Last night, the general mood on Penn’s campus went from excited, to reserved, to nervous, to outraged, as now-President-elect Donald Trump won swing state after swing state on the road to victory in the presidential election. Penn Democrats and Penn's Government and Politics Association watched as Clinton, who came to Philadelphia twice in the final weeks of her campaign, failed to secure even reliably blue Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
“I have been going back and forth from Smokes and Harvest for the GPA watch party,” College senior Ben Fogel said in an interview. “It is the most miserable and most depressing scene right now. People are actually extremely upset right now.”
When it seemed certain that Trump was going to win, a Daily Pennsylvanian friend and I went downtown around midnight to see if the mood was any different there. However, at City Hall and Independence Mall — city blocks that, the night before, were packed with tens of thousands of Clinton supporters rallying — the scene was eerily empty.
Yet, while students’ Facebook feeds were flooded with dismayed statuses, we did eventually run into three upbeat Trump supporters — somewhat of a rare sighting for people living on Penn’s campus — outside of City Hall. The funny thing, though, was that these supporters were not who would come to mind when we think of Trump supporters; they were three college students.
"We’re all Trump supporters," said Will Ritzeke, a freshman at St. Joseph's University, a Catholic Jesuit university in Philadelphia. “I think both candidates are unqualified, and if Hillary ran but another Republican [ran], he would win. If Trump ran, and like another year a different Democrat [ran,] they would win. But since the two are so incompetent, it’s like the lesser of two evils.”
Coming from a campus where finding Trump supporters to go on the record was like pulling teeth, I was surprised that these three students were willingly saying “Go Trump” to reporters.
They said that their campus was simply more conservative, and shortly after 1 a.m. my friend and I decided to see for ourselves. We cabbed to St. Joe’s in the Overbrook neighborhood of Philadelphia, and while the campus was similarly quiet that late at night, the vibe was noticeably different.
We only spent 15 minutes there, but I saw more "Make America Great Again" hats than I had all week on Penn’s campus. I saw people glued to their common room TVs — and not in the panicked way that many Penn students were — and I caught a peek at a huge Trump poster up on the wall in one dorm room.
And, most interestingly, I saw some of the few people still out-and-about openly celebrating the result of the election.
“Trump’s going to win!” shouted St. Joe’s student CJ Stowell to a friend while we spoke to him about the election. Stowell, a registered Republican, was clad in a "Make America Great Again" hat. Turning back to us, he spoke more about culture at the university, saying, “From the people I talk to it’s 50-50 … There’s no extreme views on campus, I would say.”
As for his own thoughts on the election, Stowell said, “With the Republican supermajority, I feel as though things from my subjective view are going to go in the right direction.”
Can you imagine somebody on Locust Walk shouting their glee at a Trump presidency?
To the average Penn student — who, based off of the voter data above, predominantly chose Clinton — this may seem like an alternate reality. But is that really the case? According to ABC News, “Nationally, Clinton won young voters aged 18 to 28 [by] 55 to 37 percent.” That means that over a third of voters our age voted for Trump. They are not all rural, non-college-educated Christians that many people believe to be the core of the conservative voter base. They are not even all students at more conservative schools. Look at the voter data; over 300 voters in precincts on Penn’s campus voted for Trump, many of whom are our classmates whose voices we rarely hear inside of our own echo chamber.
I’ll let the columnists and social media users decide what this means for our generation, or country, our democracy and so on. However, students at Penn need to know that this is not a different America than it was two days ago. It's the same picture; many just weren't looking at a large part of it.
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