Cohn ’17: The 2016 election — a springboard for passion

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Last night, the impossible happened — now President-Elect Donald Trump won the presidency. Despite the myriad of pollsters and news sources giving former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at least a 2-to-1 chance to win, the American voters have spoken to the contrary. These voters, instead of choosing a candidate who championed equality, opportunity, diversity and experience, chose one who represents division, anger, selfishness and ignorance.

The morning after came wrought with questions on the stability of the country, on what it now means to be American and how to move on from this. How could this happen? How could the media have been so wrong? Is politics broken? Is America going to be okay? Is there a place for me in this country? These emotional questions fill public discourse and will continue to do so throughout the next days and weeks and ultimately through the inauguration in January and beyond.

In a moment like this, we should place our faith in our American institutions. A peaceful transition of power constitutes a hallmark of this country, and the very underpinnings of the country remain intact and strong. Indeed, the fact that the country will accept this drastic change speaks to the strength of its foundation. President Barack Obama has already extended a customary invitation to Trump to visit the White House, a tradition among sitting presidents. We have a responsibility to respect these hallowed institutions and traditions, and together we can get through this tumultuous and fascinating time in America’s history. As Obama emphasized Wednesday, we are all rooting for Trump’s success because we are all on the same team.

Still, while the Office of the Presidency deserves our respect, the values that put Trump in that office deserve more attention and scrutiny than merely our disappointed shock. Trump no longer represents just himself or his brand, but he now stands — with substantial mandate — at the head of a national sentiment worth fighting against. As the country continues to traverse its tortuous path, we still have the opportunity to shape the future. Acquiescing to this change in power should not and cannot equate to submitting to Trump’s ideology of anger, hatred and bigotry. If anything, this election should embolden Democratic and human efforts, and hopefully renewed fervor will translate to meaningful change for future generations.

Under the Obama administration, Democrats have held disdain for Republicans who seemingly obstructed their agenda at every turn, condemning these Republicans for failing to compromise and contributing to a partisan freeze. One of the prevailing lessons from this election is “When they go low, we go high.” Now Democrats face the monumental task of putting their money where their mouths are. Democrats have the opportunity to showcase to the world what they truly believe in while also championing the ideas of compromise and unity. A large takeaway of Trump’s electoral win is that the country is more divided and polarized than ever, but Democrats must do all they can to show their most favorable traits and disrupt a trend of spiteful tactics by the opposition party.

I want to thank all the members of the Brown Democrats and Brown Students for Hillary for their hard work and dedication throughout this election season. This year certainly was not a failure across the board. Here in Rhode Island, we helped to elect and re-elect progressive leaders like U.S. Rep. David Cicilline ’83, D-RI, Rep. Edith Ajello, D-Providence, Sen. Gayle Goldin, D-Providence, Rep. Chris Blazejewski, D-Providence, Rep. Katherine Kazarian, D-Providence, Rep. Aaron Regunberg ’12, D-Providence, and Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, D-Charles, Wanskuck, Elmhurst. Through our determined efforts in New Hampshire, Gov. Maggie Hassan ’80 P’15 won her Senate bid, and the state stayed blue.

But more importantly, everyone who worked on these campaigns and others gained valuable experience in how political campaigns are run and learned just how important these efforts are to making change in this country. Losing an election is something all people interested in politics must learn to do gracefully, and ultimately, this election will hopefully be an impetus for continued political involvement, activism and passion rather than a cause for abandonment. The truest of passions are forged and tempered in the heat of adversity and challenge, so I hope this election serves more as a springboard than an inhibitor.

I applaud President Christina Paxson P’19 for providing space to host these discussions of healing and acceptance, and I encourage everyone to continue to find ways to digest the results of this election. Similarly, the Brown Democrats will serve as a safe space for all who wish to process these election results, and the club will redouble its efforts to promote political education and interest on campus.

Brian Cohn ’17, president of the Brown Democrats, is happy to be a resource for all and can be reached at brian_cohn@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.