By Toby Holloway
The world came to a brief standstill on Tuesday night to watch the climax of arguably the most hard fought and momentous presidential election of all time. Many could not believe their eyes as Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 279 electoral votes to 228. Others were jubilant, citing an against-all-odds victory over the United States’ political class.
At Cardiff University, many students followed the progress of the election late into the night, with hundreds more congregating in the Taf donning Clinton and Trump masks. The majority were supporting Clinton, and a jovial, alcohol-fuelled atmosphere began to turn anxious and tense as Trump gained more and more electoral votes.
The occasion has been compared to Brexit with the same feelings of confusion and dejection creating a sense of deja vu among onlookers.
Alyssa Alamillo is a first-generation Mexican-American currently studying at Cardiff University, and she spoke to Gair Rhydd about her experiences of election night, and her emotions following the victory of Donald Trump.
“I voted in both the global primary and the general election. I was, and still am, a strong Bernie Sanders supporter and hoped he’d represent the Democratic Party. I voted for Hillary in the general election, but it was mostly a pragmatic decision than a personal one.
“When it became apparent that Donald would be the presidential elect, I cried. I’m not an emotional person, and many friends know this, so for something to strike me that hard is a telling of how much fear Trump brought to America. I feel emotionally drained and tired. This election was my first and has honestly made me feel completely useless.”
She added: “No matter how frequently women and people of colour share their troubling experiences about their identity in America, it just gets struck down as ‘labelling’ and ‘divisiveness.’ It’s exhausting to constantly recount experiences of racism in my life only to be struck down because ‘racism doesn’t exist in the United States.’
“This victory means that it is okay for someone to be blatantly racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and not only is it okay, it is electable in the high office.
“I’m more fearful of his Vice President elect and his hardcore supporters than I am of him. Not even 24 hours since he won I had already received a racist tweet basically calling Mexicans rapist freeloaders. I’ve experienced racism as a Mexican-American a handful of times in my life, but not with the kind of rhetoric Trump has introduced.”
Alyssa also stated that she had planned to return to Chicago, the city where she was born and where her family still live, to try and find a job after university. In the aftermath of the election, her plans have changed. Speaking to Gair Rhydd, she said: “Now, I don’t want to go back home.”
Talking about her Mexican heritage and newfound fears of discrimination, she said: “I come from a family of legal Mexican immigrants. I’m a first generation American on my father’s side and second generation on my mother’s. This result has me worried for my relatives and younger sisters. My extended family won’t face deportation, obviously, but we sure will face harassment and racist comments.”
Finally, she said: “The previous brushes with discrimination many of us have had throughout our lives will not compare to the kind of harassment we may receive in these coming times.”
In many campuses across the United States, the reaction to the result among students, the majority of which voted for Hillary Clinton, was one of despair and stunned silences. Leo Mackenzie, a finance and mathematics student originally from the UK, who is studying at Lafayette University in Pennsylvania. He said:
“On election night, PBS’s regional channel hosted their election coverage from our campus. There was initially a lot of excitement, but as soon as we started getting the first results in from the big swing states like Florida, everyone was pretty concerned and the atmosphere was dying.”
He added: “The mood around campus the next morning was very apparently sombre. Professors didn’t want to speak much to it in case of inciting more fear or emotion. Exams were cancelled, classes were cancelled, and the school is pushing a lot of counselling resources.”
In the wake of the election result, many people opposed to Trump’s incoming presidency have staged protests throughout the country, and many others have voiced their concern and shock over social media. The protests have been largely peaceful, and particularly common at higher education institutions due to the large numbers of Democrat voters among this demographic.
Leo went on to say: “There have been many continuing protests of Black Lives Matter, but messages are going on all around campus as allies for LGBTQ, Women, Refugees, Immigrants etc. There’s a sense that the country is about to regress a lot.”
Lily Blinco, a 3rd year English literature student currently partaking in a semester abroad at Northeastern University, Massachusetts recounted her experience of the presidential election:
“Me and the girls on my floor watched it in our common room and as it became more clear that he actually had a very strong chance of getting in the room just got quieter and quieter and we all stopped talking! When it was announced a few of the girls cried.
“Yesterday on campus it felt like everyone was grieving. My professor had only slept an hour. A few people cried in my class. It’s sort of like a looming cloud…people are scared.”
She went on to say: “There was a massive [protest] on Boston common last night. They are trying to focus on being peaceful. It’s not so much a Trump protest it’s more like supporting those who feel victimised by him and a protest in solidarity.”
At Cardiff University, scores of students descended on the Taf, which was decorated with countless USA flags, to watch the election night develop. An atmosphere which was party-like at 12am, was laced with anxiety at 3am and downright sombre at 5am, as Donald Trump won state after state to pull of a sensational victory over his rival candidate.
Robbie McMichael, a 3rd year CPLAN student, who was in the Taf throughout the course of the election, described the scenes that took place there on Tuesday night:
“It was surprisingly busy, I didn’t think so many people would be committed to watching it, to start with quite a carnival atmosphere, but by the end an almost deathly silence had settled in as the result got more apparent.”
Another 3rd year, Ben Harvey, reiterated the apparent change of atmosphere, saying:
“I was a bit surprised about the amount of people that actually turned up to watch the election. And it was a pretty good, chilled out atmosphere to begin with…it was also pretty clear who most people supporting with the whole room cheering when Clinton won a state, and an indifferent atmosphere when trump did.
“The atmosphere in general I think changed after it was almost confirmed that Trump would win…people seemed to lose interest in the whole thing and people just wanted to get to bed.”
Ben also added: “Me personally, I’m pretty indifferent to who is in power in a country which isn’t our own and that probably was a reason why I wasn’t too fussed about the outcome, despite it still being a bit of a shock.
“To be honest I think it was just an excuse for people to get smashed.”