“We’re actually all on one team—this is an intramural scrimmage.”
We may have been thousands of miles away from our homeland but we were united with our fellow Americans: awaiting the results of the election Tuesday night; in a small living room in some college kids’ apartment in Madrid, a group of about 40 students sat huddled in front of the television. Empty bottles of tinto de verano and rioja littered the table, as did half-eaten baguettes and open packages of jamón serrano. When I showed up around midnight (6 p.m. EST), the atmosphere was fiesta-like. Students arrived with boxes of pizza and threw around chocolate ice cream pops like confetti. The air buzzed with nervous anticipation. One girl came in with a box of Clinton-Kaine shirts for her friends. Spanish students periodically floated into the room, asking: “¿Qué pasó?¨ “What happened?”
As the night dragged into the wee hours of the morning, the party atmosphere sobered up as it became clear that key battleground states were cutting it very close. Eyes were glued to the television but Florida’s votes hit a stalemate at 91 percent of reported votes—the split was too close to call—for hours. People dozed off, some went home, while others anxiously chewed their nails. As the clock ticked, it became increasingly obvious that Donald Trump just may win. There was outrage, there were tears. I, as someone who was not very invested in either candidate, watched the interactions within the room with genuine curiosity.
“How could Americans vote for him?”
“I want to know WHO thinks he would be a good president!”
“There cannot be this many people who actually like him!”
“My family friend just snap-chatted about how excited she is to ‘Make America Great Again’—I’m blocking her!”
And suddenly, something became very clear to me. This—what I was listening to and what I had read in so many articles over the past few months—was the problem. I was instantly certain that Hillary Clinton was going to lose and I was actively listening to one of the reasons why.
We all lived in a bubble during this election. We believed this bubble to be impenetrable—of the finest steel. No way was Donald Trump going to become president—almost all major newspapers and media sources endorsed Clinton and attacked Trump in their reporting. Even the sitting president and first lady hit the campaign trail for Clinton. What’s more, most of the polls predicted she would win and many predicted that win to be by a landslide. So what happened?
We were naive. When I scrolled through my Facebook, Tuesday morning, the vast majority of the posts that popped up included “#imwither.” Video clips showed Clinton supporters cheering as Clinton cast her vote and New Yorkers booing as Trump cast his. Instagram was full of images of women wearing Clinton’s signature pantsuit, on their way to vote. From what I’d seen that morning, it appeared obvious that Clinton would win. All the articles and videos and statistics I’d read over the past few months, pointed towards her win. The people in the room with me Tuesday night, cheering her on, made it seem impossible that there would not be a Clinton victory.
But there wasn’t a victory.
People ignored the signs. They dismissed opinions that differed from their own. Many of my friends alienated those who admitted to being Trump supporters. Those supporters, in turn, quieted their beliefs and joined the silent majority.
People ignored the signs. They dismissed opinions that differed from their own. Many of my friends alienated those who admitted to being Trump supporters. Those supporters, in turn, quieted their beliefs and joined the silent majority. As I glanced around the room that night, at all the people supposedly cheering on Clinton, I couldn’t help but think to myself: I’ve assumed they all voted for Clinton but I’ll bet there is a Trump supporter in here—the numbers certainly point to it. I know several people who unfollowed Facebook friends when they posted pro-Trump statuses. They didn’t want to believe Trump had supporters because they didn’t want to believe he might win. Well, they got their wish; they stopped believing he could win.
The only caveat? He won.
This is the danger of the bubble. Many of us have been living inside its safe blue walls with our safe blue friends and our safe blue social media feeds.
This is the danger of the bubble. Many of us have been living inside its safe blue walls with our safe blue friends and our safe blue social media feeds. Now that the bubble has finally popped, it’s pivotal that we work towards understanding all ideals—of both parties. We will get nowhere and learn nothing by surrounding ourselves with the opinions of people who think just as we do. It’s time for us to acknowledge the other side because it does exist and it just won the election.
The morning after the big night, Brene Brown, a researcher on vulnerability and fear, wrote a beautiful post about the importance of coming together with the other side. She said, “If this democracy is going to work, tomorrow or the next day must be about finding the strength and courage to turn toward the friends, family, and strangers who do not share our beliefs and emotions about this election outcome. Finding connection with people that we perceive as ‘the other’ is our collective mandate. Maybe the conversation will be about something other than politics—something small that we share in common. I don’t think it will be easy, but I believe it is the only way forward.”
And I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly. It seems that my entire Facebook feed has gone from the #imwither to angry rants at a generalized “Trump supporters.” While this may be a healing mechanism for many, I truly believe we need to accept the results of the election and prepare to work with each other. We need to hear everyone out and tell them our thoughts because if we fail to do so, the divide will only grow starker. America is ready for change but the only way to achieve it is to work together. That was Clinton’s phrase too, #strongertogether, and she was right, we will be.
It’s imperative to remember that when Clinton gave her concession speech, she was wearing purple. That was no blind decision. She wore purple because purple is the blending of two colors—red and blue, Republican and Democrat. Therefore, the purple was symbolic of her—and many others’—wish for the future: that we will unify both sides.
Let’s not forget what was said, along similar lines, in two speeches after the election. These quotes came from our current president and our president-elect, but carry the same hope.
“We’re actually all on one team—this is an intramural scrimmage.”
“Now it’s time to bind the wounds of division, come together as one people.”
Who said what? Does it even matter? Let’s follow the advice of these three politicians and begin toward a future in which there’s no blue and no red—there’s just us.
Katherine Berko is an undergraduate at Duke University. She is currently living in Madrid studying abroad.
This article appeared originally in the November 10, 2016 edition of Duke University’s The Chronicle.