about Clinton’s chances proliferated.
At around 2 a.m., with her path to the presidency all but obliterated, Clinton called Trump and conceded the race. By that time, most students had already returned to their dorms, many with tear-stained faces.
“I went to the bathroom, and when I came back to the room, everyone was in tears,” Neva Srinivas ’20 said in the Butts C lounge.
Srinivas’ description mirrors Grace Snyder ’20’s impression of the Bennet lounge when the news broke.
“Everyone in Bennet, we were all sitting in the lounge around the TV, we were all just crying, we were all just sobbing together,” Snyder said.
But perhaps the most astonishing thing about this election was the unlikelihood of its outcome, based on the vast majority of polls over the course of the last year and a half. Clinton maintained a majority lead in the polls for months leading up to the election, with projections for her victory at percentages as high as 85 percent. A Hillary Clinton presidency, to many students at the University, seemed all but assured.
“I was pretty much entirely certain that she was gonna win,” Turner said.
Though the final result of Trump’s victory didn’t come in until around 2 a.m., students across campus remained awake to catch the results, despite early classes the next morning.
The atmosphere on the morning of the Nov. 9 was fittingly gray and dismal for most students on campus. Students oscillated from comforting each other in tears to avoiding eye contact and retreating into themselves. Snatches of conversation included phrases like “I feel ill” and “I can’t even wrap my head around it.”
Students have organized a protest to take place today at 12 p.m. outside Usdan.