Texas’ polls saw a ten-point margin afforded to President-Elect Trump this past Tuesday, when he won 53% of the conservative state’s votes, compared to Clinton’s 43%. Although Texas’ Republican-leaning reputation comes as no surprise, the result of the election did. The shock of Trump’s unprecedented success was – and continues to be – felt deeply in the blue-voting city of Austin.
Austin is often referred to as the ‘liberal bubble’ of Texas, and its alignment with Democratic ideals was evident in the visceral and emotionally charged reaction to Trump’s victory. In the co-operative housing complex in which I live, there was an overwhelming sense of disbelief: some friends were crying, some were visibly angry and others simply appeared numb.
The following day saw hundreds of students and Austinites alike gather at the base of the University of Texas tower in protest. From 10:00am until 8:00pm the protestors marched from campus to the State Capitol Building and back, chanting slogans in opposition to the threat they feel Trump’s discriminatory rhetoric poses to marginalised groups, particularly people of colour, women and the LGBTQ+ community. Protests continued yesterday, marking the third in five days, and filling the state’s capitol city with the mantra “Not My President”: an indication of the ‘wounds of division’ created as a result of a phenomenally divisive presidential campaign.
However, apart from major urban areas – Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso – and a swath of Texas’ southern tip, the bulk of the state’s votes were for the Republican ticket. Clearly the promises of a Trump presidency resonate with the vast majority of the suburban Texan population.
The reaction to Trumps Victory was very similar to Britain’s Brexit: Disbelief, Anger and Fear. Virginia was one of the few swing states that Hillary actually managed to get, even though that didn’t change the end result, which saw Trump triumph. The students on campus were overwhelmingly in support of Hillary Clinton, while the rural areas were dominated by the Republican nominee. A lot of students started crying after it became clear that Trump would win, others were just disappointed. Worryingly, I heard some drunk students screaming ‘Let’s fuck some n***** up!’ outside of my window around 2am on election night, which was pretty scary. Other students reported verbal threats on minority students by mostly local non-students. The university sent out emails condemning the behaviour and campus escort services were established were people volunteered to walk home with people that are scared to do so by themselves.
Even though most students have a hard time dealing with the result (wasn’t unusual to see people on my newsfeed calling out all Trump supporters to unfriend them on Facebook), the majority has now accepted that that’s how democracy works.
The whole election, reminded me of the Brexit. From the Trumps rhetoric, which was based on false statements, portraying himself as the anti-establishment candidate and the media as the devil to the unexpected result and the reaction of the people.
Washington D.C. is like a ghost town. People walk around with strained faces, and speak in hushed tones about the state of affairs. Sympathetic smiles are exchanged with passersby’s before their eyes return dejectedly to the pavement. It is as if a national disaster has occurred, and the tone does not mimic what one would expect following an election that produced a clear winner. There have been protests, but they have not turned violent. After all, what is there to fight about in a state that voted overwhelmingly in favour of the same candidate?
I have spoken to people in tears, convinced that this is an end to the rights that the US has fought for, to the progress that has been achieved. I have spoken to people who are scared. People who want to get out of the US – one woman has started an application for German citizenship, having given up her German nationality for an American passport when she was 17 years-old. I have spoken to people who are angry, who have rushed to the White House in protest, yelling “Not My President” whilst waving anti-Trump signs, and I have also spoken to people who are accepting, who were not expecting the election to go this way, but are looking to the future, rather than the past.
The state of Washington D.C. is in a state of astonishment, a numbing pain that will not leave for a while. For the District that 93% of its electorate voted for Hillary Clinton, the result from Tuesday’s election has found itself to be a very hard pill to swallow.
The most remarkable and unforgettable experience I’ve had so far on my Study Abroad is witnessing the students at my university protest the result of the election by burning the American flag.
Several hundred students, including myself, gathered in the centre of campus while protesters used matches and lighters to set several American flags ablaze. One student screamed: “This is a representation of America! We are going down in flames!”
Some students around me challenged these protesters, telling them that their words and actions amounted to hate speech. One person ran up to try to grab the burning flag, but this only encouraged the protesters further in a nonsensical shouting match.
“Watch as your precious little flag of patriarchic white supremacy burns in your f****** flesh and eyes,” the lead protester shouted as an upside down flag went up in flames.
It seems like the divisive and hate-fuelled rhetoric of the 2016 campaign will last well into the start of Trump’s administration.