Avi Mediratta is a Sophomore from Orlando, FL majoring in Economics and Human and Organizational Development. His political interests include fiscal policy, campaign finance, and partisanship. Outside of VPR, he is involved in the Vanderbilt International Relations Association (VIRA), and Relay for Life. He also enjoys chocolate milk.
Vanderbilt’s campus was chilly on Wednesday morning, November 9, 2016. Few people were walking about, and those who were looked crestfallen and confused. There was not a cloud in the sky, yet the air hung heavy and thick.
The results are in, and it certainly took many by surprise. What we thought we knew about polling, moderate tendencies among the electorate, and acceptable political discourse have been fundamentally challenged by the campaign and ultimate success of President-elect Donald J. Trump.
Trump’s success has been a rebuke of intellectualism, and the liberal Vanderbilt community has felt threatened by his election. “I just truly can’t grasp how we elected Obama twice and then went straight into Trump,” says sophomore Jackie Miller. Issues of sexual assault have also been triggered by this election. Emily Struttmann, a sophomore, sarcastically writes, “I’m excited to live in a country where grabbing her by the pussy is an acceptable form of greeting.” Naveen Krishan, a freshman Vanderbilt Political Review editor, writes, “I have no words to express the loss and disgust I feel at the moment.” According to another VPR contributor, sophomore and registered Republican Connor Saeman, “His victory is going to justify his tactics for years to come, and that does not bode well for the rest of us, to say the least.”
It is safe to say that many Vanderbilt students are disappointed by the election of the man with the tan. People on both sides of the aisle have denounced his misogyny, racist rhetoric, and lack of a clear economic plan for the nation. But within all the madness and post-election shock, is there room for solace?
Trump’s campaign made lofty promises—such as a Mexico-funded wall along the southern border—and many of them will be difficult to keep. If he fails to keep a substantial number of his campaign promises, it will provide evidence of his ineffectiveness as a leader. For over a year, we have been expressing how unfit the man is to be president, but his supporters, many of whom are our friends and neighbors, did not listen to us. We tried to tell them, but now we have the opportunity to show them.
Let us channel our anger and disgust into criticism of the Trump administration.
Many of you are feeling depressed right now, and perhaps a little bit lost. Many of you are disgusted, appalled, and disheartened that a man you so vehemently disagree with will soon hold the highest office in the United States. Many of you have begun to lose faith in our great country and feel defeated. But now is not the time to be defeated.
Now is the time for action. For various reasons, we do not think Trump is fit to be commander-in-chief. So let us speak out. Let us critique his actions in office. Let us critique his policy proposals, his understanding of economics, his emboldening of racist and sexist rhetoric among the uneducated underbelly of the country, and his departure from intellectualism as a whole.
And let us not panic. I realize that many of you are afraid for yourselves and for your friends. And you have a right to be, but do not let that fear stop you from taking action. Do not let that fear stop you from campaigning, voting, critiquing policies, and speaking out against threats to human rights. The battle is only just beginning, and it is far too early to give up. Let us channel our anger and disgust into criticism of the Trump administration. Let us consistently express our views and make it clear why we disagree with the powers that be. Let us eliminate this strain of ignorance and blind nationalism using logic and reason. Let us hold onto our values, and let us be protagonists of the heated debates and shouting matches that will fill the next four years. Let us not shy away from political dialogue, and let us be the ones who bring up politics at the dinner table when everyone else is trying to engage in polite small talk.
But most of all, let us be civil. Let us fight the hateful and ignorant shouts of the masses with reasoned discourse. Let us take the opinions of our friends and neighbors seriously, because everyone deserves to be heard. Let us show them why we believe they are wrong, and let us be passionate about doing so. Let us remember that moving to another country will not solve the problems within our homeland.
This country has a remarkable ability to correct the mistakes it has made. Just as the suffragists fought against the male power structure in the early 1900s, and just as the civil rights leaders of the 1960s fought against racism and intolerance, we now must fight against this wave of anti-intellectualism. We must not let the comments and values espoused by Donald Trump become the norm in American politics. And this is why we will fight. To everyone feeling down, remember that together we have the power to create real change. Many of us may consider the election of Trump a setback to progress, but that does not mean we should give up on progress. We have been knocked down, and our ability to get back up and continue to fight will determine the fate of our country and the world. Remember that even if the world is turning upside down and what we thought to be true has been thoroughly challenged, we will not stay silent.