Kelly Writers House Assistant Director for Development Arielle Brousse never expected that she would become a spokesperson against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
On Sept. 26, after the first presidential debate, Brousse fired off 14 tweets about her family's experience in Atlantic City, N.J., during Trump's construction boom there.
“Donald Trump's systematic monopolization of trade, mismanagement of funds, and destruction of community is personal to me,” she tweeted.
Trump’s business ventures in Atlantic City contributed to a casino-industry bubble that has left many in Brousse’s hometown of Smithville, N.J. unemployed and in debt. Just three days ago, the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, where Brousse’s mother worked as a waitress for eight years, became the latest in Trump’s failed casinos. The Taj closed its doors permanently on Monday, costing nearly 3,000 people their jobs.
“Trump orchestrated his own mini version of the housing bubble in my hometown,” tweeted Brousse, who graduated from the College in 2007. “It's insulting. It's gaslighting. To watch a man destroy you, and to hear him tell other people how good and powerful it makes him.”
Brousse wrote these tweets to express the feeling of bewilderment she felt while watching Trump on television. She had not hashtagged them or directed them to any other account. When she woke up the next morning however, those tweets had over a thousand retweets and likes.
Overnight, her story had gone viral.
Within the next 24 hours, Brousse was contacted by various news outlets to elaborate on her story. The Monday after the tweets were released, she published a first-person essay on Vox.com. That same day, she was contacted by the Hillary Clinton campaign to introduce Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) at a rally in Philadelphia. Following that, on Oct. 6, Brousse wrote another article for The Washington Post, this time delving deeper into Trump’s involvement in Atlantic City and how he was able to profit even while the community reeled from his bankrupted casinos and defaulted payments.
Brousse, who has worked on development and fundraising at the Kelly Writers House since 2009, said she is still “baffled” as to how or why her tweets received so much attention. Until two weeks ago, she used her Twitter account primarily to take notes during conferences or live-tweet movies she was watching.
Responses to her tweets and articles have been “overwhelmingly positive,” she said.
Given the testy nature of this election, it is no surprise that Brousse has also received numerous attacks on her character, her looks and her Jewish heritage. Over the internet, people have told Brousse that her family is “stupid” and that they would have been unemployed if not for Trump.
Perhaps the most bewildering experience, Brousse said, happened after the Kaine rally, where she introduced herself as the daughter of immigrants. Conservative news website Breitbart News took this to mean that Brousse was Mexican-American even though she is not.
“To be a person with an opinion in this world means somebody else is going to disagree with you," she said.
But the negative online commenters were a minority — most people responded by saying that they, or someone they knew had worked in the Trump casinos for decades and lost everything when these businesses went bankrupt.
The comments were heartening, but also made Brousse self-conscious as to whether she held the authority to be a spokesperson for communities exploited by Trump’s business ventures. She has not lived in Atlantic City since 2003, nor was she or her family directly affected by the recent closure of the Taj Mahal.
Nonetheless, Brousse grew up in a community where almost everyone she knew had a friend or a family member working for Trump. Stories of exploitation at the hands of the real estate mogul were pervasive.
Ultimately, what prompted Brousse to write the articles for news outlets was her mother's encouragement.
During an election that seems unprecedented in its polarization, Brousse said personal narratives can be the building blocks for a common ground.
Despite her personal experiences, Brousse recognizes that the people backing Trump are doing so because they feel “absolutely disenfranchised.” She said she hopes her story and others can make it clear to Trump supporters that while they may be looking for a savior in this election, Donald Trump is not that person.
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