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Students watch election with caution, optimism

Students hold viewing parties across campus, see midterms as referendum on Trump administration

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Senior Staff Writer and Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The co-presidents of the Brown Republicans, Julian Haag ’20 and Nick Guarino ’20, look on as the midterm election results from the Indiana senate race flash on the screen.

Brown students gathered to watch the results of the Nov. 6 midterm elections as the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives and Republicans added to their majority in the Senate. The elections determined 35 Senate seats, 36 governorships and all 435 House seats.

The midterms “are a diagnostic to see where the country stands,” said Brown Political Review member Allison Meakem ’20. “It’s a test to see where we are two years after Trump.”

Many students said they submitted their absentee ballots weeks in advance, while others voted in person in the Salomon Center for Teaching yesterday.

For some, the midterms were the first time they could cast a ballot.

“I became a citizen four months ago, and as soon as I did, I registered” to vote, said David Gutierrez ’19, who was born in Colombia and now lives in New Jersey, at an Angell Street watch party. “If we want to see a change in our government, the change starts with us. … A lot of immigrants, green card holders, refugees … cannot vote. … We can amplify their voices through our vote.”

The Herald attended four watch parties on campus to gauge how students reacted to the midterms. These included private parties as well as those hosted by BPR, No Labels, the Brown Democrats and Brown Progressive Action Committee and Brown College Republicans.

Members of BPR met in the lounge at 257 Thayer St. to stream CNN coverage of the election results.

At the beginning of the evening, some BPR members expressed hope that the anticipated blue wave — Democrats eagerly taking to the polls — would secure a Democratic majority in the Senate and House, but attendees such as Meakem and Dhruv Gaur ’21 were skeptical of being too certain of such victories following Hillary Clinton’s unexpected defeat in 2016, they said.

“I’m really closely following the Georgia governor race,” said Gaur, a Gainesville, Georgia native. “I’ve been watching Stacey Abrams for a long time. … I really, really hope she pulls off a win tonight, (but) I’m always a little cynical when it comes to elections in Georgia,” he added, noting that Georgia has not had a Democratic governor for many years.

Dheraj Ganjikunta ’22 held a small viewing party in his room in Emery-Woolley. Five first years clustered around two screens — one streaming television coverage and another rotating through online news coverage.

“With all these races, all the hype around (the) blue wave, I’m surprised that (the races) went as red as they did,” Ganjikunta said.

Jason Gong ’22, however, described himself as “nonchalant.” “I have my qualms with both the Democrats and Republicans,” Gong said. “So I don’t have a dog in the game in regard to, ‘Do I want the Democrats or Republicans to win?’”

Brown Dems and BPAC joined in on No Labels’ viewing party in Salomon. When Democrat wins rolled across the screen, many jumped up and down and whooped with excitement. Even when the results weren’t what they were hoping for — boos followed the anouncement that Beto O’Rourke lost to Sen. Ted Cruz — the majority of students remained cautiously hopeful.

“For a Democrat to get such a high percentage in Texas in such a major race is a huge deal,” said Rose Lang-Maso ’20, president of the Brown Dems. “Of course we’re all very disppointed that Beto didn’t win, but the fact that Texas became a battleground state at all during this election should tell (the) Trump administration and Republicans that Democrats across the country are serious.”

BPAC Political Director Jenna Israel ’21 reacted with excitement when ABC projected that Democrat Chrissy Houlahan would win Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district. But she confessed there would most likely be tears later if the blue wave didn’t follow through as predicted.

“No matter what happens tonight, it’s really important that we keep up the level of engagement and passion, and we carry it through to local and state-level politics,” she added.

Another attendee at the Dems-BPAC event, Jason Carroll ’21, said he believed that a Democratic majority in the House would help contain the Trump administration.

“If it doesn’t happen, it means we have at least two more years of unchecked Trump governancy,” Carroll said. “What’s really important in the House and the Senate is the oversight of the administration.”

A Democratic chairperson of the House Financial Services Committee could potentially subpoena Trump’s tax records, he added.

Meanwhile, around a dozen members of Brown College Republicans were tuned into Fox News on the top floor of Page-Robinson Hall.

Co-President Nick Guarino ’20 said he does not support President Trump but remains committed to the Republican party. He sees the midterms as an opportunity for his party to continue to grow and broaden the range of voters to whom conservative politics appeal.

“I’d like to see conservatism remain a big tent, … and I’m hopeful that it might be,” Guarino said.

Closely following the results from their phones and computers as well as the television, attendees at the Republicans’ party read aloud live updates while comparing sources for polling data.

“I’m a huge statistics guy, so I always find it super exciting to watch these elections play out and see polls fall apart,” said Adam Shepardson ’22.

Following an announcement that Rhode Island’s Republican Senate candidate Bob Flanders ’71 had lost to Democratic incumbent Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, mock cries of “Bob!” rang out. Flanders had been considered a long shot, but the club supported his campaign.

By and large, the Republicans were not surprised with the outcomes of the elections.

Midterms often see the House shift away from the party of the incumbent president, so it was not unexpected to see Democrats regain control, said Julian Haag ’20, co-president of the club and a Trump supporter.

“I think history is against the Republicans tonight,” Haag said. But “win or lose, the people are speaking, so I don’t see a problem with it.”